Zimbabwe opposition leader plans ‘inauguration’

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) — Zimbabwe opposition leader Nelson Chamisa plans his own “inauguration” on Saturday after losing disputed elections, the latest in a series of African politicians to hold a ceremony of defiance while claiming the presidency.

The rally at a stadium in the capital, Harare, will affirm Chamisa as the “duly elected president,” spokesman Nkululeko Sibanda told The Associated Press.

The spokesman refused to say whether Chamisa will take an oath: “We are still working on the modalities but we will not break any laws.”

A government deputy minister, Energy Mutodi, warned on Twitter that “any attempt to delegitimize gvt will not be tolerated and those bent on causing anarchy will be dealt with mercilessly.”

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The 40-year-old Chamisa narrowly lost the July 30 election, the first after the fall of decades-long leader Robert Mugabe. The Constitutional Court rejected a legal challenge by his opposition Movement for Democratic Change alliance that alleged irregularities and upheld the win of President Emmerson Mnangagwa, a former Mugabe confidant.

Mock inaugurations have become a mini-trend in Africa in recent years.

In January, Kenya’s opposition leader Raila Odinga held one after successfully challenging last year’s election in court but then boycotting a fresh vote, despite warnings from the government that the ceremony would constitute treason. Chamisa counts Odinga as a close ally.

Odinga and President Uhuru Kenyatta later made a high-profile reconciliation, saying they would work together to unite the country after months of deadly turmoil.

In 2016, after losing an election marred by allegations of fraud, Ugandan opposition figure Kizza Besigye was sworn in at a secret ceremony witnessed by some colleagues. After Besigye’s party released a video of it, the government charged him with treason.

That case remains in court, while Besigye is popularly celebrated by many supporters as “the people’s president.”

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Associated Press writer Rodney Muhumuza in Kampala, Uganda contributed.

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