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June 8, 2014 4:02 pm
Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Egypt’s former army chief, was sworn in as president on Sunday, almost a year after the army ousted the country’s first elected leader, the Islamist Mohamed Morsi.
Mr Sisi, who won a predicted landslide in Egypt’s presidential elections last month, took the oath of office at a ceremony at the country’s Supreme Constitutional Court.
In an hour-long speech on Sunday evening he vowed that “fighting terrorism” would be his top priority in office and made clear there would be no reconcialtion with Mr Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood group.
He said: “I am looking forward to a new era based on reconciliation and tolerance for the sake of the nation . . . reconciliation among the people of our country except for those who committed crimes against it or adopted violence.”
After the toppling of Mr Morsi the authorities in Egypt declared the Brotherhood a terrorist organisation. Mr Sisi has accused it of being a front for extremist groups mounting attacks against police and the army.
The Brotherhood has denied involvement in any violence.
Though he said he wanted to be a leader for all Egyptians, Mr Sisi, who only shed his military uniform a few weeks ago to become president, inherits a divided country.
Many Egyptians revere him as a saviour who delivered them from Mr Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood. But others – mainly Islamists – abhor him as a coup leader who authorised large-scale bloodshed against the supporters of the president he ousted.
On Sunday an official narrative was on display, with no reference to divisions or dissent.
At the swearing in ceremony, Maher Sami, deputy chief of the constitutional court, hailed the new president as having gained “the consensus of Egyptians” and said the army had “embraced the people, listening to their heartbeat” when it deposed Mr Morsi.
“Oh revolutionary soldier, and good son of Egypt, you chose to stand by your people when they resorted to you, shielding it from treacherous aggression, exposing yourself to danger and to death in order to save the nation and rescue the people,” said Mr Sami in a lengthy, effusive address.
After a 21-gun salute at the presidential palace, Mr Sisi spoke briefly at a lunch reception for foreign dignitaries, the most senior of whom came from Gulf countries that have welcomed the ousting of the Islamists and poured billions of dollars into Egypt to prop up its faltering economy.
Western countries were represented by lower level officials reflecting unease with the ascension of a leader who toppled an elected president.
The president hailed the formal handover of power from interim authorities as “a unique historic moment”, describing it as a democratic peaceful transfer unrivalled in Egypt’s thousands of years of history.
Mr Sisi also thanked the Gulf countries that provided aid, singling out King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al-Saud of Saudi Arabia, who called last week for a donors conference to assist the Egyptian economy. “I look forward to the participation of all of Egypt’s friends to contribute in the building of the new Egypt,” he said.
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