CAIRO — Egypt's former army chief Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi was sworn in Sunday as president for a four-year term, assuming the highest office of a deeply polarized nation roiled by deadly unrest and an economic crisis since its Arab Spring uprising in 2011.
El-Sissi's inauguration came less than a year after he ousted the country's first freely elected president, Islamist Mohammed Morsi, following days of mass protests demanding he step down. While praised by many in a wave of nationalist fervor following the July 3 overthrow, el-Sissi's rise to power coincided with the detention of thousands and the killing of hundreds of Morsi supporters.
Now, the retired field marshal faces the daunting tasks of reviving Egypt's stagnant economy, fighting Islamic extremists and cementing his rule after years of turmoil in the Arab world's most populous country.
"The presidency of Egypt is a great honor and a huge responsibility," el-Sissi told local and foreign dignitaries gathered at an opulent Cairo palace hours after his swearing-in ceremony.
Under his rule, he said, Egypt will work for regional security and stability. He also called on Egyptians to build a more stable future after three turbulent years, asking them to work hard so that their rights and freedoms could grow.
"It is time for us to build a future that is more stable and pen a new reality for the future of this nation," he said. Hard work, something that he has repeatedly called for in recent weeks, will allow Egyptians to "pay attention to rights and freedoms (to) deepen and develop them," he said.
"Let us differ for the sake of our nation and not over it; let us do that as part of a unifying national march in which every party listens to the other objectively and without ulterior motives," he said.
El-Sissi, 59, earlier took the oath of office before the Supreme Constitutional Court at the tribunal's Nile-side headquarters in a suburb south of Cairo, the same venue where Morsi, now on trial for charges that carry the death penalty, was sworn in two years ago.