Robert Mugabe, former Zimbabwe president who toppled white colonial rule dies at 95

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Robert Mugabe, the former president of Zimbabwe who became an African liberation hero after toppling white colonial rule and dominance, has died at the age of 95.

“It is with the utmost sadness that I announce the passing on of Zimbabwe’s founding father and former president, Cde Robert Mugabe,” President Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa, who was elected after Mugabe stepped down, tweeted on Friday.

Mugabe was the world’s oldest ruler when he resigned as Zimbabwe’s president in November of 2017, following a military coup. He was accused of leading the country to economic collapse and brink of starvation during the last few years of his government. Mugabe ruled Zimbabwe from 1980 to 2017. He was a member of the African National Union-Patriotic Front party.

Mugabe became prime minister after the end of white minority rule in 1980 in the country, which was previously known as Rhodesia. Following a constitutional amendment in 1987, he became known as president.

Zimbabwe is a country of more than 14 million north of South Africa and bordered by Botswana, Mozambique and Zambia.

The teacher-turned-independence fighter died in a hospital in Singapore where he was receiving treatment.

“His contribution to the history of our nation and continent will never be forgotten. May his soul rest in eternal peace,” his successor, Mnangagwa tweeted.

Fadzayi Mahere, a politician with the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, tweeted “rest in peace” and “My response to your passing is complicated … However, for now, deepest condolences to his family.”

Before he resigned in 2017, Mugabe had fired his then vice president, Emmerson Mnangagwa twice, a move that was believed will pave the way for his wife, Grace, to succeed him, but the move triggered the military coup that eventually led to his resignation.

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Mugabe was seen as the champion of racial reconciliation when he first came to power, but nearly 40 years later political opponents accuse him of being an autocrat willing to unleash death squads, rig elections and trash the economy.

Mugabe allegedly pushed legislation through Parliament allowing his government to seize more than half the white-owned farms, and his crackdown against the Movement for Democratic Change and journalists in the early 2000s increased his international isolation.

Land reform was supposed to take much of the country’s most fertile land — owned by about 4,500 white descendants of mainly British and South African colonial-era settlers — and redistribute it to poor blacks. Instead, Mugabe was accused of giving the prime farms to ruling party leaders, party loyalists, security chiefs, relatives and cronies.

But Mugabe told NBC News in 2013 that “we have never, ever rigged an election.”

He blamed Britain for the country’s problems, and said at that time that he had no second thought about his time leading the country.

“I don’t have regrets at all,” Mugabe said.

Regional leaders showered Mugabe with praise for his role in throwing off colonial rule.

Robert Mugabe raises his fists in salute to a group of supporters as he arrives at Lusaka Airport, Zambia, in January 1977. NBC News

The African National Congress, the political party of anti-apartheid hero Nelson Mandela, mourned Mugabe’s death and said he had “devoted his life to the service of his country and his people.” Mugabe supported the party’s fight against white rule during its years of exile and beyond.

“Though the ANC and its leadership may have differed, often vociferously, with Comrade Mugabe on matters of national interest — as fraternal organizations we held as sacrosanct the principle of sovereignty,” the ANC said in a tweeted statement.

“Words cannot convey the magnitude of the loss as former President Mugabe was an elder statesman, a freedom fighter and a Pan-Africanist who played a major role in shaping the interests of the African continent,” said Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta.

Leaders around the world have been sending their condolences. Below are statements from some world leaders.

UK prime minister’s spokeswoman

“There will be mixed emotions in Zimbabwe at today’s news. We of course express our condolences to those who mourn but know that for many he was a barrier to a better future. Under his rule the people of Zimbabwe suffered greatly as he impoverished their country and sanctioned the use of violence against them,” she said.

“His resignation in 2017 marked a turning point and we hope that today marks another which allows Zimbabwe to move on from the legacy of its past and become a democratic, prosperous nation that respects the human rights of its citizens,” she added.

Russian President Vladimir Putin

Many important events in contemporary history of Zimbabwe are linked with the name of Robert Mugabe. He made a major personal contribution to the struggle for your country’s independence and to building institutions of Zimbabwean statehood.

The people of Russia will remember him as a consistent advocate of developing friendly relations between our countries and a person who had accomplished a great deal to strengthen mutually beneficial bilateral cooperation.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari

The President commiserates with family members, friends and political associates of the political activist who fought for the independence of the country from colonial rule, and lived most of his life in public service.

President Buhari believes Mugabe’s sacrifices, especially in struggling for the political and economic emancipation of his people, will always be remembered by posterity.

China’s foreign ministry

Mugabe was an outstanding national liberation movement leader and politician of Zimbabwe.

Throughout his life, he has firmly defended the sovereignty of his country, opposed foreign interference, and actively promoted China-Zimbabwe and China-Africa friendship and cooperation.

Tanzanian President John Magufuli

Africa has lost one of its bravest and Pan-Africanist leaders, who led by example in opposing colonialism.

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