Former President of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe, has died at the age of 95.
Mugabe, a hero of Zimbabwe’s independence, ruled the Southern African country for 37 years before being removed by the military following nationwide protests.
In a statement early on Friday, Zimbabwe president Emmerson Mnangagwa called Mugabe an icon of liberation, a pan-Africanist who dedicated his life to the emancipation and empowerment of his people.
“His contribution to the history of our nation and continent will never be forgotten. May his soul rest in eternal peace,” he said.
Monica Mutsvangwa, the minister of information said: “Some of us were like his children to him. We can never write our history without mentioning him.”
Mugabe was once widely celebrated for his role in fighting the white supremacist regime in his homeland but he became adivisive figure in his own country and across the continent in the final years of his rule which were characterised by an ailing economy, corruption and intimidation of his critics.
At the time he was ousted in November, 2017, there was a power struggle in his ZANU-PF involving his wife Grace and Mugabe’s former deputy Mnangagwa.
Mugabe was born on 21 February 1924 in what was then Rhodesia – a British colony, run by its white minority.
He was imprisoned for more than a decade without trial after criticising the government of Rhodesia in 1964. In 1973, while still in prison, Mugabe was chosen as president of the Zimbabwe African National Union (Zanu).
After he was released, he went to Mozambique from where he directed guerrilla raids into Rhodesia. The political crisis resulted in the new independent Republic of Zimbabwe and 1980 Mugabe became the country’s Prime Minister.
Opposition to his rule rose in 1999 as the economy floundered and trade unions organised around the Movement for Democratic Change. Mugabe later introduced a programme of land reform in which white farmers were forcibly evicted to make way for black Zimbabweans who lacked the skills and capital to farm.
This helped throw the economy into disarray, leaving Zimbabweans to rely on foreign food aid to avoid starvation. Hyperinflation ran riot and supermarket shelves were empty. The once-proud school and health systems began to crumble.
In 2008, when he lost the first round of the presidential election, attacks on the opposition resulted in his rival pulling out of the contest.
He was forced into sharing power in 2009 amid economic collapse, installing rival Morgan Tsvangirai as prime minister.
In 2017, the army forced Mugabe to step down after nationwide protests against his rule.