who led Zimbabwe with an iron fist from 1980 to 2017, has died aged 95, the country’s president announced Friday.
First heralded as a liberator who rid the former British colony of Rhodesia of white minority rule, Mugabe used repression and fear to hold on to power in Zimbabwe until he was finally ousted by his previously loyal military generals.
Mugabe had been battling ill health, and his humiliating fall from office in November 2017, his stamina slipped away rapidly. He was hospitalized in Singapore for months for an undisclosed ailment, Mnangagwa confirmed earlier this year. No in-depth details were immediately available about the cause of his death, or where he died.
The Mugabe years are widely remembered for his ruining of political dissent, and policies that ruined the economy The former political prisoner turned guerrilla leader raised to power in the 1980 elections after a growing insurgency and economic sanctions forced the Rhodesian government to the negotiating table.
In office, he initially won international plaudits for his declared policy of racial reconciliation and for extending improved education and health services to the black majority.
But that faded as rapidly as he cracked down on opponents, including a campaign known as Gukurahundi that killed an estimated 20,000 dissidents. The violent seizure of white-owned farms turned Mugabe into an international outcast— though his status as a liberation hero still resonates strongly in most of Africa.
Aimed largely at placating angry war veterans who threatened to destabilize his rule, the land reform policy wrecked the crucial agricultural sector, caused foreign investors to flee and helped plunge the country into economic disorder.
All along, the Mugabe regime was widely accused of human rights violations and of rigging elections.
The topic of his succession was virtually taboo during Mugabe’s decades-long rule, and a vicious struggle to take over after his death became clear among the ruling elite as he reached his 90s and became fragile.