Former Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe, who led the country with an iron fist from 1980 to 2017, has died at age 95, it was announced yesterday.
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.
“It is with the utmost sadness that I announce the passing on of Zimbabwe’s founding father and former President... Robert Mugabe,” Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa said on Twitter.
“Mugabe was 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,” he added.
Mugabe had been battling ill health and after his humiliating fall from office in November 2017, his stamina seeped away rapidly.
He was hospitalized in Singapore for months for an undisclosed ailment, Mnangagwa had confirmed earlier this year.
No further details were immediately available about the circumstances of his death.
The Mugabe years are widely remembered for his crushing of political dissent, and policies that ruined the economy.
The former political prisoner turned guerrilla leader swept 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.
However, 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 pariah — although 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 misery.
All along, the Mugabe regime was widely accused of infringing on human rights and of rigging elections.
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