Robert Mugabe, former prime minister and president of Zimbabwe whose rule was mired in accusations of human rights abuses and corruption, has died aged 95.
His near 40-year leadership was marked with bloodshed, persecution of political opponents and vote-rigging on a large scale.
Current president Emmerson Mnangagwa confirmed the death, calling Mr Mugabe a “pan-Africanist who dedicated his life to the emancipation and empowerment of his people”.
He said: “Cde 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. May his soul rest in eternal peace.”
Born in then-Rhodesia, Mr Mugabe co-founded the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) in 1963, a resistance movement against British colonial rule.
He became prime minister in 1980 of the new Republic of Zimbabwe and assumed the role of president seven years later.
In 2000 he led a campaign to evict white farmers from their land, which was given to black Zimbabweans, and led to famine.
Mugabe retained a strong grip on power, through controversial elections, until he was forced to resign in November 2017, at age 93.
A letter from Mr Mugabe read out in Zimbabwe’s parliament said: “My decision to resign is voluntary on my part and arises from my concern for the welfare of the people of Zimbabwe and my desire for a smooth, non-violent transfer of power.”
Cars began honking horns and people cheered in the streets of Harare as the news spread.
Mr Mugabe, who had been the world’s oldest head of state at 93, was replaced by Mr Mnangagwa, who had recently been fired as Mr Mugabe’s vice-president.
Speaking at the time, then-British foreign secretary Boris Johnson said the end of Mr Mugabe’s reign appeared to be a “moment of hope” for the people of Zimbabwe, and should not be allowed to mark “the transition from one despotic rule to another”.
Mr Johnson – speaking about Mr Mnangagwa when he was tipped to take over the office – said: “I think it’s very important at the moment that we don’t focus too much on the personalities, let’s concentrate on the potential, the hope for Zimbabwe – an incredible country, a beautiful country blessed with extraordinary physical and human potential.
“What we need to see now is free, fair, democratic elections and above all not a transition from one despotic rule to another.”