Zimbabwe ex-president Mugabe dies aged 95

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AFP) — Robert Mugabe, who led Zimbabwe from 1980 to 2017, has died aged 95, the country’s president announced Friday.

Mugabe was first heralded as a liberator who rid the former British colony of Rhodesia of white minority rule, but was later 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,” Emmerson Mnangagwa said in a tweet.

“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.”

Mugabe had been battling ill health.

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, or where he died.

The former political prisoner turned guerrilla leader, Mugabe 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.

But some critics alleged he later cracked down on opponents, noting a campaign known as Gukurahundi that allegedly led to the deaths of an estimated 20,000 dissidents.