Final years in power were characterised by financial collapse, violent intimidation and vicious power struggle
Robert Mugabe, the deeply divisive former president of Zimbabwe, was declared a national hero by the ruling Zanu-PF party on Friday, as preparations for his funeral got under way in the nation he ruled with an iron first for almost 40 years.
The death of the former president on Thursday night in a clinic in Singapore marks the definitive end of an era in the former British colony.
Mugabe, who died aged 95, ruled Zimbabwe for close to four decades before being ousted in a military takeover in November 2017.
Though initially admired as a hero of Africas independence struggle, his long rule descended into tyranny, corruption and incompetence, earning him international pariah status. His death prompted mixed reactions in Zimbabwe, across Africa and around the world.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who took power after Mugabes fall, called his predecessor an icon of liberation, a pan-Africanist who dedicated his life to the emancipation and empowerment of his people and said Zimbabwe would be in official mourning until the former leaders remains were brought back from Singapore and buried.
Tendai Biti, a prominent opposition politician, said that though he had been tortured on Mugabes orders, he was not bitter.
He brought massive destruction to Zimbabwe but was a product of his era. He did not know how to make the transformation from liberation leader to national leader, Biti told the Guardian.
No plans for a funeral have been announced, but it is expected to take place in the capital, Harare, or Mugabes home town of Zvimba.
The ruling African National Congress party in neighbouring South Africa described Mugabe as a friend, statesman and revolutionary comrade. In a statement, the ANC acknowledged that it had sometimes differed vociferously with him, but remembered an ardent and vocal advocate of African unity and self-reliance whose struggle had been an inspiration.
Flags in Kenya were flown at half mast.
But in the UK, Downing Street said that while we of course express our condolences to those who mourn the former leader represented a barrier to a better future.
Under his rule the people of Zimbabwe suffered greatly as he impoverished their country and sanctioned the use of violence against them, a spokesman for prime minister Boris Johnson said.
Mugabe had made frequent visits to Singapore to receive medical care in recent months as his health deteriorated. As far back as November 2018, Mnangagwa told members of the ruling Zanu-PF party that Mugabe could no longer walk.
Once widely celebrated for his role in fighting the white supremacist regime in his homeland, Mugabe had long become a deeply divisive figure in his own country and across the continent.
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