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Profile: Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe

Profile: Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe
From Al Jazeera - November 15, 2017

Political tensions are high in Zimbabwe after fears of an attempted coup, which was denied by the military, against President Robert Mugabe's government.

Zimbabwe's army seized the headquarters of the state broadcaster ZBC in the capital Harare and blocked off access to government offices early on Wednesday.

An army spokesman confirmed the safety of the country's 93-year-old leader - the world's oldest head of state. However, Mugabe's whereabouts were unknown following the army's takeover.

Mugabe came to power when Zimbabwe won independence in 1980 and his 37-year rule has been criticised for repression of dissent, election rigging, and for causing the country's economic collapse.

Despite health concerns and growing opposition, the leader of the ruling Zanu-PF party has said he has no plans of stepping down.

Early life

Mugabe was born on February 21, 1924, near Kutama, northeast of Salisbury (now Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe), in what was then Rhodesia.

The former school teacher, with seven university degrees, first came to prominence after waging a bloody guerrilla war against the white colonial rulers who jailed him for 10 years over a "subversive speech" he made in 1964.

Soon after his release from jail in 1974, he caused a seismic shift in the then Rhodesian politics, riding a wave of popular outrage against the racist colonial rulers.

Then married to Ghanaian Sally Hayfron, who died of a kidney disease in 1992, he crossed the border to neighbouring Mozambique to launch a protracted guerrilla war for independence.

He returned to Rhodesia in 1979 and became prime minister in 1980 of the newly independent country renamed Zimbabwe.

He married his current wife and Zimbabwe's First Lady, Grace Mugabe, in 1996.

Opposition crackdown

In the early years of his rule, Mugabe was praised for expanding social services, including building schools and hospitals.

He was concurrently spearheading a brutal crackdown on his political opposition led by now deceased nationalist Joshua Nkomo that claimed more than 20,000 lives, according to the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace.

Tens of thousands of people were killed during the so-called "Gukurahundi", a suppression campaign waged by the North Korean-trained 5th Brigade in the predominantly Ndebele regions of Zimbabwe. Most of the victims were supporters of Nkomo, Mugabe's fierce political opponent.

Nkomo was the founding father of the nationalist struggle for independence in Zimbabwe, and the "Gukurahundi" crackdown only ended with the signing of the Unity Accord in 1987 between ZANU-PF and PF-ZAPU.

Mugabe assumed the presidency in 1987, with the prime minister role being abolished.

Failures and achievements

Military tensions

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