Robert Mugabe, who has ruled Zimbabwe for nearly 40 years, has resigned, the speaker of the country’s parliament announced to cheers today.
The speaker read a letter from Mugabe that said he was stepping down immediately, adding that it was a voluntary decision for “the welfare of the people of Zimbabwe and the need for a peaceful transfer of power,” The New York Times reported.
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The Parliament erupted in celebration upon hearing about the departure of Mugabe, the country’s first and only president since its independence from Britain in 1980. Mugabe, at 93, was the world’s oldest head of state and was facing threats of impeachment for allowing his wife Grace “to usurp constitutional power.”
Mugabe’s rule began to unravel earlier this month, when he removed Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who many had hoped would succeed Mugabe as president, from office. The move was widely seen as an endorsement by Mugabe of his wife, the BBC reported.
The military placed Mugabe under house arrest last week, saying his dismissal of Mnangagwa was an attempt to illegally hand over power. The Zimbabwe African National Union–Patriotic, the ruling party, expelled Mugabe as its leader Sunday and gave him until noon to resign as president. Mugabe shocked his country when, in a 20-minute televised speech, he avoided the topic of his resignatoin, and did not say he would step down.
For 37 years, Mugabe’s government turned a “once-rich country into a place where people queue outside the banks to collect enough cash to buy bread,” Martin Geissler of Independent Television News reported from the capital of Harare, days before the resignation announcement. Mugabe, over the decades, also wielded his power to take down and quiet any dissenters.