from SAVIOUS KWINIKA / MARCUS MUSHONGA in Harare, Zimbabwe
HARARE – THE death of former Zimbabwean president, Robert Mugabe, has reinforced his reputation as one of the most polarising figures of his time.
Mugabe passed away last Friday at a Singapore hospital after battling an undisclosed illness.
His death at the age of 95 has occasioned an outpouring of grief across the globe.
In Africa, he has been hailed as a liberation icon for his country and beyond.
Kenya President, Uhuru Kenyatta, led the tributes by announcing three days of national mourning, beginning last Saturday, in honour of Mugabe.
Kenya’s flag is flying at half mast in memory of a man Kenyatta described as an African hero and friend of Kenya.
“Words cannot convey the magnitude of the loss as former President Mugabe was an elder statesman, a freedom fighter and a Pan-Africanist,” Kenyatta stated.
Moussa Faki Mahamat, African Union (AU) Commission chairperson, lauded the deceased as an iconic Pan-Africanist liberation fighter and champion for continental integration.
Stephane Dujarric, spokesperson of United Nations Secretary General, António Guterres, praised Mugabe’s leadership at AU and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region.
Mugabe, alongside former SADC Heads of state Julius Nyerere (Tanzania), Kenneth Kaunda (Zambia), Samora Machel (Mozambique) and José Eduardo dos Santos (Angola) were founding fathers of the Frontline States, which later became SADC region.
There were reservations from some Western nations in their tributes to Mugabe.
The United States government of President Donald Trump stated, “Mugabe helped liberate Zimbabwe but his human rights abuses and gross economic mismanagement impoverished millions and betrayed his people’s hopes for their nation.”
Human rights groups were also disparaging.
“While casting himself as the saviour of Zimbabwe, Mugabe inflicted lasting damage upon its people and its reputation,” said Muleya Mwananyanda, Amnesty International’s deputy director for Southern Africa.
After playing a prominent role in attaining independence for the former Rhodesia in 1980, Mugabe spent the later part of his 37-year reign at loggerheads with influential western nations and human rights organisations that accused him of violations, electoral fraud and
wrecking the economy.
Mugabe, who fiercely used every global forum to defend his country accusing the US, Britain and European Union (EU) allies for illegally imposing sanctions to ruin his country following repossessing of land from white minority was unpopular with the West.
No other African leader ever openly challenged presidents of superpowers like the US, Britain and EU at United Nations headquarters or global fora for imposing their authorities on weaker nations like Mugabe did.
Several other leaders, who hailed Mugabe as Pan African icon included presidents Muhammadu Buhari (Nigeria), Yoweri Museveni (Uganda), John Magufuli (Tanzania), Hage Geingob (Namibia) and Xi Jinping (China), among others.
Mugabe’s corpse is expected in Harare from Singapore on Wednesday.
– CAJ News