Robert Mugabe: World Reacts to Death of Ex-president Who Ruled Zimbabwe for 37 Years—'Even Dictators Finally Die'

Robert Mugabe, the former leader of Zimbabwe, has died in a Singapore hospital aged 95. During his long political career, Mugabe went from a widely respected anti-colonial revolutionary to a pariah dictator, destroying the country he once did so much to free.

Reactions to his death reflected his complex legacy and how his 37 years in power—first as prime minister from 1980 to 1987 and then president until 2017—corrupted his liberating zeal and led the young country to economic ruin.

Reactions to his death, both in Zimbabwe and further afield, demonstrate his lasting footprint on global and African politics. Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who replaced Mugabe after he was forced to step down by the military in 2017, announced Mugabe's death "with the utmost sadness."

Mnangagwa described his predecessor as "an icon of liberation, a pan-Africanist who dedicated his life to the emancipation and empowerment of his people." The president added, "His contribution to the history of our nation and continent will never be forgotten. May his soul rest in eternal peace."

The African National Congress—South Africa's ruling party which, like Mugabe's ZANU-PF, was also formed as a pan-African, anti-colonial organization—said in a statement that it "mourns the passing of our brother Comrade President Robert Gabriel Mugabe," who "devoted his life to the service of his country and his people."

Many obituaries noted both his liberating struggle and his later descent into a despot with no regard for human rights, bent on economically-ruinous policies.

The New York Times described Mugabe as "a strongman who ruled Zimbabwe for decades and presided over its long decline." CNN said Mugabe was "the founding father of Zimbabwe who ruled the country with an iron fist for more than three decades," while The Washington Post said he led his nation "from independence to economic ruin."

Ghanaian journalist Godfred Akoto Boafo neatly surmised Mugabe's legacy as "a formidable freedom fighter who became a paranoid dictator."

But some social media users were less equivocal. Twitter user Lord Abraham Mutai declared, "Even dictators Finally die...The sad part is they die living their countries desolate." He continued, "We should not normalize what he did even in his death. That has been our greatest hypocrisy. Mugabe was greedy and selfish."

Lawyer Donald Kipkorir said Mugabe could have become Africa's greatest leader, but was "bewitched by insatiable greed for riches." Kipkorir accused Mugabe's advisers of being "sycophantic cowards who echoed him & supported & participated in his thievery."

Sky News journalist Mark Austin wrote: "Farewell Robert Mugabe. Rest in peace, something you never allowed your country or your people. Cry the Beloved Country."

Rolling Stone writer Jamil Smith, like many Twitter users, largely steered clear of the dictator's complex narrative. "Robert Mugabe is dead," he wrote. "I don't really have anything nice to say, so I'll just leave it at that."

Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe, death, world, reacts
In this file photo, then-President Robert Mugabe speaks at the ZANU-PF party's annual conference on December 17, 2016 in Masvingo, Zimbabwe. JEKESAI NJIKIZANA/AFP/Getty Images/Getty