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The African Union has welcomed Robert Mugabe’s decision to step down as president of Zimbabwe, saying the people had expressed their will for a “peaceful transfer of power.”

AU commission chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat said he “welcomes the decision by President Robert Mugabe to step down from his position as Head of State following a lifetime of service to the Zimbabwean nation.”

“President Mugabe will be remembered as a fearless pan-Africanist liberation fighter, and the father of the independent Zimbabwean nation,” he said in a statement released late Tuesday.

After dominating nearly every aspect of Zimbabwean public life for decades, the 93-year-old’s tenure on Tuesday ended in an announcement at a special joint session of parliament where MPs had convened to impeach Mugabe after the ruling party sacked him as their leader earlier this week.

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Mugabe is likely to be replaced by Emmerson Mnangagwa, whom he fired as his deputy earlier this month in a move that pushed infuriated army chiefs to seize power and force the president’s exit.

Despite the military intervention, the AU did not characterise Mugabe’s ouster as a coup, but rather a legitimate expression of the will of Zimbabweans.

“The African Union recognises that the Zimbabwean people have expressed their will that there should be a peaceful transfer of power in a manner that secures the democratic future of their country,” the statement said.

“President Mugabe’s decision to resign paves the way for a transition process, owned and led by the sovereign people of Zimbabwe”.

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