Several countries hailed Zimbabwe’s late ex-president Robert Mugabe on Tuesday as a liberation hero — though his fierce critic, former colonial power Britain, recalled the suffering and repression of his rule.
Britain said Zimbabweans had “suffered for too long” under former president Mugabe, who died Friday.
“We express our condolences to those who mourn Robert Mugabe’s death. However, Zimbabweans suffered for too long as a result of Mugabe’s autocratic role,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.
It noted “mixed emotions” in Zimbabwe at the death of Mugabe, adding, “We hope that in this new era, Zimbabwe can continue to be set on a more democratic and prosperous path.”
Mugabe won 1980 elections at the end of a black nationalist guerrilla war against white-minority rule in the rebel colony of Rhodesia.
Peter Hain, a leading anti-apartheid campaigner, told AFP he was “elated” at the time.
“It was a huge moment in history when he became president in a landslide and all of us cheered him on at the time.”
But he said Mugabe then “betrayed all of those values of justice and human rights and democracy under the freedom struggle and became a corrupt dictator”.
In 2000, Mugabe’s supporters violently took over white-owned farms — a watershed moment in relations between the West and their protégé.
Zimbabwe was suspended in 2002 from the Commonwealth, a grouping of former British colonies, and pulled out voluntarily in 2003.
Last year, President Emmerson Mnangagwa submitted an application to rejoin the Commonwealth after ousting Mugabe.
Here is a selection of top world reactions to his death on Tuesday aged 95.
“We will remember former President Mugabe as a man of courage who was never afraid to fight for what he believed in even when it was not popular,” said Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta.
Mwai Kibaki, Kenyan president from 2002 to 2013, said Mugabe’s death “marks the end of an era in Africa. It closes the chapter of Africa’s founding presidents whose commitment to the emancipation of the people of Africa remains enduringly remarkable.”
Tanzania’s President John Magufuli tweeted in Swahili: “Africa loses a brave, determined leader, an Africanist who turned the rejection of colonisation into action. May God let his soul rest in peace.”
In Namibia, which cast off South African rule in 1990, a decade after Zimbabwe won independence from Britain, President Hage Geingob hailed Mugabe as a warrior.
“Comrade Robert Mugabe (was) an outstanding revolutionary, a tenacious freedom fighter and dedicated Pan Africanist… President Mugabe made enormous sacrifices in the struggle against injustice and the liberation of Southern Africa from racist subjugation and colonial oppression.”
“He will be remembered for his fight for Africa’s liberation and fearlessly defending the continent. His place in the annals of Africa’s history is assured,” said Zambia’s President Edgard Lungu on Twitter.
Mugabe “fought for the independence of the country from colonial rule, and lived most of his life in public service,” said President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria, hailing him as the “founding father” of a nation.
“Mugabe’s sacrifices, especially in struggling for the political and economic emancipation of his people, will always be remembered by posterity.”
“Mugabe was an outstanding national liberation movement leader and politician of Zimbabwe,” said Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang.
“Throughout his life, he has firmly defended the sovereignty of his country, opposed foreign interference, and actively promoted China-Zimbabwe and China-Africa friendship and cooperation.”
“Many important dates in Zimbabwe’s modern history are tied to the name of Robert Mugabe. He made a great personal contribution to the battle for your country’s independence, to the building of Zimbabwean state institutions,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said.