Name at birth: Robert Gabriel Mugabe
Robert Mugabe became the first prime minister of independent Zimbabwe in 1980 and ruled ruled the country with increasingly dictatorial powers for 37 years.
Robert Gabriel Mugabe was a teacher in North Rhodesia and Ghana before becoming involved in nationalist politics in South Rhodesia in the late 1950s. Mugabe was "detained" by the white government of Ian Smith for his actions (1964-74), and after his release helped lead the armed struggle for independence. He was named prime minister of the newly formed Zimbabwe in 1980 and re-elected in 1985.
In 1987 he established one-party rule, having himself named "executive president" after the post of prime minister was abolished. By 1989 he'd managed to unite the Zimbabwe African People's Union (ZAPU) and the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) to become the unchallenged boss.
A hero of the struggle to end white rule, Robert Mugabe's early reputation as a grassroots leader eroded after decades of autocratic rule, and in the 2010s his advanced age led to much speculation about who would succeed him. In November of 2017, Zimbabwe's army announced that it had placed Mugabe under house arrest in what it called a "bloodless transition" rather than a coup. On November 21, 2017, Mugabe resigned from office.
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