Mugabe Turns 88, Vows to Stay in Power

Posted February 21st, 2012 at 8:05 am (UTC-5)
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Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe turned 88 years old Tuesday with a declaration that he is healthy and has no intention of stepping down any time soon.

In an interview aired on state media Monday night, the Zimbabwean leader said he is “fit as a fiddle” and “not yet” ready to retire, adding that at his age, he can “still go some distance.”

He also said the country “must have elections,” despite the lack of a new constitution, called for in the agreement that led to Zimbabwe's current power-sharing government.

President Mugabe has been in power since Zimbabwe achieved independence from Britain in 1980.

He won praise in the early years of his rule but is now considered a pariah in the West, where governments accuse of him of massive human rights abuses and ruining Zimbabwe's economy.

His spokesman has denied media reports that he is being treated for prostate cancer in Singapore, where he has traveled several times in the past year.

Despite his age, Mr. Mugabe's ZANU-PF party has renominated him for president and is pushing for polls to be held later this year.

The president was forced to share power with the longtime opposition MDC party after the disputed and violence-plagued 2008 elections.

The inclusive government has brought some stability to Zimbabwe but rights groups have expressed fear of a new round of violence at the next round of polls.

On Friday, the European Union renewed travel and financial sanctions on Mr. Mugabe and more than 100 close allies.