Zimbabwe’s Mugabe Turns 88, Vows to Stay in Power

Posted February 21st, 2012 at 5:15 pm (UTC-5)
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Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe marked his 88th birthday Tuesday with a series of interviews in which he declared he is healthy, has no intention of stepping down any time soon, and will call elections this year.

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.”

The president also said the country must have elections this year and that he will do whatever it takes to ensure they are held.

But to do this, Mr. Mugabe will have to withdraw from the 2008 Global Political agreement, which brought about the power-sharing government in Zimbabwe and was backed by the Southern African Development Community, or SADC.

The SADC appointed South African President Jacob Zuma as facilitator for the Zimbabwean transition. Mr. Zuma has won SADC and African Union support for a so-called Zimbabwe roadmap that requires full implementation of the 2008 political agreement, including adoption of a new constitution endorsed by Zimbabweans in a referendum.

The constitution was supposed to be in place a year ago but, due to many delays in the process, a draft is now only expected within the next couple of months.

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 him of massive human rights abuses and ruining Zimbabwe's economy.

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.