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Mugabe baffles nation

UPDATE: 12 p.m.

Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe on Sunday defied calls to quit immediately, saying he will preside over a ruling party congress in December in an announcement that could trigger impeachment proceedings in the parliament this week as well as more protests demanding his ouster.

In a televised address, 93-year-old Mugabe acknowledged what he said were "a whole range of concerns" of Zimbabweans about the chaotic state of the government and the economy, but stopped short of what many people in the southern African nation were hoping for — a statement that he was resigning after nearly four decades in power.

The once-formidable Mugabe is now a virtually powerless, isolated figure, making his continued incumbency all the more unusual and extending Zimbabwe's political limbo. He is largely confined to his private home by the military, the ruling party has fired him from his leadership post and huge crowds poured into the streets of Harare, the capital, on Saturday to demand that he leave office.

Yet the Zimbabwean president sought to project authority in his speech, which he delivered after shaking hands with security force commanders, one of whom leaned over a couple of times to help Mugabe find his place on the page he was reading.


UPDATE: 11:15 a.m.

Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe has begun speaking on state television on his resignation.

He has shaken the hands of the military leaders who put him under house arrest just days ago. He says he is aware of a "whole range of concerns," including the economy, which is going through "a difficult patch."

Mugabe is poised to step down after 37 years in power. He is the world's oldest head of state.

He says "the pillars of state remained functional" amid the crisis, in which Zimbabweans rallied by the tens of thousands against him and ruling party leaders told him to step aside or face impeachment.


UPDATE: 10:10 a.m.

Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe is resigning after nearly four decades in power, according to an official close to the talks on his departure.

The news came hours after the ruling party's Central Committee on Sunday fired Mugabe as party leader and said if he didn't resign as the country's president by noon Monday it would start impeachment proceedings.

Mugabe was set to address the nation shortly on state-run television. The official close to the talks spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to reporters.

It is an extraordinary end to 37 years in power for the world's oldest head of state, who had vowed to rule until death.

The 93-year-old Mugabe has been under house arrest since the military moved in Tuesday, angered by his firing of his longtime deputy and the positioning of unpopular first lady Grace Mugabe to succeed him.

Mugabe tried to buy time in negotiations with the military on a dignified exit but quickly found himself isolated.

Tens of thousands of people poured into the streets of the capital Saturday to demand that Mugabe, one of Africa's last remaining liberation leaders, step aside after overseeing the once-prosperous country's economic collapse.

The deputy whom Mugabe fired, former Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa, is poised to be Zimbabwe's next leader after the Central Committee made him its nominee to take over when Mugabe goes.



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