Zimbabwe’s capital city of Harare erupted in exuberant celebration on Tuesday as Robert Mugabe, the country’s 93-year-old authoritarian president, resigned after nearly four decades in office.
Mugabe came to power when white-minority rule ended in 1980, and has said he intended to reign for life. Throughout his lengthy tenure, he’s been accused of systematically violating human rights and violently cracking down on dissent as Zimbabwe spiraled deeper into poverty.
Thousands of elated civilians danced and sang in the streets as news broke that Mugabe was officially stepping down. Many say his political departure, triggered by a military takeover last week, marks a new chapter in the country’s history.
“This is a good day for Zimbabwe. This is a new era for our nation,” one man told BBC News. “It is not a secret that everyone in Zimbabwe has been waiting for this moment,” another woman said. “It’s a fresh start for Zimbabwe.”
The ruling ZANU-PF party will soon install Emmerson Mnangagwa, Mugabe’s former deputy, as the new president. But Mnangagwa, a former national security minister who is strongly backed by the military, has been complicit in some of the government’s most egregious abuses of power.
“It’s a change in leadership of individuals, but the authoritarian system remains intact,” cautioned Dewa Mavhinga, the Southern Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “The military has been implicated in some of the most serious human rights abuses in Zimbabwe’s past” for which there has been no accountability, he told HuffPost on Tuesday.
But for the time being, Zimbabwe’s political shakeup brings hope to a population that has been opressed for decades under Mugabe’s leadership.
Take a look at some of the celebrations following his resignation on Tuesday: