Robert Mugabe, former Zimbabwean president, has died at age 95

Last updated at 11:49
Former Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe making a speechGetty Images

Former Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe has died at the age of 95, after being ill in recent months.

He was leader of Zimbabwe for 37 years, but he was a controversial figure in his time as prime minister from 1980 to 1987, and then president after this.

He used force to hold onto power and violence to get what he wanted. Decisions he made also caused great economic problems for the country.

Read on to find out more about who he was and why he divided opinion.

Who was Robert Mugabe?

Robert Gabriel Mugabe was born on 21 February 1924, in what was then Rhodesia - now known as modern-day Zimbabwe, in Africa.

He was the son of a carpenter and did well in school, gaining seven degrees before becoming a teacher in Ghana.

In 1964, he was imprisoned for more than a decade after he criticised the government of Rhodesia.

In 1973, while still in prison, he was chosen as president of the Zimbabwe African National Union (Zanu) - a group he helped to establish, which wanted to take back power from white people in Rhodesia, who were ruling over the majority black population.

When he was released from prison, he went on to play an important role in ending white minority rule in Zimbabwe, and the Republic of Zimbabwe was born. He won the republic's first election in 1980.

Mugabe became prime minister and then president in 1987, leading the country for nearly four decades until he was forced out of power in November 2017.

Protesters holding placks that read Mugabe must go.Getty Images
Why did people oppose Mugabe?

Many people are critical of Robert Mugabe for ruling by force and using violence to get what he wanted.

Despite former Zimbabwean Senator David Coltart praising the former president for giving power back to black people in Rhodesia, he said: "He was always committed to violence, going all the way back to the 1960s."

As his years in power went by, Mugabe ruled using violence and the country became incredibly poor. He was also accused of fixing elections to make sure he stayed in power and even famously said that only god could remove him from office.

Many people both in Zimbabwe and other countries were critical of the way he ran the country.

Opponents say he was a dictator who controlled Zimbabwe by force and used violence to get what he wanted. He also had tight control over the media and what people were allowed to say.

For the first 15 years when he was in power, the economy was quite successful as it had been when he took over. But the economy was driven into the ground in the latter half of his rule as a result of decisions he made.

With the country having lots of problems, he was forced to share power in 2009 and appointed a prime minister called Morgan Tsvangirai.

But after people suspected that Mugabe was lining up his wife Grace to take over power after him, the army - which had supported him for many years - turned against him and forced him to step down.

Former-Zimbabwean-president-Robert-Mugabe-making-speech.Getty Images
Mr Mugabe had been receiving treatment in a hospital in Singapore since April
Why did people support Mugabe?

To those who supported him, Robert Mugabe was a hero because he fought for independence.

Emmerson Mnangagwa, who came to power after him, called the former president "an icon of liberation".

He was praised for championing health and education for black people in Rhodesia, and for taking power away from white people. He also won support by seizing farms from white people to give to black farmers, although this caused economic problems for the country and many farmers were killed.

Deputy Information Minister Energy Mutodi from Mr Mugabe's party told the BBC the party was "very much saddened" by the news.

"He was a principled man. He could not change easily over his beliefs. He's a man who believed himself, he's a man who believed in what he did and he is a man who was very assertive in whatever he said. This was a good man."

Former Zimbabwean Senator David Coltart said: "There's a lot of affection towards him, because we must never forget that he was the person primarily responsible for ending oppressive white minority rule."