UPDATE 1 – Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe resigns after 37 years in power

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Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe has resigned, ending his regime after nearly four decades in power. It follows a military takeover and an ultimatum to resign the presidency or face removal from office.

Mugabe, who is 93 and one of the world’s longest-ruling leaders, had faced the likelihood of removal from office after parliament began impeachment proceedings on Tuesday. Parliament Speaker Jacob Mudenda later said that Mugabe had resigned in a letter.

“I, Robert Gabriel Mugabe, hereby formally tender my resignation as President of Zimbabwe with immediate effect,” the letter said, as quoted by Reuters. “My decision to resign is voluntary on my part. I have resigned to allow a smooth transfer of power.”

As a result of the announcement, impeachment proceedings which began about an hour earlier were suspended. Celebrations erupted in the capital Harare, where cars were sounding their horns and thousands of people poured onto the streets.

Mugabe’s letter made no mention of who will be in charge of the country, but constitutionally the powers would go to 2nd Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko in the interim. Former 1st Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa is expected to be installed as a permanent successor on Wednesday.

The sudden resignation came just two days after Mugabe refused to resign, saying that he had heard the concerns of soldiers who launched a military takeover last week. Mugabe and his wife were placed under house arrest as a result of the operation, although he later appeared in public.

The crisis began earlier this month when Mugabe accused Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa of disloyalty and fired him. It prompted army chief Constantino Chiwenga, who is reportedly close to Mnangagwa, to warn of an intervention if infighting continued.

In the aftermath of the intervention, the ruling ZANU-PF party fired Mugabe as its leader and appointed Mnangagwa to succeed him. First Lady Grace Mugabe, meanwhile, was removed as the head of the women’s league and expelled from the party, along with 20 of her associates.

Nonetheless, Mugabe remained defiant and ignored an ultimatum to resign by Monday afternoon. Members of parliament convened a joint sitting on Tuesday afternoon to begin the process of impeachment, which was likely to be successful.

Mugabe ruled the African nation since 1987, making him one of the world’s longest-ruling leaders. Zimbabwe has long faced sanctions from the international community for alleged human rights abuses and vote-rigging by Mugabe.

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