The cries of the Zimbabwean

Robert Mugabe, the leader of the (ZANU PF) and also the president of Zimbabwe, was once noticed as a hero of his nation’s liberation struggle who also remains as one of the last of Africa’s ruthlessly autocratic “big men.”

Mr. Mugabe’s 32-year grip on power has weakened along with his popularity in recent years, as his nation’s economy has all but collapsed.

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Mugabe has remained in office in a tenuous power-sharing government with his longtime rival, Morgan Tsvangirai the leader of the (Movement for Democratic Change) which was forced on him after a campaign of violence and vote-rigging squelched elections in 2008 and led to international outrage. Mr. Tsvangirai became prime minister in February 2009.

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Ever since the two wings of the Movement for Democratic Change, the party founded to fight Mr. Mugabe’s rule, accepted the power-sharing arrangement, more than a quarter of their members in Parliament have been arrested at one point or another, with some of them being taken into court shackled in leg irons.

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Mr. Mugabe has said the power-sharing deal is not working and has called for elections in 2012, a year ahead of schedule. Some analysts believe that Mr. Mugabe is pushing for elections because of poor health.

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The 88-year-old president has been the subject of several health scares in recent years, with some reports saying he has prostate cancer, but in interviews with state media he denied reports that he was seriously ill.

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There is uncertainty about what would follow Mr. Mugabe’s death: a military coup, an internal battle within his political party, the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF), or some still unforeseen outcome.

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Expenditures by Mr. Mugabe and his security forces have led observers to speculate that money from the Marange diamond fields in eastern Zimbabwe is financing his party’s groundwork for the early elections he is seeking. The diamond fields are overseen by a ministry run by ZANU-PF and guarded by an army that reports to Mr. Mugabe.

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While Mugabe officials deny any sleight of hand, members of his party acknowledge that the nation’s mineral wealth does not always make it into the public treasury.

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Power Struggles in 2008 and After

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In a presidential election held on March 29, 2008, Mr. Mugabe lost to Mr. Tsvangirai, yet refused to cede power. Widespread state-sponsored violence left at least 85 supporters of Mr. Tsvangirai’s opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change, dead and thousands injured. Opposition and civic groups described events after the election as a slow-motion military coup.

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The contest between Mr. Mugabe, a university-educated Machiavellian, and Mr. Tsvangirai, a former labor leader who never went to college and is often described as a well-intentioned but bumbling tactician, lies at the heart of Zimbabwe’s tumultuous political life.

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The rivals struck a power-sharing deal in September 2008 after more than a month of wrangling. Brokered by Thabo Mbeki, the former president of neighboring South Africa, the deal signaled that Mr. Mugabe was willing to cede some authority to Mr. Tsvangirai, but seemed to leave neither man clearly in charge. Despite the accord, Mr. Mugabe’s party proceeded to grab nearly all the key ministries and appoint provincial leaders.

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In January 2009, Mr. Tsvangirai said that he would not be “bulldozed” into joining the lopsided government. Leaders across southern Africa encouraged Mr. Tsvangirai to compromise, and he finally agreed to join a power-sharing government as prime minister.

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Prior to the agreement, Mr. Tsvangirai dropped his demands for exclusive oversight of the police, agreeing to share control. Mr. Mugabe maintained his grip on other elements of the security forces, which provide crucial sinews of his power.

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Tensions rose after Mr. Tsvangirai was injured and his wife of more than three decades, Susan, was killed in a car crash in March 2009 that many of his supporters believe was an assassination attempt. Mr. Tsvangirai, though, called it an accident.

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Endgame or Elections

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In December 2010, after two years of enforced power-sharing, Mr. Mugabe seemed poised to take complete control of the country. He appointed all the provincial governors, who help him dispense patronage and punishment, rather than sharing the picks as promised with Mr. Tsvangirai. And traditional chiefs, longtime recipients of largess from his party have endorsed Mr. Mugabe as president for life.

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The revolutions in North Africa have unnerved the sprawling spy operation controlled by Mr. Mugabe’s party. Dozens of students, trade unionists and activists who had gathered to watch news reports on the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt were arrested and charged with treason, accused of plotting to oust Mr. Mugabe.

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In March 2012, a court in Zimbabwe decided not to imprison six activists who had been arrested while watching news videos of the Arab Spring uprisings, sentencing them instead on Wednesday to 420 hours of community service and fining them $500 each.

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The activists became something of a cause célèbre in Zimbabwe, where repression is nothing new but the spectacle of a university teacher being arrested for watching news coverage and holding what was, he said, a seminar on political activism and democracy, shocked many Zimbabweans.

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