Robert Mugabe, former prime minister and president of Zimbabwe whose rule was mired in accusations of human rights abuses and corruption, has died aged 95.

His 40-year leadership of the former British colony was marked with bloodshed, persecution of political opponents and vote-rigging on a large scale.

Current president Emmerson Mnangagwa confirmed the death, calling Mugabe a “pan-Africanist who dedicated his life to the emancipation and empowerment of his people”.

He said: “Cde Mugabe was an icon of liberation, a pan-Africanist who dedicated his life to the emancipation and empowerment of his people. His contribution to the history of our nation and continent will never be forgotten. May his soul rest in eternal peace.”

He died in a Singapore hospital where he’d been reportedly receiving treatment for cancer since April.

Born on February 21, 1924, in what was then British-ruled Southern Rhodesia, Mugabe was raised in a Catholic mission and trained as a teacher.

As a young man he joined the National Democratic Party under Joshua Nkomo in its struggle against the government of Rhodesian Prime Minister Ian Smith, who had broken away from Britain in 1965 in an effort to prevent the introduction of black majority rule.

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Mugabe was jailed for 10 years in 1964 for anti-government comments.

After his release from prison in 1974 he joined and later led the victorious guerrilla war conducted from Mozambique against Smith’s breakaway regime.

He rose through the ranks of the rebels to become the head of the Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF)

As ZANU leader, he became prime minister of the new Republic of Zimbabwe in 1980 and assumed the role of president seven years later.

In 2000 he led a campaign to evict white farmers from their land, which was given to black Zimbabweans, and led to famine.

Mugabe retained a strong grip on power, through controversial elections, until he was forced to resign in November 2017, at age 93.

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AAP

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