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Robert Mugabe: From liberation hero to Zimbabwe's brutal dictator

A look back at Robert Mugabe's 37-year reign in Zimbabwe.

 / Updated 18 PHOTOS

Mugabe, the world’s oldest ruler, resigned as Zimbabwe’s president on Nov. 21, signaling the final end of his decades in power after last week’s military coup.

Above: Mugabe looks on during a rally marking Zimbabwe's 32nd independence anniversary celebrations in Harare in 2012. The country was formerly known as Rhodesia. 

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Mugabe jokingly puts up his fists as he encounters members of the media while taking part in a conference on Rhodesia in Geneva in 1974.

Mugabe entered politics in 1960 and was jailed for a decade four years later for opposing white rule.

After his release, he rose to the top of the powerful Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army. He was known as the "thinking man's guerrilla" on account of his seven degrees, three of them earned behind bars.

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A nationalist Rhodesian fighter trains in 1975 in Rhodesia.

African nationalists waged a long guerilla war which led to an agreement in 1979 to end white rule. 

AFP-Getty Images
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Mugabe, right, signs the Lancaster House agreement in London on Dec. 21, 1979, to end white rule in the former Rhodesia.

Others signing are, from left, Rhodesian Prime Minister Abel Muzorewa, British Foreign Secretary Lord Carrington, former Rhodesian Prime Minister Ian Smith and leader of the Patriotic Front Joshua Nkomo. 


Keystone-France / Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images file
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Mugabe attends an election rally in February 1980.

Louise Gubb / AP
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Mugabe and his Ghanaian wife, Sally, hold hands in the rose garden of their Salisbury bungalow in Zimbabwe on March 6, 1980. 

Mugabe was taking a break as he worked at forming a government following his party’s landslide electoral victory. Mugabe became the country's first black prime minister. 

Louise Gubb / AP file
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British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher shakes hands with Mugabe outside 10 Downing Street in London on May 9, 1980.

Monti Spry / Getty Images file
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Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev shaks hands with Mugabe at the Kremlin in Moscow in 1985.

Sovfoto / UIG via Getty Images file
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President George Bush speaks with Mugabe at the White House in 1991.

Terry Ashe / The LIFE Images Collection/Getty file
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Britain's Queen Elizabeth II toasts with Mugabe during a banquet in the queen's honor in Harare on Oct. 10, 1991, during her first visit to the country since 1947.

Mugabe received an honorary knighthood in 1994 but it was annulled by the queen in 2008. 

Allen / AP file
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Mugabe is greeted in Havana by Cuban President Fidel Castro in 1992. 

Rafael Perez / AFP/Getty Images file
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Grace Marufu and Mugabe wave at guests on Aug. 17, 1996, after their wedding ceremony at the Kutama Catholic mission.

Decades of disputes with the Roman Catholic Church apparently forgiven, Mugabe and his bride welcomed international dignitaries to their wedding Mass.

Mugabe's first wife died in 1990.

Joao Silva / AP
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First lady Hillary Rodham Clinton is escorted by Mugabe and his wife Grace as they arrive at the Presidential Palace in Harare on March 21, 1997.

Doug Mills / AP file
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A picture of Mugabe hangs on the gate of the farm of an expelled white farmer as police and squatters stand guard in Mazowe, north of Harare, on April 10, 2000.

The farm was one of the farms across the country occupied by squatters calling themselves war veterans after the parliament passed a bill giving the government the power to seize white-owned land without paying compensation.

The farm seizures helped ruin one of Africa's most dynamic economies, with a collapse in agricultural foreign exchange earnings unleashing hyperinflation.

Alexander Joe / AFP/Getty Images file
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Mugabe attends a development summit in Johannesburg on Aug. 17, 2008.

Mike Hutchings / Reuters file
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A soldier closely guards Mugabe, in red cap, upon his arrival at a rally in Mubayira, south of Harare, on March, 13, 2008.

The country hit rock bottom in 2008, when 500 billion percent inflation drove people to support the challenge of Western-backed former union leader Morgan Tsvangirai.

Facing defeat in a presidential run-off, Mugabe resorted to violence, forcing Tsvangirai to withdraw after scores of his supporters were killed by ZANU-PF thugs.

Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi / AP
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Mugabe addresses party members and supporters at his party headquarters after the dismissal of Emerson Mnangagwa on Nov. 8, 2017. Mugabe appeared to be positioning first lady Grace Mugabe, right, for the vice president post. 

Jekesai Njikizana / AFP - Getty Images
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Young women walk past an armored personnel carrier as Zimbabwean soldiers regulate traffic in Harare on Nov. 15. The military appeared to take control of the country after the Army announced it had Mugabe and his wife in custody.

Related: Mugabe resigns one week after coup

Photos: Zimbabwe rejoices as Mugabe steps down

Jekesai Njijizama / AFP - Getty Images
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