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Page last updated at 16:16 GMT, Tuesday, 24 June 2008 17:16 UK
Mugabe: Your questions answered
By Rajini Vaidyanathan
Newsbeat's political reporter

Robert Mugabe
Mugabe has been in charge of Zimbabwe for the last thirty years
Flogged with barbed wire, beaten with sticks, their homes petrol bombed. These are just some of the punishments handed out to those who said they wouldn't support Zimbabwe's president Robert Mugabe in this week's elections.

His only other opponent has now pulled out of the race because of all the violence.

It means that Mugabe, a man accused of the killings of thousands, could automatically hold onto power which would leave Zimbabwe and the entire southern part of Africa in turmoil.

So who is Robert Mugabe and why has his time at the top caused so much controversy?

84-year-old Robert Mugabe is loved as much as he is hated in Zimbabwe.

He has been running the country for the past three decades and won fair elections to become the country's president in 1980.


Robert Mugabe often talks about how much he hates Britain and the relationship between the two countries goes back a long way.

Zimbabwe used to be known as 'Rhodesia' and was run by the British as part of the Empire.

Protests in Zimbabwe
Recent protests outside the Zimbabwe embassy in London

In 1965 it declared itself independent and was under white rule. During that time Mugabe campaigned for blacks to rule the country instead and ended up in jail for his protests against the white government.

When Rhodesia became Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe took charge and promised a better life for black people in the country.

Back then Zimbabwe was one of Africa's richest countries. Robert Mugabe was popular, but didn't like anyone who disagreed with him.

In his early years of power, his government were behind the killings of 20,000 people from the Ndebele tribe in the Matabeleland area of Zimbabwe.

Britain and other countries turned a blind eye.


Years later, he began his most controversial policy of seizing land from white farmers.

Rural Zimbabwe
Rural Zimbabwe has been badly affected by Mugabe's policies

Mugabe said he wanted to give the land back to black people who were, in his words "the true owners".

The policy led to violent clashes and left many black workers without jobs.

What was meant to help them plunged the country into even more of a financial mess and created food shortages.

Mugabe continued to claim support. In 2002 he was declared the winner of the presidential elections, although foreign observers said they were rigged.


In elections in March 2008 Robert Mugabe came second, behind the opposition party The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). He demanded a rerun.

During the current campaign, MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai says his members have been tortured and even killed by Robert Mugabe's Zanu PF party.

Morgan Tsvangirai
Morgan Tsvangirai has withdrawn from the election re-run

With more than 80 dead and 200,000 forced to flee their home he says he's pulling out of the race for the safety of his supporters.

It leaves Mugabe as the only candidate.

PM Gordon Brown and others want neighbouring countries like South Africa to put pressure on Mugabe to quit.

He said he'll only go when God tells him to. In that time - more deaths are likely. Many worry if nothing is done, the kind of problems happening in Zimbabwe could spread to other parts of Africa.

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