Today is Robert Mugabe's 90th birthday. For the last 34 of those years, he's been Zimbabwe's leader, and his life history in intrinsically linked with the country: It's where he's been a guerrilla fighter, a political prisoner, a president and, finally, an international pariah.
How does a man like Mugabe stay in power for so long? There are many reasons, but two of the most important ones are his fierce anti-Western populism and his bold, frequently witty charisma. These factors may have not only helped keep him in power -- they have also led to what my WorldViews colleague Max Fisher has referred to as "Mugabisms."
Mugabe is said to be celebrating his birthday in a clinic in Singapore, according to Reuters, where his official spokesperson says he is undergoing a routine operation on a cataract and not the prostate cancer that is rumored to threaten his health. In honor of his birthday, we've listed nine of Mugabe's most memorable quotes.
- On the United Kingdom: "Why run to Britain, a very cold and uninhabitable country with nowhere where you can say you can live happily? The houses are very small, why go there?"
- On gay rights: “Those that engage in such acts are insane. We cannot tolerate this, otherwise the dead will rise against us.”
- At the state funeral of one of his Cabinet ministers: "I am still the Hitler of the time. This Hitler has only one objective: justice for his people, sovereignty for his people, recognition of the independence of his people and their rights over their resources. If that is Hitler, then let me be Hitler tenfold. Ten times, that is what we stand for."
- On the U.K., again: "They are even using gay gangsters on us."
- On criticism of his regime from President George W. Bush: "These are the last kicks of a dying horse."
- On gay people: "They are worse than dogs and pigs. I keep pigs, and the male pig knows the female one.”
- When asked if he plans to run again for president: "Why do you want to know my secrets?"
- On cricket: "Cricket civilizes people and creates good gentlemen. I want everyone to play cricket in Zimbabwe; I want ours to be a nation of gentlemen."
- On himself: "Only God will remove me!"
Of course, it's easy to sit in America and chuckle at these quotes, but it is worth remembering: For those in Zimbabwe who have to put up with the fear of widespread political violence and the country's disastrous economy, this is the man who is most responsible.