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EU Marks Zimbabwe President Mugabe's 93rd Birthday With Renewed Sanctions


Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe cuts his birthday cake as he marks his 93rd birthday at his offices in Harare, Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2017. Mugabe described his wife Grace, an increasingly political figure, as "fireworks" in an interview marking his 93rd birthday.

The world’s oldest leader, President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, turns 93 Tuesday. The European Union marked the occasion by renewing sanctions against the president and members of his government.

Zimbabwe state media broadcast the first part of its sit-down interview with President Robert Mugabe on the eve of his 93rd birthday.

"This man is not going," said Mugabe. "The call to step down must come from my party... I will step down. But what do you see? The opposite. They want me to stand for elections. It's their voice I heed and the voice of no one else.”

The Zanu-PF Party recently selected Mugabe as its candidate for 2018 elections. Last week, his wife said people will vote for him even if he were dead and it were just his corpse on the ballot.

However, there are signs of opposition. Mugabe faced unprecedented protests last year over the failing economy and fresh allegations of rights abuses. And some activists have called for his birthday party to be canceled. The celebrations are set for Saturday in Matopos in the southwest. The ruling party puts the price tag for celebrations at about $2 million. Activists say that money should be used to address economic problems Zimbabweans are facing.

On Tuesday, the European Union gave Mugabe a birthday present that he might not like. The EU voted to extend its travel ban, asset freeze and arms embargo for another year. The sanctions have been in place since 2002 over allegations of election rigging and rights abuses.

Independent political commentator Chamunoda Mutasa was not surprised at the renewal.

"It confirms that the administration still has a long way in terms of implementing reforms and reversing archaic moves that they implemented and called for sanctions in the first place,” said Mutasa.

The president has not responded to the renewal of sanctions. In the past, he has said they were imposed to push him to abandon a policy of taking land from white farmers.

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