The founding father of Zimbabwe who ruled the country with an iron fist for more than three decades, Robert Mugabe has died, according to President Emmerson Mnangagwa. He was 95.

“It is with the utmost sadness that I announce the passing on of Zimbabwe’s founding father and former President, Cde Robert Mugabe,” Mnangagwa posted on Twitter early on Friday.

“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 added.

Rumours had been rife about the health of the ex-president, who spent months in a hospital in Singapore earlier this year. Details of what ailed him were a closely guarded secret. No further details were immediately available about the circumstances of his death, or where he died.

Mugabe was forced to step down by the military in November 2017 following nationwide mass protests. He was deposed in a  coup when members of his own party turned against him after he dismissed then Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa to make way for his wife, Grace to succeed him.

The former political prisoner turned guerrilla leader was voted power in the 1980 elections after a growing rebellion and economic sanctions forced the white minority colonial government to the negotiating table.