Zimbabwe ruling party: Exiled former vice president to return

In this Wednesday Feb, 10, 2016 file photo, then-Zimbabwean vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa greets party supporters at the ZANU-PF headquarters in Harare.

HARARE, Zimbabwe — Zimbabwe’s ruling ZANU-PF party said Wednesday that president-in-waiting Emmerson Mnangagwa was due to arrive in the country Wednesday. The state broadcaster said he will be sworn in as the country’s new leader on Friday.

Mnangagwa fled to neighboring South Africa earlier this month after he was fired as vice president by his predecessor Robert Mugabe, who accused him of plotting to take over from him.

Mugabe reluctantly resigned on Tuesday shortly after Parliament began impeachment proceedings against him. The 93-year-old, who ruled Zimbabwe since independence from white minority rule in 1980, and his wife Grace had been put under house arrest by the country’s army last week.

More:Zimbabweans hope for fresh start as Robert Mugabe ends 37-year reign.

More:Five things to know about Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe.

In a letter to Parliament, Mugabe said he was stepping down immediately for “the welfare of the people of Zimbabwe and the need for a peaceful transfer of power.”.

Mugabe’s ascent to power was marked by human rights abuses including the massacre of thousands of civilians who opposed his rule. During his tenure, Zimbabwe turned from one of the African continent’s most prosperous nations to one of the world’s worst economies, wracked with crippling inflation, food shortages and high unemployment.

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Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Mugabe’s resignation marked “an historic moment for Zimbabwe.”.

“We congratulate all Zimbabweans who raised their voices and stated peacefully and clearly that the time for change was overdue. Zimbabwe has an extraordinary opportunity to set itself on a new path,” Tillerson said in a statement.

Contributing: Jane Onyanga-Omara in London.

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