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Zimbabwe: Thousands gather in Victoria Falls to celebrate Robert Mugabe's 91st birthday

  • Zimbabwe President Mugabe smiles during celebrations to mark his 91st birthday in the resort town of Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, Saturday Feb, 28, 2015. Mugabe turned 91 on the 21st of February to become the worlds oldest leader with his supporters saying they will back him to run his full term until 2018 and beyond despite nagging questions about his health and a struggling economy.(AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

    Zimbabwe President Mugabe smiles during celebrations to mark his 91st birthday in the resort town of Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, Saturday Feb, 28, 2015. Mugabe turned 91 on the 21st of February to become the worlds oldest leader with his supporters saying they will back him to run his full term until 2018 and beyond despite nagging questions about his health and a struggling economy.(AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)  (The Associated Press)

  • Zimbabwe President Mugabe is seen during celebrations to mark his 91st birthday in the resort town of Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, Saturday Feb, 28, 2015. Mugabe turned 91 on the 21st of February to become the worlds oldest leader with his supporters saying they will back him to run his full term until 2018 and beyond despite nagging questions about his health and a struggling economy.(AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

    Zimbabwe President Mugabe is seen during celebrations to mark his 91st birthday in the resort town of Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, Saturday Feb, 28, 2015. Mugabe turned 91 on the 21st of February to become the worlds oldest leader with his supporters saying they will back him to run his full term until 2018 and beyond despite nagging questions about his health and a struggling economy.(AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)  (The Associated Press)

  • A birthday cake celebrating the 91st birthday of Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe, during birthday celebrations in the resort town of Victoria Falls, Saturday Feb, 28, 2015.  Mugabe turned 91 on the 21st of February to become the worlds oldest leader with his supporters saying they will back him to run his full term until 2018 and beyond despite nagging questions about his health and a struggling economy.(AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

    A birthday cake celebrating the 91st birthday of Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe, during birthday celebrations in the resort town of Victoria Falls, Saturday Feb, 28, 2015. Mugabe turned 91 on the 21st of February to become the worlds oldest leader with his supporters saying they will back him to run his full term until 2018 and beyond despite nagging questions about his health and a struggling economy.(AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)  (The Associated Press)

Thousands of people have packed the grounds of a plush hotel in Zimbabwe to celebrate the birthday of President Robert Mugabe, who turned 91 on Feb. 21.

Officials on Saturday sang praises to the former guerrilla leader in the resort town of Victoria Falls. Schoolchildren recited poems extolling Mugabe for confronting the West, which has criticized his human rights record.

Youth officials representing political parties from other countries, including South Africa's African National Congress, have lined up to laud Mugabe.

Over the decades, Mugabe has sidelined and sometimes crushed dissent, casting himself as a champion of post-colonial Africa.

This year, Mugabe became chairman of the 54-nation African Union. He is also head of a regional group of 15 southern African nations, offering support for elections held Saturday in Lesotho.