Zimbabwean president Mugabe marks 87th birthday
HARARE, Zimbabwe – Zimbabwe's ruler of 30 years celebrated his 87th birthday Saturday, saying that even if his body "may get spent" he still has the political ideas of a young man.
President Robert Mugabe told supporters at his birthday party that the government also would take control of companies owned by Western interests in retaliation for the economic sanctions that target him and his associates.
Mugabe turned 87 on Monday but traditionally marks his birthday later with a mass meeting of the youth movement he founded. He returned home Sunday from undergoing medical treatment in Singapore.
"87 is only 8 plus 7. I want to remain with you. My body may get spent but I wish my mind will always be with you," he told more than 6,000 supporters in an animated 70-minute address.
Mugabe said his ideas were not those of an "aged person" but those of a young man that "will rejuvenate the country and impel us to be innovative and imaginative."
Mugabe, wearing the red neck scarf of his youth movement, told the gathering of party leaders, youth groups and children that he never capitulated to pressures from Western leaders over their allegations of human rights abuses by him and his ZANU-PF party.
"No, that will never happen. That is where I derive strength," he said. To him, he said, U.S. President Barack Obama "is just a nobody in America."
Mugabe was garlanded with flowers, and he listened to two hours of praise singing by choirs and music groups. Other supporters chanted slogans recalling the guerrilla war that swept Mugabe to power in 1980, ending British colonial rule.
Tables in the convention hall were laden with giant cakes he cut during the ceremony, one resembling a giant Zimbabwean flag and another depicting the Great Zimbabwe ruins of a stone city built by a tribal dynasty in southern Zimbabwe in the 14th century from which Zimbabwe derives its name.
After disputed, violence-plagued elections in 2008, Mugabe was forced by regional leaders to join a shaky coalition with the longtime opposition leader, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, who did not attend Saturday's birthday bash.
Political violence and intimidation have surged since Mugabe called for elections later this year to bring the coalition to an end. Tsvangirai's party has opposed early elections before constitutional reforms are complete.
Mugabe accused coalition partners of delaying progress toward elections.
"There has to be a good excuse not to have elections this year. We want to get to elections as soon as possible" with or without a new constitution, he said.
Associated Press Writer Gillian Gotora contributed to this report.