Zimbabwean General Moyo speaks on state broadcaster ZBC during the coup, November 2017.

On Tuesday, a military coup in Zimbabwe led to the house arrest of President Robert Mugabe and his wife, Grace, removing from power Africa’s oldest head of state and one of its worst. This was no popular uprising against tyranny, however. Rather, it was a palace coup within the ruling ZANU-PF party. The next leader of Zimbabwe, probably former Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa or one of his proxies, is likely to continue Mugabe’s tyranny, though perhaps with less of a personal touch.

Mugabe is the only president Zimbabwe has ever known since the end of white minority rule in 1980. After independence, politics was organized around ethnic rivalries; Mugabe was associated with the Shona ethnic group, the opposition with the Ndebele. Ownership of productive land remained dominated by a tiny white minority. Although Mugabe was praised by the outside world during the first decade of his rule for pursuing

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  • JOHN CAMPBELL, the U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria from 2004 to 2007, is Ralph Bunche senior fellow for Africa policy studies at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) in New York.
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