Robert Mugabe has resigned as Zimbabwe’s president ending 37 years of rule over the once-prosperous African nation.
The 93-year-old finally stood aside shortly after Parliament opened an impeachment process Tuesday local time to end his rule.
Mr Mugabe clung to power for a week after an army takeover and the expulsion from his own ruling ZANU-PF party, which also told him to stand down.
Wild celebrations broke out during a joint sitting of Parliament when Speaker Jacob Mudenda announced Mr Mugabe’s resignation “with immediate effect” and suspended the impeachment procedure.
“My decision to resign is voluntary on my part and arises from my concern for the welfare of the people of Zimbabwe and my desire for a smooth, non-violent transfer of power,” Mr Mugabe said in a letter read out in Parliament.
Mr Mudenda said moves were under way to ensure a new leader could take over within 48 hours.
Mr Mugabe confounded expectations he would stand down Monday when he made a 20-minute televised public address calling for a return to normalcy, but ended the rambling speech without his much anticipated resignation.
His address came shortly after ZANU-PF dismissed Mr Mugabe as its leader, appointing former vice-president Emmerson Mnangawa in his place.
Thousands of Zimbabweans poured onto the streets of the capital Harare to celebrate with dancing, singing, honking and cheers as news of the resignation quickly spread.
“Welcome to the new Zimbabwe,” people chanted outside a conference centre where the impeachment process was taking place.
“I am very happy with what has happened,” said Maria Sabawu, a supporter of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, told Reuters at the scene.
“I have suffered a lot at the hands of Mugabe’s Government.”
Mr Mugabe’s sudden downfall was sparked by rivalry between members of Zimbabwe’s ruling elite over who will succeed him, rather than popular protests against his rule.
The army seized power after Mr Mugabe sacked Mr Mnangagwa to smooth a path to the presidency for his wife Grace, 52, known to her critics as “Gucci Grace” for her reputed fondness for luxury shopping.
Mr Mnangagwa, a former security chief known as The Crocodile, is expected to return to Zimbabwe from his brief exile and take over as president.
Mr Mugabe had been in power since the creation of an independent Zimbabwe from the former Rhodesia in 1980.
Although Zimbabwe is a democracy, but over the past 15 years elections have been marred by accusations of rigging and violence against political opponents.
Mr Mugabe presided over a deepening economic crisis in Zimbabwe, where people are on average 15% poorer now than they were in 1980.
“I am the happiest person under the sun right now, because I always believed that Mugabe was going to step down in my lifetime and it has happened,” human rights activist Linda Masarira told the BBC.
“And now going forward, it’s time for the opposition to reorganise and ensure that we will have a government that cares for the people. And everyone has to be included.”
– With agencies