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Thousands protest against Mugabe in Zimbabwe capital

Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe delivers a speech during celebrations marking his birthday in Masvingo on February 27, 2016. / AFP / JEKESAI NJIKIZANA

Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe delivers a speech during celebrations marking his birthday in Masvingo on February 27, 2016. / AFP / JEKESAI NJIKIZANA

Zimbabwean demonstrators held the largest protest against President Robert Mugabe in nearly a decade on Thursday, marching through central Harare under the watchful eye of riot police, AFP reporters witnessed.

More than 2,000 supporters of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) carried anti-Mugabe placards and sang party songs before their leader Morgan Tsvangirai gave a speech attacking Mugabe’s rule.

Anti-government protests in Zimbabwe have often been brutally broken up by police under the authoritarian regime of the president, who has been in power since independence in 1980.

Mugabe, 92, remains active but his increasingly fragile health has sparked intense speculation over his successor and the fate of the country when his rule come to an end.

Zimbabwe has suffered years of economic collapse and mass emigration during an era marked by intolerance of dissent, vote rigging and accusations of human rights abuses.

“Mugabe has no solution to the crisis,” Tsvangirai said in a brief speech to supporters gathered in Africa Unity Square wearing T-shirts in the party’s red colours.

“We are here to tell Mugabe and his regime that you have failed.”

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