Zimbabwe independence leader James Chikerema dies

One of the founders of Zimbabwe 's independence movement, James Chikerema, died in a hospital in the United States , his family said Friday. He was 81. Chikerema had been receiving treatment in the United States for an unspecified illness for two years. He died in Indiana on Wednesday.

He was a co-founder in 1948 of the first black nationalist political group in Rhodesia as Zimbabwe was known before independence from Britain in 1980 which grew to become the first resistance and guerrilla organization known as the Zimbabwe African People's Union , or ZAPU. President Robert Mugabe's ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front party was born out of a split in ZAPU.

A flamboyant and fiery orator, Chikerema is credited with igniting the first demonstrations by angry young blacks against the country's colonial rulers in the 1960s. He fled then-Rhodesia and underwent guerrilla training in China and Russia , but later became disillusioned with infighting in the guerrilla movement and founded a short-lived breakaway group known as the Front for the Liberation of Zimbabwe.

Chikerema, an uncle of Mugabe, retired from active politics after independence but before his death was increasingly critical of Mugabe's rule. Funeral arrangements have yet to be announced, reports the AP.


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