- Associated Press - Saturday, January 23, 2016

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) - Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe arrived home from a weeks-long vacation looking sprightly, quashing rumors that he had a heart attack.

The 91-year-old president arrived late Friday, joking with Cabinet ministers, military leaders and senior members of the ruling ZANU-PF party who welcomed him at Harare International Airport, according to a video published by the state-owned Herald newspaper.

Mugabe held talks with visiting Equatorial Guinea President Teodoro Obiang on Saturday. The presidents, two of Africa’s longest-ruling leaders, are meeting before an African Union summit on Jan. 30 to 31, a government statement said. Mugabe is the chairman of the organization of African states.

Earlier this month, a website reported that Mugabe suffered a heart attack while on vacation in the Far East. The Zimbabwean government dismissed the rumor, saying false reports that Mugabe is dead usually circulate during his vacation every January.

“You can doubt that there can be a New Year, but you cannot doubt that there will be a story on the president’s alleged death every January,” presidential spokesman George Charamba told the Herald newspaper.

The ruling party said it is planning “the best ever” birthday party for Mugabe in February. Mugabe’s 92nd birthday will be on Feb. 21 but the party will be held on the 27th. This year Mugabe’s birthday festivities will be held at Great Zimbabwe, a precolonial monument popular with tourists. Thousands of supporters are expected to gather at the celebrations organized by the 21st February Movement, a youth branch of the ruling party named after the date of Mugabe’s birthday.

Civic organizations and opposition parties have urged Mugabe to cancel his birthday celebrations, saying the money would be better spent buying grain for Zimbabweans suffering from food shortages because of an ongoing drought.

Mugabe has ruled Zimbabwe since independence in 1980. He is one of Africa’s longest-serving leaders, along with Obiang, who came to power in Equatorial Guinea through a military coup in 1979.

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