Mugabe appears publicly for the first time since military takeover

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Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe, center, arrives at students' graduation ceremony at Zimbabwe Open University on the outskirts of Harare, Zimbabwe Friday, Nov. 17, 2017. Mugabe is making his first public appearance since the military put him under house arrest earlier this week. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)

Robert Mugabe who has been placed under house arrest took it up to attend a university graduation ceremony on the outskirts of Harare which happens to be his first public appearance since the Zimbabwean military takeover on Wednesday.

Clad in academic gown and hat, the 93-year-old walked slowly in a procession on a red carpet to a podium as a marching band played. He was applauded as he announced the opening of the ceremony.

His appearance followed an army statement describing “significant progress” that was broadcast on national television and published by state-run media on Friday morning.

The statement appears to have been aimed at quelling growing concerns that the military takeover could descend swiftly into chaos.

The appearance of the president in public is likely to fuel such worries, and reinforce growing pressure on the military to rapidly resolve the ongoing crisis.

Mugabe has resisted pressure to step down, and says the army’s intervention is illegal, sources close to the military said.

Allowing the president to attend the graduation ceremony suggests the military want their intervention to be seen as primarily directed at Mugabe’s wife, Grace, and her associates.

Neither Grace Mugabe nor Jonathan Moyo, the higher education minister, was present at the graduation ceremony. Moyo is believed to be among those detained.