Zimbabwe: Robert Mugabe just fell asleep in his first public appearance since the military coup

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe fell asleep at a graduation ceremony Friday in his first public appearance since the country’s military coup this week.

The 93-year-old president appeared at the graduation ceremony of the Zimbabwe Open University in the country’s capital, Harare, after being placed under house arrest.

Al Jazeera aired live footage of the president in a cap and gown, seated in front of a microphone. He appeared to be fast asleep. His eyes were firmly closed for some time, and his head lolled.

According to the Qatari broadcaster, Mugabe attended the ceremony surrounded by security personnel, gave a speech, and was cheered by a crowd of supporters before falling asleep in his chair. His wife, Grace, did not attend the event.

Mugabe’s appearance comes after a week of political turmoil in the country. The Zimbabwean military took over the country’s state broadcaster and blocked access to the country’s parliament and courts in what it said was an attempt to weed out “criminals” around the president and “pacify a degenerating political, social, and economic situation.”

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The military also said it would give back power “as soon as we have accomplished our mission.” Earlier Friday, the Zimbabwe Defence Forces said its leaders were “currently engaging” with Mugabe and had made “significant progress” in their goal.

Mugabe has refused to step down — despite the military’s calls for him to do so — and insists on completing his presidential term, which ends next August. Senior leaders of his ZANU-PF party said they were preparing to force him out of office if he didn’t quit, said reports.

Morgan Tsvangirai, a key opposition figure who previously served as Zimbabwe’s prime minister, arrived in the country on Wednesday in what may be a bid to take control from the president.

Soldiers and armoured vehicles continue to patrol Harare on Friday, said reports.