Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe made his first public appearance since a military takeover, attending a university graduation ceremony on the outskirts of Harare Friday. Clad in academic gown and hat, Mugabe walked slowly in a procession on a red carpet to a podium as a marching band played. Once on the podium, Mugabe, whose presidential security detail was present, joined the crowd in singing Zimbabwe's national anthem, the AP reports. The appearance comes during an extraordinary series of negotiations with regional leaders over Mugabe's departure after 37 years in power. The military is taking pains to show respect for the 93-year-old leader by referring to him as the president and the commander-in-chief.
Mugabe has been under house arrest and Zimbabwe's military says it is continuing talks over his departure while it pursues those "criminals" who were close to the leader and his wife. Zimbabwe state media reported Friday morning a military statement saying talks with Mugabe "on the way forward" are ongoing. The Zimbabwe Defense Forces said "significant progress has been made in their operation to weed out criminals around President Mugabe," adding that they had arrested some although others were still at large. The statement said Zimbabwe's military is "currently engaging with the Commander-in-Chief President Robert Mugabe on the way forward and will advise the nation of the outcome as soon as possible." (More than 100 civil society groups have urged Mugabe to leave peacefully.)