Harare - The United Nations’ top human rights official on Sunday began a visit to Zimbabwe, where she will meet with President Robert Mugabe.

During her five-day visit, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay will meet Mugabe and other officials.

The 88-year-old president is widely decried by activists as one of the worst perpetrators of human rights abuses.

Mugabe and his Zanu-PF party have ruled since independence from Britain in 1980, but following failed elections in 2008, he was forced into a power-sharing government with rival Morgan Tsvangirai, who is now prime minister.

Pillay's visit comes after an invitation from the Harare government.

In February, Human Rights Watch called on world leaders to maintain pressure on Mugabe.

Despite the unity government, rights activists are frequently arrested or harassed in the course of their work. - Sapa-AFP