A Look Back At Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe's Rise To Power

November 17
21:45 2017

A Peace Prize And A Violent Repression

In 1980, six years after Mugabe’s release from jail, Southern Rhodesia finally gained independence and became the Republic of Zimbabwe. Mugabe’s Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front was elected to power and he became prime minister. Mugabe and Britain’s then-foreign secretary, Lord Carrington, were jointly nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize that year.

Mugabe’s claims to the peace prize ended shortly after. Just two years later, Mugabe sent a North Korea-trained Fifth Brigade to the province of Matabeleland to crush a rebellion started mainly by members of the minority Ndebele tribe. More than 20,000 people were killed in the ethnic cleansing, which became known as the “Gukurahundi” suppression. 

The suppression ended when ZANU-PF and the Zimbabwe African People’s Union signed the Unity Accord, forming a united nationalist party, in 1987 ? the year that Mugabe assumed the presidency after the prime ministerial role was abolished. He went on to win every subsequent election until his ouster.

Vote Rigging And Violent Protests

There have been repeated claims of vote-rigging in Zimbabwe’s elections, and several campaigns have resulted in deadly violence.

Supporters of Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) took the streets in the 2008 election, after Mugabe claimed victory in an vote that Tsvangirai dubbed a “violent, illegitimate sham of an election process.” An estimated 200 people died before the 15-member Southern Africa Development Community brokered the fractious government of national unity.

MDC again claimed massive voter fraud during the 2013 campaign. 

Nepotism, Corruption And A Collapsing Economy

The Mugabe family and those with close ties to the government have also been accused of corruption and profiting from industries such as mining. In 2010, leaked U.S. cables alleged that Grace Mugabe, his second wife, had made millions of dollars in profit from diamond mining. She sued a Zimbabwean newspaper for $ 15 million for reporting the news, first published on the whistleblower website WikiLeaks.

In 2011, Mugabe’s government launched a plan to nationalize foreign-owned banks and mines, which culminated in a 2015 initiative to take a majority stake in foreign companies’ shareholdings.

Mugabe also drew international criticism for moving to seize white-owned commercial farms, and redistributing most of the land to members of ruling ZANU-PF party. In response to Mugabe’s policies, the U.S. and other Western countries imposed sanctions and withheld financial aid to the country. 

The farming and mining policies, coupled with drought and sanctions, saw inflation soar from 2000 to 2008, causing the currency to crash in 2008. Although the economy has stabilized, growth has slowed sharply since 2012, according to the World Bank. 

The Beginning Of The End

Anti-Mugabe protests swept the country last year as economic, political and social problems escalated. Mugabe had tried to ban the demonstrations as reports of kidnapping and torture of opposition activists grew.

Meanwhile, the president’s age became increasingly apparent. Mugabe was caught sleeping through public events and delivered the wrong speeches to Parliament, and generally seemed unable to carry out even basic ceremonial duties.

Still, Zimbabwe’s ruling ZANU-PF party confirmed Mugabe as its candidate for the 2018 elections.

With his mental and physical health in question, a conflict over who would succeed the longtime leader heated up. 

Mugabe fired Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who was seen as a potential successor and head the support of the military, earlier this month. Simultaneously, Mugabe’s wife accelerated her attempts to position herself as a top contender for the presidency after her husband’s death. 

Zimbabwe’s military warned earlier this week that it would be forced to take action amid Mnangagwa’s ouster. It appears military leaders on Wednesday carried out their threat. 

Nick Robins-Early contributed to this report.  

  • This article originally appeared on HuffPost.

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