A Corrupt and
Bloody Reign

Robert Mugabe won election as Zimbabwe’s first prime minister in 1980. He’s held on to power through violence and intimidation: Attacks by government-backed forces on civilians who could oppose him have peaked in election years (time line below). The country’s natural resources—including gold and remarkable diamond deposits—have helped finance Mugabe’s rule, enriching him and his inner circle.

1965
The white government of the country of Rhodesia unilaterally declares independence from Great Britain rather than accept a plan for black-majority rule.

1979-1980
Blacks gain power in a war of liberation and rename the country Zimbabwe. Robert Mugabe is elected prime minister.

1982-87
Government forces kill 20,000 ethnic Ndebele in the west thought to oppose Mugabe.

1998
Mugabe sends troops into a war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The cost drains an already collapsing economy.

1999
A new party opposing Mugabe is formed: the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

2000-2001
Government-sanctioned seizures of white-owned farms intensify. National food supplies crash.

2002
Mugabe defeats MDC and wins reelection. Violence spikes; freedom of speech and press curtailed.

2005
In the government’s Operation Clear the Filth, 700,000 people in areas of MDC support lose their homes and businesses.

2008
Election-year violence spikes again. MDC wins, but Mugabe forces a runoff, then agrees to share power.

2012
Elections postponed until late 2013.

Click to see 2012 mines

Click to see 2012 violence

Jerome N. Cookson, NGM Staff; Shelley Sperry. Sources: Clionadh Raleigh, Trinity College Dublin; Infomine; USGS; Human Rights Watch; Armed Conflict Location & Event Dataset; GADM Database