A country in southern Africa which borders South Africa, Botswana, Zambia and Mozambique. Independent from the United Kingdom since 1980; before that it was Southern Rhodesia. The border point at which it meets Botswana, Namibia, and Zambia is in disagreement.

A zimbabwe is a native fort or walled compound. The greatest of these in the Mwanamutapa or Monomotapa Empire is called Great Zimbabwe, in the magnificent ruins of which was found the soapstone bird that features on the Zimbabwean flag. The name was adopted by independence movements fighting against the secessionist white-minority regime of Ian Smith.

The Gokomere people, a Bantu-speaking group of farmers, inhabited the Great Zimbabwe site from about 500, displacing earlier Khoisan people. From about 1000 the great fortress took shape, reaching its peak by the fifteenth century. In this period it was the pre-eminent state in southern Africa.

These were the ancestors of the Mashona (or Shona) people, who make up about 80% of modern Zimbabwe's population. Later they formed the Rozwi state, which continued until the nineteenth century. British occupation began in the 1890s, under the leadership of Cecil Rhodes, for whom the area was renamed Rhodesia. In fact, the strict Shona name is Zimbabhwe.

The minority Matabele people in the south arrived there in historically recent times (1834), being related to groups such as the Zulus in South Africa.

Between 1953 and 1963 Southern Rhodesia, Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia), and Nyasaland (now Malawi) formed the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland. This was wound up and the other two became independent under black majority rule in 1964, but Southern Rhodesia, now styling itself Rhodesia, refused to comply.

UDI, as the unilateral period of independence, unrecognized by any other country, is known, lasted from 1965 to 1979, retaining the Queen as head of state until 1970 at which point Rhodesia became a republic. In 1979 they finally caved in to international sanctions and guerrilla war, and a multiracial government was formed under Bishop Abel Muzorewa, the country being renamed Zimbabwe-Rhodesia.

But this was still unacceptable to the world community and native liberation groups, and later in 1979 under the Lancaster House agreement, its legal status as the British colony of Southern Rhodesia was restored, in preparation for free elections and independence in 1980, led by Robert Mugabe.

Internet code: .zw.

Flag: horizontal stripes of green - yellow - red - black - red - yellow - green. In the hoist is a white triangle edged in black; in that is a red five-pointed star, with superimposed over it in yellow the famous soapstone Zimbabwe bird, the national emblem. The proportions are 1:2.

As of 20th March 2002 Zimbabwe is a political powderkeg.

An election has just taken place. It was won by Robert Mugabe. He has been in power now for over 20 years, a reign in which he has 'staged' elections at regular intervals. Mugabe is essentially a dictator, but there is still a large base of support for him among the Zimbabwean people, especially in the rural areas.

Zimbabwe's opposition leader is a man named Morgan Tsvangirai. Purportedly he stands for democracy, liberty, equality, fraternity, happy endings, etc but that's the case with most African opposition leaders. They often turn out to be worse than the despots they replace.

Today Zimbabwe was suspended from the Commonwealth, but the implications of that action are still uncertain. What is certain is that the outcome of the political struggle taking place right now will be pivotal. Western people and leaders tend to lump African countries together in their minds. If another African nation falls apart it will be rather disastrous for the continent as a whole. International investment and aid will further dry up and Africa will truly become the lost continent.

If not lost, Africa is already the forgotten continent politically. And that makes sense from a Marxist point of view because it is quite an insignificant factor in the global economy. What may be of interest, especially to Americans, is the amount of war and death happening in Africa at any one time. I don't think that casualties in Kuwait topped 5000(0). The deaths (mostly by hand-made weapon) resulting from the recent and underreported Rwandan genocide number in the millions. The international community hasn't had much to stay about it because there's not much to be gained for them. This is the case with most African disasters.

I guess it's unsurprising that the Rest of the World acts in this way. African nations are equally savage towards one another. But it's still a sad thing to stop and acknowledge the situation. *sigh*

Pass the popcorn.

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