"Zimbabwe's prospects appeared promising in 1980, as it gained independence after a long liberation war. The country exhibited steady economic growth, enabling the new government to provide free education and widespread access to health care. Challenges grew in the 1990s, however. Rising inflation and unemployment bred discontent, as evidenced by regular student and labor protests, and led in 1999 to the formation of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). The new party surprised many with its initial success, campaigning against a 2000 referendum that would have legalized the president's continued rule, made government officials immune from prosecution, and allowed the uncompensated seizure of white-owned land for redistribution to black farmers. The referendum failed, and the MDC won nearly half the seats in the 2000 parliamentary election. The ruling party has since taken numerous, often undemocratic actions to bolster its power, including an aggressive land redistribution policy. […] Following controversial elections in 2000 and citing abuses of human rights and the rule of law, the United States and other former allies of the government have become vocal critics. The U.S. Secretary of State has labeled Zimbabwe an 'outpost of tyranny,' and the United States has enforced targeted sanctions against top Zimbabwe officials and associates since 2002. This report includes recent developments and reactions from the international community, including those of the United States. This report will be updated as events warrant."
CRS Report for Congress, RL32723