"Zimbabwe's prospects appeared promising in 1980, as it gained independence after a long liberation war. However, rising inflation and unemployment bred discontent in the 1990s and led in 1999 to the formation of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). The MDC 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. President Robert Mugabe's ruling party subsequently took numerous actions to bolster its power that were deemed undemocratic by many in the international community. […] Robert Mugabe has historically enjoyed considerable popularity in Africa as a former liberation leader, but some African leaders have viewed his policies as increasingly damaging to the continent and have urged democratic reforms in recent years. Following controversial elections in 2000 and citing abuses of human rights and the rule of law, the United States and some other former allies of the government became vocal critics. The United States has enforced targeted sanctions against top Zimbabwe officials and associates since 2002. This report provides background on events leading up to and surrounding the country's most recent elections, in March and June 2008. For further discussion of Zimbabwe's power sharing agreement, its transitional government, and other more recent developments, please see CRS [Congressional Research Service] Report RL34509, 'Zimbabwe: The Transitional Government and Implications for U.S. Policy', by Lauren Ploch."
CRS Report for Congress, RL32723