JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Zimbabwe on Monday faces a historic election that is the first without Robert Mugabe, who led the southern African nation since independence from white minority rule in 1980 but stepped down last year under military pressure amid a ruling party feud. Here’s a look at milestones in the country’s troubled history.
March 4, 1980: Mugabe wins the post of prime minister in the independent Zimbabwe’s first elections.
1982: A deadly, years-long military offensive begins in Matabeleland against supporters of Mugabe’s former ally Joshua Nkomo, with thousands of civilians killed.
1987: Mugabe becomes president after changes to the constitution.
1998: Zimbabwe’s once-prosperous economy spirals into a crisis from which it has never recovered.
2000: Mugabe launches deeply unpopular campaign to seize land from white farmers, leading to international condemnation. The opposition MDC party gains momentum.
2002: Mugabe re-elected as foreign observers call the vote badly flawed. The European Union imposes sanctions.
2003: The United States imposes sanctions for “undermining democratic institutions or processes.”
2005: U.S. secretary of state nominee Condoleezza Rice calls Zimbabwe one of the world’s six “outposts of tyranny.”
2008: MDC opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai claims first-round election win but boycotts the runoff vote as violence against his supporters increases. Mugabe is declared the winner. The two enter a fragile power-sharing deal under which Tsvangirai will become prime minister.
2013: A new constitution that strengthens human rights is approved in a referendum amid skepticism that Mugabe will loosen his grip on the country. He wins another term a few months later as the MDC claims the election was fraudulent.
2016: The influential liberation war veterans turn on Mugabe after years of acting as his enforcers. Social media fuels large anti-government protests. First lady Grace Mugabe’s profile continues to rise with a younger-generation following in the ruling party called the G40, while some say she has no experience to succeed her husband, who is now in his 90s.
August 2017: Grace Mugabe is accused of assaulting a young woman at an upscale hotel in neighboring South Africa but is granted diplomatic immunity.
November 2017: Robert Mugabe fires deputy and longtime ally Emmerson Mnangagwa after a growing campaign against him by the first lady. Mnangagwa flees the country. The military moves into the capital and puts Mugabe under house arrest. Tens of thousands rally in the capital for Mugabe to step down. Ruling party support crumbles.
Nov. 21, 2017: Lawmakers begin impeachment proceedings and Mugabe resigns after 37 years in power.
Nov. 24, 2017: The 75-year-old Mnangagwa is inaugurated, urging Zimbabwe to let “bygones be bygones.”
Feb. 14: Opposition leader Tsvangirai dies, leading many MDC supporters to rally around 40-year-old lawyer and pastor Nelson Chamisa as their presidential candidate.
June 23: The European Union deploys its first election observers in Zimbabwe in 16 years as Mnangagwa pledges a free and fair election while seeking the lifting of international sanctions — including U.S. sanctions on himself.