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Global images and the stories behind them

Zimbabwe’s halting story

A glimpse into Zimbabwe's past as an unrecognized state under colonial rule. Monitor archive images from the InPictures weekly print edition reveal Rhodesia.

Gordon N. Converse/The Christian Science Monitor
A father helps his son ride in a makeshift cart in Victoria Falls, Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe. This picture was taken shortly before Prime Minister Ian Smith of the colonial government declared Rhodesia independent of Great Britain on November 11, 1965. Britain repudiated the action and considered the country in rebellion. UN sanctions and a guerilla uprising led to free elections in 1979, becoming independent as Zimbabwe in 1980. The first prime minister, Robert Mugabe, has been the country's only ruler, becoming president in 1987.

Rhodesia: Images of Zimbabwe's Past

Rich in minerals and agricultural land, and blessed with stunning national parks, the country once known as Rhodesia and now Zimbabwe bursts with potential. But its 50 years of postcolonial independence have been far from normal. First, a white minority claimed control.

Gordon N. Converse/The Christian Science Monitor
Members play lawn bowling at the Salisbury City Bowling Club, a private club in the capital Salisbury, now Harare.

The nation was shunned internationally (even apartheid-era South Africa refused to recognize it) and became caught up in civil war. Since 1980, when internationally supervised elections were finally held, it has been under the autocratic, eccentric rule of Robert Mugabe. Mr. Mugabe’s eventual departure likely will provoke a succession crisis – one more that Zimbabwe doesn’t need. More than anything, this battered country needs normalcy – the rule of law, real democracy, rational economic policy. If it can achieve those, its enormous potential can be unleashed.

Gordon N. Converse/The Christian Science Monitor
A girl carries potatoes on her head in the outskirts of the capital Salisbury, now Harare.

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