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The African nation of Zimbabwe celebrates its independence on this day, which was originally established in 1980. After years of colonial rule and war, the country finally found its freedom in the face of the white-minority government that fought to control it.

The territory of Zambesi was first occupied by Cecil Rhodes and his British South Africa Company  that claimed the region as its own. The area remained a place of interest by the United Kingdom  as it was rich for mining and other resources. Rhodes first came to Africa in the 1800’s. In 1923, it became a self-governing British colony called Southern Rhodesia.

In 1953, as African nationalism began to grow, the area known as Northern Rhodesia, (now Zambia) was combined with Southern Rhodesia and the colony of Nyasaland. Ten years later, the United Kingdom ended the consolidation of the three colonies. In the north, there was diversity in the democratic process but the white minority rulers of Southern Rhodesia still ran the country.

The United Kingdom saw Southern Rhodesia’s resistance to democracy for the Black majority as an offense, especially after Rhodesia’s Prime Minister, Ian Smith, declared independence from the British. That led to sanctions from the United Nations and gave rise to armed resistance beginning in 1965 that lasted all the way until 1980.

Joshua Nkomo‘s Zimbabwe African People’s Union (ZAPU) and Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) led a devastating Civil War in Rhodesia.They attacked Smith’s Rhodesian Front forces with. the support both of communist nations and nearby African nations. ZAPU had support and training from the Soviet Union, Cuba, and followed the teachings of Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin.

Mugabe  and his ZANU troops followed the teachings of Mao Zedong, also known as Mao Tse-Tung.

The ending of white occupation came to a relatively peaceful close with discussions Smith and other African leaders prompting the agreement to give the African majority the right to govern its own lands. The nation’s first president was Canaan Banana, but it was largely a position of ceremony. Mugabe, now 92, has been the nation’s prime minister and head of government since 1987.

When Mugabe and the ZANU were elected to lead the country, an uprising from Nkomo took place during elections and left thousands dead. Mugabe and Nkomo reached an agreement in 1987 and formed the Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front.

Several world leaders, including Prince Charles of Wales, attended the first Independence Day celebrations. The late Bob Marley performed the song, “Zimbabwe” at the festivities as well.

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