The fortunes of Zimbabwe have for almost three decades been tied to President Robert Mugabe, the pro-independence campaigner who wrested control from a small white community and became the country's first black leader. Now, he presides over a nation whose economy is in tatters, where poverty and unemployment are endemic and political strife and repression commonplace.
Zimbabwe Tourist Attractions
Zimbabwe is home to the Victoria Falls, one of the natural wonders of the world, the stone enclosures of Great Zimbabwe - remnants of a past empire - and to herds of elephant and other game roaming vast stretches of wilderness.
For years it was a major tobacco producer and a potential bread basket for surrounding countries. But the forced seizure of almost all white-owned commercial farms, with the stated aim of benefiting landless black Zimbabweans, led to sharp falls in production and precipitated the collapse of the agriculture-based economy.Tunisia
The country has endured rampant inflation and critical food and fuel shortages. Many Zimbabweans survive on Zimbabwe travel grain handouts. Others have voted with their feet; hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans, including much-needed professionals, Zimbabwe have emigrated.
Aid agencies and critics partly blame food shortages on the land reform programme. The government blames a long-running drought, and Mr Mugabe has accused Britain and its allies of sabotaging the economy in revenge for the redistribution programme. The government's urban slum demolition drive in 2005 drew more international condemnation.
Zimbabwe map (Please mouse click on the thumbnail photos below to see an enlargement)
The president said it was an effort to boost law and order and development; critics accused him of destroying slums housing opposition supporters. Either way, the razing of "illegal structures" left some 700,000 people without jobs or homes, according to UN estimates.
The former Rhodesia has a history of conflict, with white settlers dispossessing the Zimbabwe attractions resident population, guerrilla armies forcing the white government to submit to elections, and the post-independence leadership committing atrocities in southern areas where it lacked the support of the Matabele people.
Zimbabwe has had a rocky relationship with the Commonwealth - it was suspended after President Mugabe's controversial re-election in 2002 and later announced that it was pulling out for good Zimbabwe tourism.
Full name: Republic of Zimbabwe
Population: 13.3 million (UN, 2007)
Area: 390,759 sq km (150,873 sq miles)
Major language: English (official), Shona, Sindebele
Major religions: Christianity, indigenous beliefs
Life expectancy: 44 years (men), 43 years (women) (UN)
Monetary unit: 1 Zimbabwe dollar = 100 cents
Main exports: Tobacco, cotton, agricultural products, gold, minerals
GNI per capita: US $340 (World Bank, 2006)
Internet domain: .zw
International dialling code: +263