|Blessed with incredible natural resources, the region known as South Africa has had a difficult history marked by ethnic conflicts and struggle. Originally settled by a variety of native peoples, the Dutch founded a settlement they called Cape Town in 1652. It was an important stop on the trade routes between Europe and Asia. These Dutch became known as Afrikaaners and later Boers. In 1841, Cape Town came under British control, but other Afrikaaner provinces (Orange Free State and the Transvaal) did not. The discovery of rich diamond mines and gold in these areas generated great interest among the British which led to Boer rebellions. Full-fledged war erupted in 1881-1882. It was inconclusive and a second conflict arose in 1899-1902. The British defeated the Boers and gained complete control of the country. The Union of South Africa was formed in 1910, with the country becoming a self-governing part of the British empire 24 years later. The next decades were marked by conflict between the British and Afrikaaner South Africans. Following World War II, racial politics came to the fore with the establishment of the policy known as apartheid. Apartheid restricted the rights of people of color (the majority) while protecting the supremacy of the British and Afrikaaner minority. In 1961, South Africa became a republic nd the next decades were characterized by growing strife over the government's racial policies and worldwide condemnation and sanctions. By 1989-1990, apartheid was being dismantled and plans were made to redress some of the injustices of the past. Eventually, Nelson Mandela, leader of the African National Congress, who had spent decades in prison for his antigovernment and antiapartheid stances, was released and elected to the presidency of the country. South Africa's journey to democracy came full circle in 1996 with the acceptance of a new constitution. All has not been smooth-sailing, however, as violence erupts periodically between whites and blacks and between various black factions. At present, the country still enjoys a healthy economy (the strongest on the continent) and is still the world leader in diamonds and gold.