In most discourses about International Relations, Africa is described as a victim' of external powers namely its former colonisers, the United States and, as far as the Cold War period is concerned, the Soviet Union. For instance, it is said that African wars in the post-colonial era were fueled by the Eastern and Western blocks. Interestingly enough, this framework of analysis is not only used among International Relations experts and students, but also by the Africans themselves. For instance, Sam Kobia, director of the Study and Action Group of the Kenyan Section of the Ecumenical Council of Churches (a non-governmental religious organisation which regroups 120 countries), said in a press conference in August 26th, 1999 that Up to the fall of the Berlin Wall, political life on the African continent has been deeply influenced by the Cold War between both superpowers. In his opinion, Western powers did everything they could to prevent the birth of democracy in Africa, because it is easier to control people under a dictatorship.
[...] However, the aim of this essay was only to prove that the Cold War is not a satisfying explanation pattern of conflict in Africa. One should now wonder how foreign intervention may influence conflicts in post-Cold War Africa. US and European attitude towards Africa has shifted from an all-azimuths struggle against socialist forces, to a policy of promoting Human Rights and democracy. However, this a priori positive change leads us to moral dilemmas : for instance, can we decently stop providing aid to a country facing major threats under the pretence that its government is not democratic as the IMF or the USA have done in the past decade ? [...]
[...] As Charles Zorgbibe reminds us, the early 1960s, the United States displayed little interest in the political fate of Sub-Saharan Africa.” It was only after “civil war flared up in the former Belgian Congo in 1960” that the USA took action, in this case by assassinating “Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba, who seemed to be a proxy for Moscow.” Basically, once the USSR or the USA had become ally with a state, the other superpower tried to contain it. This happened in the Horn of Africa and in Angola in the mid-seventies. [...]
[...] A state like Nigeria, which was also rich in oil, did have a degree of bargaining power when dealing with the USA, especially when the price of oil was high The Cold War framework of analysis is very Western, in that its main point of view is that of the US superpower. Now its is doubtful that the East-West rivalry was the primary cause of conflict in Africa. Indeed, only some wars in Africa did have something to do with superpowers. [...]
[...] Into the bargain, wars have went on years after the end of the Cold War : the civil war in Angola went on for ten years after the end of Cuban support to the government and American support to UNITA guerrilla fighters. Civil war erupted in Somalia, Rwanda, the DRC and Soudan. Were wars triggered by great powers ? This all means there were other causes of war than the Cold War; simply, one has long underestimated or even bypassed them. [...]
[...] Most wars are led in the name of a cause. However, empirically rebels are linked with the capture of natural resources : so-called freedom fighters are often mere bandits. They notably recommend to reduce the attraction of primary commodities (that is, non renewable natural resources, the exploitation of which can only be done on the spot, such as timber, oil and diamonds) to promote peace. Although it certainly embittered them, Cold War is not the origin of all African conflicts. [...]
Online readingwith our online reader
Content validatedby our reading committee