Sie sind auf Seite 1von 9

Postcolonial Africa Coups dtat is a French phrase that means, literally, a strike at the state.

Such a strike takes place when force is used to bring about leadership change without regard to legitimate constitutional processes for accomplishing such change; they are, in that respect, unconstitutional. The military is usually behind coups dtat in Africa. Although military governments are generally unconstitutional, they have sometimes acquired legitimacy because of their success in dealing with problems facing the state. Coups in postcolonial Africa date back to 1952, when Colonel Gamel Abdel Nasser and the Free Officers Movement overthrew King Farouk of Egypt and established military rule. This was followed in 1958 by the coup of General Ibrahim Aboud in Sudan. The military increasingly became involved in state administrative affairs in the postcolonial era. In one country after anotherin Benin in 1963 and 1965, Congo (Zaire) in 1965, Algeria in 1965, Ghana in 1966, Nigeria in 1966, and Sierra Leone in 1967, among othersthe military overthrew the postindependence civilian governments and either installed themselves, or their preferred candidate, in power. The army mutiny in the Democratic Republic of Congo (Zaire), or DRC, in 1960 and the capture and handover of Prime Minister Lumumba to his enemies in 1961 are examples of the military becoming involved in politics without assuming full, formal control. By the 1970s and 1980s, over half of the countries in Africa were either under military rule or had at one point been ruled by the military. For some countries (Nigeria, Ghana, and Burkina Faso), the number of coups exceeded five. Coup-installed regimes had varied colonial experiences and ideological leanings. Burkina Faso under Thomas Sankara, Ethiopia under Mengisto Haile Miriam, and the DRC under Sassou Nguesso sought to

transform their societies through a socialist-Marxist ideology. Others, among them Zare under Mobutu Sese Seko and Somalia under Siad Barre, were staunchly capitalist in their orientation, and sought a capitalist revolution as the basis for bringing change. A third category of countriesUganda under Idi Amin Dada and the Central African Republic (renamed the Central African Empire) under Jean Bedel Bokassawere distinguishable mainly by the level of brutality that was associated with their rule. The factors that explain the frequency of coups dtat and military rule in Africa are many and varied. They include the weakness of the postindependent state in Africa, the economic, political, and social problems that African states inherited from colonial rule, and their inability to successfully resolve such problems. Economic mismanagement and corruption by civilian governments and the personal ambitions of military leaders are other factors. The military was, and remains, one of the most organized institutions in Africa. In addition, the military is well equipped and has an important weapon that civilian governments do not havenamely, arms. These elements give the military an advantage over a civilian government when it comes to mobilizing people and resources to deal with a particular problem in a country. Despite the rationalization of coups dtat and military rule as discussed above, military governments in Africa were not, generally speaking, any more successful than civilian governments in dealing with Africas economic and social problems. Issues of poverty, unemployment, low incomes, weak communication infrastructures, poor educational systems, inadequate and poorly equipped health care systems, and ethnic conflicts were as rampant under military rule as under civilian rule. In many cases, the policies and behavior of military governments were similar to those of their civilian

predecessors. Corruption and mismanagement did not go away; rather, they increased in some cases. The military governments adopted the same tactics that their civilian counterparts used to maintain political control. Upon seizing power, most sought legitimacy for their leadership by adopting civilian institutions. Most adopted titles such as president rather than general. Most also turned the state into a one-party system, with their party as the sole party. Other instruments for political manipulation under civilian rule, such as the establishment of a patronage system of reward for supporters and punishment for opponents, noncompetitive elections, the suppression of dissent, and censorship to preempt perceived threats to their power were also used to institutionalize the military leaders control. In the early 1990s, most of Africas military regimes were forced by worsening economic and social problems, political unrest, and external pressure to liberalize the political system. Beginning with Benin in 1990, and continuing with Mali, the DRC, and Niger, many succumbed to pressure and introduced democratic reforms that brought about new constitutions and governments. Others (Ghana, Togo, and Guinea) were able to manipulate the electoral process and remain in power. By the late 1990s, coups and armed insurgency had again become a problem. New waves of coups overthrew governments in Sierra Leone, Gambia, and Niger. Coups dtat are not a thing of the past in Africa. To the extent that genuine economic and political change remains elusive Africas militaries may exploit the situation to stage a comeback to politics.

Civil War: Postcolonial Africa Since 1945, Africa has witnessed a range of wars, beginning with independence struggles against the colonial powers that often merged into postcolonial power struggles and civil wars, while after 1960 there have also been a number of wars between African states. Civil wars in postcolonial Africa from 1960 onward fall into three broad categories: racial or ethnic wars; ideological wars; and power struggles. As a rule these causes overlap and are often indistinguishable from one another. Most of Africas civil wars have been deeply affected by the colonial legacy and the divisions that the colonial powers left behind them. For example, the tribal or ethnic basis of many African civil wars poses questions about the nature of the divisions which the colonial powers created and encouraged, and a number of wars broke out as a direct result of the end of colonialism. The centralizing tendencies of the European colonizers created artificial states, with the principal unifying factor being the colonial presence itself (as with the British in Nigeria, the French in Chad, or the Portuguese in Angola). The end of an empire always leaves in its wake a series of power vacuums. In Africa four European empires came to an end during the 1960s and 1970s: those of Britain, Belgium, France, and Portugal. In the circumstances of the abrupt disappearance of imperial power over a period of 25 years it is not surprising that a series of power implosions followed. The subsequent search for power, clashing ideologies, and ethnic divisions lent themselves to civil confrontations and conflicts, and these duly occurred. African leaders were acutely aware of the dangers of ethnic divisions, and in such countries as Kenya, Tanzania, and Zambia, for example, the postindependence leaders worked hard to persuade their people that they were Kenyans, Tanzanians, and

Zambians first rather than members of competing ethnic groups, while Julius Nyerere of Tanzania justified the one-party state, in part, on the grounds that a multiparty system would inevitably lead to particular ethnic groups associating themselves with opposed political parties. Ethnic divisions and rivalries were not to be disposed of that simply, however, and they have been at the root of many African conflicts. In the years since 1960, civil wars have occurred in Algeria, Angola, Burundi, Chad, Congo (Brazzaville), the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Liberia, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, and, Zimbabwe and ethnic divisions have always played a part and sometimes the dominant part in these conflicts. The genocidal massacres of Hutus by Tutsis and Tutsis by Hutus that have been a regular feature of life in Burundi and Rwanda since before independence in 1962 have deep historical causes, yet in colonial times divisions that could have been played down were in fact highlighted first by the Germans, and then by the Belgians, who emphasized the dominant role of the Tutsi minority in both countries by using them as their principal instruments of control. The introduction of European-style democracy on the eve of independence in two countries where the Hutus enjoyed a majority 85 per cent of the population while the Tutsis represented only 14 per cent meant the permanent domination of the minority group; the ugly civil conflicts that have periodically exploded in both countries since 1960 were fueled by Tutsi fears of such domination. These particular conflicts raise issues about the kind of democracy that makes sense for such societies. The drawn-out civil war in Sudan between north and south (19571972, and then 1985present) embraces a number of divisions that reinforce each other. First, ethnic divisions between north and south also coincide with

religious differences. The northern peoples, the majority, are Arab or Arabicized and Muslim, while the minority southern peoples are from a number of Nilotic ethnic groups and are Christian or follow African animist religions. Second, for centuries the northerners saw the south as a source of slaves and regarded its people as inferior, a racist attitude that continued after independence. Third, in the postindependence era after 1956, political power and control of economic decisions lay with the north, so that southerners saw themselves being both exploited and treated as second-class citizens, a perception that was increased when northern Muslim politicians tried to impose the Sharia (Islamic law) upon the non-Muslim south. The result has been one of the longest, most bitter civil wars in postcolonial Africa. This war, moreover, has raised a question that African political leaders have determinedly avoided ever since independence: whether intransigent conflicts based upon irreconcilable differences should be solved by partitioning the state rather than clinging to an inherited boundary that makes little sense and ensures continuing conflict. A strong case could be made for dividing north and south Sudan into separate states, despite the early Organization of African Unity resolution that Africas new states should all accept their inherited colonial boundaries. The Nigerian civil war illustrates how the colonial legacy can lead to breakdown. During the nineteenth century the British created several colonial structures in what later became Nigeria, which they only brought together to form a single, centralized colony on the eve of World War I. Subsequently, British colonial administrators became fierce rivals as they safeguarded (as they saw it) the interests of their different regionsthe north, west, and east. These rivalries were to be carried on after independence in 1960 in a power struggle to see which ethnic group could control

the political center. Moreover, the discovery of major oil wealth centered in the eastern region made an Ibo secession an attractive and practical possibility. When Nigeria did descend into civil war in 1968, the British role in supporting the federal government was dominated by its oil interests; the Soviet readiness to support the federal government followed from its desire to obtain hitherto nonexistent influence in West Africas largest state; and the French concern to support breakaway Biafra (through support provided by proxy African states) reflected its determination to lessen British influence in the region. As a result, by the end of the war the Nigerians had acquired a healthy suspicion of, and disrespect for, the motives of the major powers in Africa. In Angola, following the departure of the Portuguese in 1975, the three principal causes of civil wars became intertwined. At first, when the Portuguese left, the war that at once erupted between the three liberation movementsthe Movimento Popular de Libertaao de Angola (MPLA), which became the government, and the Frente Nacional de Libertaao de Angola (FNLA) and the Uniao Nacional para la Independencia Total de Angola (UNITA)was fiercely ideological, with the MPLA fighting to establish a Marxist state and its rivals claiming to stand for a Western-style capitalist system. Not surprisingly, in the years that followed, since the Cold War was then at its height, the MPLA received massive assistance from both the USSR and Cuba, while its opponents obtained U.S. and South African assistance. Later, though ethnic loyalties became increasingly important, the war developed into a obvious power struggle: this was clearly demonstrated after Jonas Savimbi and his UNITA party lost the United Nationsbrokered elections of 1992 and promptly returned to the bush to continue the war. Most of Africas civil wars have been both complicated and prolonged by foreign interventions

of two kinds: those of major powers from outside Africa safeguarding their interests, and those of African neighbors. The general weakness of African states, their dependence upon international aid, and continuing Western pressures for influence (neocolonialism) have ensured that outside interventions have constantly taken place. Sometimes these interventions have been in the form of peacekeeping operations; at others they have been in support of a regime or contender for power that suited the outside power as was the case in the 1997 civil war in Congo (Brazzaville), when France was determined to see former President Sassou-Nguesso replace Pascal Lissouba as the Congo head of state. In the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo, five African states intervened when that country collapsed into civil war in 1998, a year after Laurent Kabila had ousted Mobutu Sese Sheko from power. Rwanda and Uganda sent forces to support the Tutsi-led rebels against Kabila, while Angola, Namibia, and Zimbabwe sent troops to support his government. The motives of these intervening states were mixed but appear to have been more concerned with looting the wealth of the DRC than anything else. The complexities of Africas wars sometimes defy easy analysis. Somalia possesses one of the most homogeneous populations in Africa, yet it collapsed into fratricidal clan warfare at the end of the 1980s, a disaster made worse by UN and U.S. interventions in the early 1990s. The long-lasting war in Ethiopia from 1962 to 1991 included the ultimately successful bid by Eritrea to break away and become an independent state; the Tigrayan revolt which was more about power than secession; and the Oromo revolts, which represented the dissatisfaction of an ethnic group that had long been oppressed by the Amharic ethnic center. Other civil wars have

been ignited by religious extremism (Algeria), or ethnic-based power struggles (Liberia and Sierra Leone) in the 1990s.