Reuters Southern Sudanese suffering from malnutrition walk to their villages April 14, 1998 after receiving a food from the World Food Program.

Africa's New Bloc

COMING OF AGE

Sub-Saharan Africa is undergoing its most profound changes since the early years of independence. Forces that have long held sway over the region are now either waning or gone. For decades the United States, the Soviet Union, and France propped up dictators who served their interests-men like Ethiopia's Mengistu Haile Mariam, Somalia's Mohamed Siad Barre, Rwanda's Juvenal Habyarimana, and the former Zaire's Mobutu Sese Seko. The scaled-down presence of foreign powers has helped topple the regimes these men built. Other despots like Kenya's Daniel arap Moi and Cameroon's Paul Biya are also feeling unprecedented pressure for democratic change. Many were military officers who took advantage of the general disorder left by departing colonial forces to seize power. Once entrenched, each preached some form of nationalism, only to evolve cynical regimes which, in addition to being brutal, did little for their own people while shamelessly enriching their leaders' inner circles. Now, with the clear exception of Nigeria, Africa's postcolonial despotic order is finally breaking down.

But several new trends are evident. Since the departure of foreign powers, precolonial ethnic conflicts-exploited by local political forces-have reemerged with a vengeance. Although the divide between the Hutus and Tutsis dates back to at least the sixteenth century, Rwanda's 1994 genocide, in which up to 800,000 people were slaughtered, was unprecedented. Ethnic and clan-based political identities are resurfacing elsewhere on the continent as well. In Nigeria they fuel a regionally based opposition movement to the central government, in Sudan an armed rebel group that threatens secession. And in places like Liberia and the Somali Republic, they have dissolved nations into anarchy.

Another rising trend is the propensity of African states to invade each other. Besides deploying combat forces, Rwanda helped plan, organize, and lead the rebel campaign that deposed Mobutu last year, turning Zaire into the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Angola also marched against Mobutu and had a hand in Brazzaville's more recent leadership struggle. Uganda, which has a history of backing military campaigns

Loading, please wait...

Browse Related Articles on {{search_model.selectedTerm.name}}

{{indexVM.results.hits.total | number}} Articles Found

  • {{bucket.key_as_string}}