News / Africa

Soviet Union's Collapse Two Decades Ago Deeply Affected Africa

Parties still in power that received backing from the Soviet Union include the party of Angola's President Jose Eduardo dos Santos (L), the People's Movement for the Liberation of Angola, and of South Africa's President Jacob Zuma (R), the African Nationa
Parties still in power that received backing from the Soviet Union include the party of Angola's President Jose Eduardo dos Santos (L), the People's Movement for the Liberation of Angola, and of South Africa's President Jacob Zuma (R), the African Nationa
Nico Colombant

The gradual collapse of the Soviet Union, which ended in dissolution 20 years ago, had wide-ranging effects across Africa. Marxist-inspired governments and movements lost their backers, while new conflicts became awash with weapons and mercenaries from the former Soviet sphere.

During the Cold War, described by many analysts as a geographical chess game between the Soviet Union and the United States to either spread the socialist system or prevent it, Africa was not immune from its fallout.

Angola's internal strife

Angola is one example of how the situation sometimes became a protracted civil war.

The winners of the war in Angola, and rulers since independence from Portugal in 1975, were the Soviet-backed People's Movement for the Liberation of Angola.

But when Soviet-backed Cuban troops pulled out completely in 1991, and the Soviet Union stopped sending weapons and aid, Angola's government renounced Marxism and adopted free market policies.

An Angolan author and journalist with the newspaper Semanario Angolense, Sousa Jamba, said the change away from socialist ideology was very abrupt and was never explained.

"They were very ardent Marxists at one time, and when the Soviet Union collapsed all they said was, 'we also have to do away with Marxism.' And my question was, were they Marxists because they believed in the ideology or were they Marxists because it was convenient at one point to be Marxist in order to get the backing from the Soviet Union? That question has not been answered,” said Jamba.

Ripple effect

In other countries, like Ethiopia, when the Soviet Union stopped backing the government, rulers were quickly ousted. Other Soviet-backed leaders, such as Benin's Mathieu Kerekou, renounced Marxism and then lost multi-party elections.

U.S. and European backed anti-communist authoritarian governments also slowly turned to multi-party elections.

A professor of politics at Princeton University from Benin, Leonard Wantchekon, said multi-party democracy was an improvement, but also for many Africans a disappointment.

“Disappointed not in the elections per say, but disappointment in how little elections changed governance and development outcomes,” said Wantchekon.

The collapse of the Soviet Union in Africa also was followed by the loss of influence of Soviet-educated opposition activists and government workers, a wave of privatizations, and increased reliance on foreign aid agencies to provide basic services. According to Jamba, the Angolan journalist, there also has been deteriorating governance.

"In some of these countries what we have is just the worst kind of capitalism, in which people use the state to steal money and steal the resources of the country," said Jamba.

Weapons proliferation

Besides Angola, the Cold War coincided with other black liberation movements, some of them also violent and resulting in civil war, and in southern Africa, with anti-communist white minority governments resisting for years.

A Senegalese historian with the College of Wooster, Ibra Sene said while most of those struggles ended along with the Cold War, there were very negative residual effects as well.

“At the end of those wars there was a big pile of weapons that was circulating around the continent and playing a very important role in areas where there were new wars. It is a huge problem after the Soviet Union,” said Sene.

With many former Soviet soldiers and pilots out of work, some of them became mercenaries operating old Soviet equipment in recent West African conflicts, such as in Ivory Coast or in Liberia.  

Other conflicts, such as those ongoing in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo and in Somalia, are still awash with weapons from the Cold War fighting, or obtained more recently from Soviet Union stockpiles, highlighting how the former world power’s collapse is still being felt to this day in Africa.

You May Like

Mali's Female Basketball Players Rebound After Islamist Occupation

Islamist extremists ruled northern Mali for most of 2012, imposing strict Sharia law, and now some 18 months later, the region is slowly getting back on its feet More

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

Many Chinese-made products go unsold, for now, with numerous Vietnamese consumers still angry over recent dispute More

Koreas Mark 61st Anniversary of War Armistice

Muted observances on both sides of heavily-armed Demilitarized Zone that separates two decades-long enemies More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Students in Business for Themselvesi
X
Mike O'Sullivan
July 26, 2014 11:04 AM
They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid