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

Turkey's Controversial Reform Bill Giving Investors Jitters

Homeland security reform bill will give police new powers in search, seizure, detention and arrests, while restricting the rights of suspects, their attorneys More

Audio Slideshow In Kenyan Prison, Good Grades Are Path to Freedom

Some inmates who get high marks could see their sentences commuted to non-custodial status More

'Rumble in the Jungle' Turns 40

'The Champ' knocked Foreman out to regain crown he had lost 7 years earlier when US government accused him of draft-dodging and boxing officials revoked his license 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.
Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisiai
X
Henry Ridgwell
October 30, 2014 11:39 PM
Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisia

Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Africa Tells its Story Through Fashion

In Africa, Fashion Week is a riot of colors, shapes, patterns and fabrics - against the backdrop of its ongoing struggle between nature and its fast-growing urban edge. How do these ideas translate into needle and thread? VOA’s Anita Powell visited this year’s Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Africa in Johannesburg to find out.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.

All About America

AppleAndroid