. 9
( 12)


314 Africa since 1800

A critical juncture was reached when northern soldiers massacred
townspeople in Juba and the congregation of a Christian church in
Wau. Fighting ¬‚ared, and hundreds of thousands of refugees ¬‚ed
to neighbouring states. In due course, General Nimeiri, who came
to power in a military coup in 1969, opened negotiations with the
Anyanya, which led to an agreement mediated by Emperor Haile Se-
lassie in Addis Ababa in 1972. This brought the ¬rst phase of the civil
war to an end. A federal constitution was introduced, giving regional
autonomy to the south. Southern ministers entered the central gov-
ernment. The Christian religion was recognised in the south and
the English language given equal status with Arabic. Anyanya units
were incorporated into the federal army. But this settlement lasted
for only a decade before Nimeiri™s regime was faced with a series
of attempted coups, a declining economy, and the spread of Islamic
fundamentalism. In an attempt to contain the last of these, Nimeiri
proclaimed that Islamic law would, henceforth, be applied through-
out the country, whereupon the Sudanese People™s Liberation Army,
founded by a southern colonel, John Garang, renewed hostilities
against the centre. The miseries of the ensuing civil war were com-
pounded by the great drought and famine of 1984“5, which sent
fresh waves of refugees ¬‚eeing into Darfur and Kordofan, as well as
into the surrounding countries. The government resorted to savage
means in their attempts to pacify the southerners. In the early 1980s,
the Khartoum authorities had begun to supply arms to the Baqqara
Arab nomads who pastured their cattle and horses along the Bahr
el-Arab and Bahr el-Ghazal. When Sadiq al-Madhi came to power in
1986, he stepped up arms deliveries to the Baqqara, who had been the
mainstay of his great-grandfather™s rebellion in 1881 (see Chapter 3).
As they had done in the nineteenth century, Baqqara militias raided
deep into the lands of the settled and mainly Christian Dinka and
Nuer, burning villages, killing the men, capturing the women and
children, and stealing the cattle. The impasse continued throughout
the 1980s and beyond. Of all the countries of Africa, the Sudan was
perhaps the one where the existence side-by-side of peoples at very
different stages of development created the most intractable political
One element common to both the Sudanese and the Nigerian con-
¬‚icts was the political opposition between Muslim and non-Muslim
The Politics of Independent Africa 315

communities living within the same frontiers. This element stretched
out like a geological fault line right across the sub-Saharan belt, from
the Senegal to the Indian Ocean. It had ancient roots in the mutual
distrust between the raiders and the raided of pre-colonial times;
during the colonial period, it was strengthened as the descendants
of the raided were quicker than the Muslims to acquire western ed-
ucation and prestigious employment in the modern sector. The for-
mer slave race might thus become the ruling class, and relationships
then grew worse than before. In the former French colony of Chad,
for example, the southern agriculturalists, of whom the Sara were
the largest group, were the chief gainers from French colonial rule.
They grew the cotton which was the country™s main export crop,
and many of them became Christians and found education for their
children. Meanwhile, the northern Muslims were doing their best to
resist French rule. The three provinces in the far north “ Borkou,
Ennedi, and Tibesti “ were not even subdued until 1930. Here, the
largest group were the Toubou cattle nomads, who remained under
military control until 1965. It was the southerners who took over
power from the French in 1960. The ¬rst president, Fran¸ ois Toum-
balaye, soon instituted single-party government and dealt harshly
with the Muslims. He embarked on a cultural Africanisation pro-
gramme even more drastic than that attempted by Mobutu in Zaire,
trying to enforce Sara customary law throughout the country. This
led to widespread resistance and, in 1975, Toumbalaye was assas-
sinated in a military coup which placed the northern Muslims in
control. In 1979, however, a civil war broke out between rival fac-
tions of the new regime, which was to engulf the country until the
1990s, with Libya involved on one side and France and the United
States on the other.

Civil War and Cold War
We have seen (in Chapter 17) that already in the 1960s, there existed
the seeds of con¬‚ict in the countries of the Horn of Africa, particu-
larly in the desire of Eritrean and Somali Muslims to be free from
domination by Ethiopian Christians. Since the abolition by Haile
Selassie of the federal constitution in 1962, Eritrean separatists had
been preparing, with the help of Arab and East European countries,
316 Africa since 1800

Islands O
M Cairo
El Aaiun

Banjul Bamako BURKINA Niamey SUDAN
L. Chad
Bissau Djibouti DJIBOUTI



Conakry Addis Ababa

Freetown Abuja







LIBERIA c r m©





n S
Bata Mogadishu

D E M . R E P. Kampala

SÃO TOMÉ L. Victoria
GABON Nairobi


Bujumbura BURUNDI
Dodoma Pemba I.
L. Tanganyika Zanzibar I.
Dar es Salaam
L. Malawi


Marxist/Socialist for
Lusaka U
some or all of the period
L. Kariba
1960“90 B
Harare Antananarivo


Changed allegience MADAGASCAR

from Soviets to US BOTSWANA
Heavily US backed Pretoria
'African' or 'Islamic' socialist Mbabane
CFA franc zone
Major Cold War conflicts AFRICA

South African military involvement

29. Africa and the Cold War.

to ¬ght for the independence of the province. Meanwhile, the So-
mali population of the Ogaden province of Ethiopia was encour-
aged by the government of Somalia to seek a transfer of territory to
its ethnic homeland. Faced with guerrilla activities on two fronts,
Ethiopia leant heavily on American support, while Somalia turned
to the Soviet Union. Early in 1974, however, this system of alliances
was reversed when Haile Selassie™s government was overthrown by
a military coup, engineered by young of¬cers of Marxist views with
the help of East European embassies in the capital. There is no evi-
dence that the Ethiopian revolution enjoyed strong popular support.
The Politics of Independent Africa 317

It was the work of a small military clique, encouraged and aided by
eastern-bloc countries concerned to extend the Cold War in a region
of strategic importance, which commanded the entrance to the Red
Sea and the oil routes to the west. The revolution did nothing to solve
the separatist problem in Eritrea or the Ogaden. It simply meant that
American help was withdrawn from Ethiopia and accorded instead
to Somalia, while the military government, known as the Dergue, was
left still ¬ghting a war on two fronts as well as facing internal oppo-
sition by the Oromo and other ethnic groups. Addis Ababa was sub-
jected to a reign of terror, whereas members of the Dergue engaged
in mutual assassination and the wholesale slaughter of opponents.
By 1976, the original 120 members had been reduced to fewer than
60, and the strongman of the revolution, Brigadier Mengistu Haile
Mariam, was feeling his way to power. Early the following year, he
staged his own coup. This was the signal for the Soviet Union openly
to switch its support from Somalia and the Eritrean separatists to
the new Ethiopian government.
Between 1977 and 1990, the Soviets sent Mengistu some $12 bil-
lion in arms and military aid and also paid for most of the expenses
of 17,000 Cuban ˜volunteers™ to support the huge Ethiopian army of
some 250,000 men. These forces cleared the Ogaden of Somali in-
vaders and reestablished a measure of control over the central part
of the country. But in the north, the Eritreans fought on and were
soon joined by new separatist movements in Tigre and among the
Oromo. As time went on, the Mengistu regime became increasingly
unpopular on account of its clumsy attempts to impose collectivised
farming and by the brutal deportation of starving peasants from the
famine-stricken regions to the north of the capital to untried land in
the south. Moreover, by about 1986, the Soviet Union was beginning
to be disenchanted with its far-¬‚ung operations from Afghanistan to
Angola; from then on, the northern Tigrean separatists increasingly
seized the initiative. In 1991, they were at last able to move into the
Amhara heartland and occupy the capital, while Mengistu ¬‚ed into
exile in Zimbabwe.
Meanwhile, in Somalia, the government gradually lost control
of the nation. Defeat by Soviet-backed Ethiopia in 1977 turned
Siad Barre™s regime toward self-destruction. Although ethnically and
linguistically homogeneous, Somali society was deeply divided by
318 Africa since 1800

territorially based clans, of which Barre had to seek the support of
some, thereby alienating others. Power thus became dispersed to lo-
cal warlords, and civil strife spread even to the capital. Despite large
injections of American aid, Somalia by the mid-1980s was in the pro-
cess of violent disintegration in a landscape increasingly crowded
with starving refugees. When Siad Barre ¬‚ed the country in 1991,
there ceased to be a recognisable government.
Several other African countries had to endure periods of in-
ternecine violence during the early years of their political indepen-
dence, including Rwanda, Burundi, Zaire, Angola, and Mozambique
(see Chapter 19). No reliable estimate is available of the numbers
killed in actual ¬ghting, but, by the mid-1980s, the number of per-
sons displaced from their homes was thought to be about 16 million,
of whom 4 million had crossed international frontiers into neigh-
bouring countries. Refugees “ whether from inside or outside their
countries of ¬nal settlement “ were by de¬nition destitute people,
who had left behind them their houses, their standing crops, their
seed-corn, and even their agricultural tools. They tended to resettle
in the least accessible frontier regions, where it was hardest for gov-
ernments to bring them famine relief, medical help, and education
for their children. They formed the poverty-stricken underclass of
nearly every African country.

The Pressures of Population Increase
The results of violence apart, every state in Africa had to face the pres-
sures of a staggering increase in population. Between 1960 and 1990,
the population of the continent more than doubled, from about 200
million to about 450 million. This resulted from a general failure to
adapt established habits of childbearing to the greatly reduced death
rates prevailing in pre-colonial and early colonial times. The eco-
nomic consequences of this increase is discussed in the next chapter,
but the political consequences were hardly less momentous. Right
up to the end of the colonial period, Africa had been essentially a ru-
ral continent. Only in North Africa and limited parts of West Africa
were there any large indigenous towns. Elsewhere, even the colo-
nial capitals inherited by the new nations were mostly small places
with populations of 50,000 or less. Colonial government had been
The Politics of Independent Africa 319

about ruling rural people. Townships had been for foreigners, their
support staffs, and their servants. By 1990, however, a quarter of the
entire population of Africa lived in towns and, in the capital cities,
their numbers were doubling every ten years. The townspeople were
now those of whom governments were most aware. They were closer
at hand, more politically conscious, and more dependent on public
services than most countryfolk. Increasingly, governments concen-
trated their efforts on the cities and the adjoining countryside which
supplied them with their food. In the peripheral areas, services and
communications crumbled, sometimes to the point at which local
food shortages turned into famines because of the inaccessibility of
relief supplies. During the ¬rst thirty years of independence, the con-
ditions of life in the villages of Africa changed very little, and even
then, mostly for the worse. It was in the exploding populations of
the cities that the seeds of political change were to be found.
It was in the cities that there grew up, between about 1960
and 1990, a middle class of relatively well-educated and well-to-do
Africans, who were accustomed to mixing and dealing as equals with
foreigners and to measuring their own material and moral condi-
tion by international standards. At the time of independence, such
people had been virtually con¬ned to the leading members of the
legal, teaching, and clerical professions. Thirty years later, they in-
cluded also senior civil servants, businesspeople, academics, jour-
nalists, military of¬cers, diplomats, and many others who travelled
abroad, read foreign newspapers, listened to foreign broadcasting,
watched the political trends in other countries, and discussed their
own national affairs within a much wider framework than that coun-
tenanced by the heavy-handed party machines designed to keep rul-
ing coteries perpetually in power. Public dissent might still be too
dangerous to be widely practised, but, by the later 1980s at least, the
possibilities of it looked less hopeless than they had done before. On
the one hand, there was the example of the anti-communist revolu-
tions in eastern Europe, which showed how apparently impregnable
regimes like those of Poland, Romania, and East Germany could be
unseated by an alternative leadership capable of mobilising crowds
onto the streets. On the other hand, there was the pressure for hu-
man rights which could be exerted by international organisations
and donor governments once the Cold War had come to an end.
320 Africa since 1800

Increasingly, from about 1985 onwards, offers of material aid could
be linked with demands for the modi¬cation of autocratic systems,
with their in-built tendencies to corruption and economic stagna-
tion. By 1992, a majority of African countries had promised in prin-
ciple to abolish the political monopolies enjoyed by their governing
parties. True, many of them meant to delay the implementation of
reforms for as long as possible, but at least there was some light vis-
ible at the end of the tunnel. In 1992, an autocrat as decent and re-
spectable as Kenneth Kaunda, who had held power for nearly thirty
years, lost an election and passed into retirement. Here, if anywhere,
there seemed to be a portent of things to come.
In South Africa, Nelson Mandela was released from jail on 11
February 1990 after twenty-seven years of imprisonment. From the
steps of Cape Town City Hall, Mandela addressed the mass of people
who had turned out to greet him and, by means of television, mil-
lions throughout the world. In concluding his speech, he repeated
his own words during the trial in 1964:

I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black dom-
ination. I have cherished the idea of a democratic and free society in which all
persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal
which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I
am prepared to die.1

Oliver Tambo stood down as president of the ANC on grounds of ill
health, and Mandela assumed the role. All the major pieces in the
apartheid jigsaw were rapidly dismantled and all political parties be-
came legal, but a convention set up in 1991 to negotiate the future of
the country proved unwieldy and divisive. It was replaced by a more
manageable structure, paving the way for South Africa™s ¬rst demo-
cratic elections on 27 April 1994, which resulted in a huge victory
for the ANC, with 62.2 percent of the vote and gaining 252 of the
400 seats in the National Assembly. The old National Party attained
just over 20 percent of the vote, getting the largest share in the West-
ern Cape, and with support which cut across racial lines. Eighty-six
percent of the electorate participated in the elections, an exception-
ally high turnout. Mandela was inaugurated President on 10 May,

Heather Deegan, The Politics of New South Africa, Harlow, 2001, p. 230.


Nelspruit A
Pretoria NG Maputo
Johannesburg Soweto Mbabane

Orange Kimberley KWAZULU
Bloemfontein Maseru
New provinces
Great K
King William's Town
Country border aroo
East London
Cape Town o 0 100 200 300 miles
Port Elizabeth
0 100 200 300 400 km

30. The new South Africa.
322 Africa since 1800

with de Klerk as a deputy president. Nine provinces took the place
of the Republic™s four and, in time, the mainly white South African
Defence Force merged with the ANC and other resistance ¬ghters
to form the South African army. One of the most signi¬cant acts of
the new government, and certainly the one that was held in univer-
sal esteem, was the establishment of the Truth and Reconciliation
Commission, to provide public acknowledgement of and reparation
to the victims of abuse under the apartheid regime, with powers to
grant conditional amnesty to the perpetrators of gross human-rights
violations. An exceptionally liberal and comprehensive Bill of Rights
was passed in 1996, which enshrined rights over wide aspects of so-
cial life “ such as housing, education, and health care “ as well as
political and legal affairs.
TWENTY TWO. Economics and
Society in Independent Africa

The Years of Optimism

The wider world within which the majority of the African countries
gained their independence during the late 1950s and 1960s demon-
strated two apparently contradictory features. On the one hand, the
Cold War between the communist and capitalist political systems
was waged with grim determination by both sides and divided the
world into two opposing camps. On the other hand, there was an
upsurge of economic optimism which was common to the lead-
ing states on each side of the ideological divide. Experts of what-
ever economic persuasion “ politicians, businesspeople, managers,
economists, academics, civil servants “ were ¬rmly of the opinion
that economic development, properly directed, could close the gap
between rich and poor countries within a comparatively short time
span. Prominent economists like Walter Rostow and Arthur Lewis
wrote cheerfully of poor countries needing only brief injections of
outside capital and technology before achieving economic ˜takeoff™,
when they would cease to be mere suppliers of primary produce and
learn to process their own commodities. Controlled industrialisation
was the aim and, from both ends of the political spectrum, it was pre-
sented as something that could be determined by government action.
It was an aim which the leaders of the new African nations were
happy to embrace and, for a time, it appeared that they would not be
disappointed. During the 1950s and 1960s, commodity prices were
generally favourable for African producers, although there were big

324 Africa since 1800

¬‚uctuations in the prices of some products. The price of cocoa, for
example, was low during many of the early years of Ghana™s indepen-
dence, and this contributed to the economic disaster of the Nkrumah
regime. In general, however, the volume of exports from the coun-
tries of sub-Saharan Africa grew by 6 percent a year throughout
the 1960s. After 1967, especially, commodity prices boomed, and
since African governments derived most of their revenues by buy-
ing produce from farmers at one price and selling it on the world
market at another, the higher commodity prices were re¬‚ected in
buoyant revenues. Some of this newfound af¬‚uence was ploughed
back into socially bene¬cial causes, such as education, health ser-
vices, and small-scale agricultural improvements. During the 1960s,
agricultural production increased at a rate of 2.7 percent per an-
num, which roughly matched the growth of population. It looked as
though Africa would at all events be able to feed itself and gradually
become self-supporting in other ways as well.
Education nearly everywhere developed rapidly, building on the
foundations laid during the last years of colonial rule. In tropical
Africa as a whole, primary-school enrolment increased from 36 to 65
percent during the ¬rst two decades of independence, and secondary
school enrolment from 3 to 13 percent. Universities multiplied, and
large amounts of aid money ¬‚owed in to provide them with attractive
buildings and well-stocked libraries and laboratories. By the end of
the 1960s, Nigeria alone possessed ¬ve universities, with a total stu-
dent enrolment of more than 10,000. Because most graduates were
destined for careers in secondary education, it looked as though this,
the worst bottleneck in the educational system, would soon be a thing
of the past. In Ghana, which had three universities serving a pop-
ulation only one-¬fth that of Nigeria, primary- and middle-school
education was, in principle, free and compulsory for all children
between six and sixteen, and enrolment in all educational establish-
ments reached 10 percent of the population as a whole as early as
1961. It was remarkable that in all the West African countries, most
teaching at all levels was given in either English or French. This re-
¬‚ected the much deeper roots of western education in the coastal
regions of this part of the continent. It meant that the West African
elites were more cosmopolitan in outlook than their opposite num-
bers anywhere else, with the exception of South Africa. There was,
Economics and Society in Independent Africa 325

indeed, a great difference in the pace of educational development
between West Africa on the one hand and most of eastern and cen-
tral Africa on the other. Whereas the larger West African countries
mostly reached independence with some thousands of graduates,
countries like Uganda and Kenya had only a few hundred. Tanzania
at independence had only twelve graduates, while Zaire had none at
all. In those parts of central Africa where independence was delayed
by long liberation struggles, the mainspring of higher education had
to develop among emigr´ s and exiles, of whom only a small propor-
tion would ever return to work in their own countries. Here, the
bottleneck in secondary education was seen at its worst.
During the early years of independence, considerable strides were
made in the improvement of health services, ranging from the con-
struction of large hospitals in the capital cities to primary health
care clinics in the villages. Aid donors were particularly generous in
helping to establish teaching hospitals, and much effort was put into
improving health, diet, and hygiene at the local level, using the help
of expatriate volunteers as well as enlisting the participation of local
residents. Although the struggle against endemic disease, especially
malaria, proved to be much more arduous than had been antici-
pated, some progress was made and infant mortality continued to
be reduced, with the result that every African country experienced
a massive acceleration of the already serious trend in population
growth (see Chapter 21). Whereas in one sense this represented a
great victory over disease, in another sense it brought the entire con-
tinent face to face with its greatest economic and social problems.
It meant that, until childbearing habits adjusted themselves to the
new levels of life expectancy, the young nations of Africa would have
˜to run in order to stand still™.
In practice, however, the gravity of the population problem was
not widely appreciated during the 1960s, or even later. During the
colonial period, people had become so accustomed to thinking of
Africa as an underpopulated continent that it was dif¬cult for them
to imagine that the pendulum could swing so far in the opposite
direction in so short a time. It was widely assumed that the fertil-
ity rate would prove to be self-adjusting with only a comparatively
brief time-lag. Meanwhile, the general answer to population growth
would be found in industrialisation, which would absorb the surplus
326 Africa since 1800

rural population into productive employment in the towns. Indus-
trialisation would enable primary produce to be processed locally,
and so would reduce the number of necessary imports. And the key
to successful industrialisation would be cheap power, for which the
great rivers of Africa were waiting to be harnessed. Hydroelectric
dams were thus the favoured development projects both of the last
years of colonial rule and the ¬rst decade of independence. In the
impressive multi-volume brochures prepared by the international
¬rms of engineering consultants, dams were presented as the very
cornerstones of modernisation, supplying electricity not only to in-
dustry but also to every African household. Above the dams, huge
man-made lakes would give rise to new ¬shing industries, which
would supply the protein de¬ciencies of African dietary systems. In-
dustrial towns would grow up beside the new lakes, and all around
them great irrigation projects would give rise to a new and much-
needed kind of intensive agriculture. Hydroelectric schemes could
be made attractive to international donors. They were also cherished
by African politicians, who could present them as powerful symbols
of economic virility and national prestige. As demonstrated by the
˜High Dam™ project at Aswan in Upper Egypt, which passed without
much of a strain from American to Russian sponsorship in 1956, the
outside technology could be supplied from either eastern or western
sources, just as the resultant electric power could be turned either
to a capitalist or a socialist pattern of industrial development.
Although embarked upon with such high hopes, most hydro-
electric projects proved, in practice, both costly and disappoint-
ing. The Akasombo dam built across the Volta River in southern
Ghana, which was completed in 1965 just before the fall of Kwame
Nkrumah, was ¬nanced by the government and by loans from the
World Bank, the United States, and Britain. Its largest result was
to cripple the young country with foreign debt as the costs of con-
struction soared far beyond the estimates. The aluminium-smelting
industry, which was supposed to be among the ¬rst fruits, failed to
develop owing to the poor quality of the local bauxite. Above the dam,
the 500-km-long (300 miles) lake was soon covered with aquatic veg-
etation, which prevented the emergence of the predicted inland ¬sh-
eries. Because of the discouragement to private-sector investment
in Ghana™s increasingly socialist state, the manufacturing industry
Economics and Society in Independent Africa 327

planned to grow up around the nearby port installations at Tema
never really got off the ground, so that the vastly expensive hydro-
electric plant was left functioning at a mere fraction of its potential.
It was much the same story with the gigantic Inga project to dam
the Congo cataracts below Kinshasa, which was originally supposed
to be capable of supplying half of the total power needs of the en-
tire continent. The initial phase of the project, launched in 1972,
was to light the capital city and its environs, to power an iron and
steel complex in the river valley above Lake Malebo, and to supply
most of the electricity needs of the Zairean copperbelt, including
a vast new smelting plant in Shaba province, more than 1,800 km
(1,100 miles) south of Kinshasa. The total cost “ all of it borrowed “
was well over $1 billion, and amounted to 20 percent of Zaire™s for-
eign debt. This sum, according to some opponents of the scheme,
could have paid the wages of the country™s teachers and nurses for
twenty years. In practice, however, construction was ¬rst of all lim-
ited and then frequently delayed. The steel plant seldom operated
at more than 10 percent of its capacity, and employed only 1,000
workers instead of the 10,000 originally envisaged. What steel it did
produce was of poor quality and cost three or four times as much as
imported steel. Twenty years after its notional completion date, the
copper re¬nery in Shaba had yet to begin production. Once again,
debt mounted and more useful development was forgone. The giant
hydroelectric projects at Kariba and Cabora Bassa on the Zambezi
were better organised and ¬nanced, but both became prime targets
for the insurrectionary movements ¬ghting for the independence of
Zimbabwe and Mozambique. The Kariba dam, which served both
Zambia and Zimbabwe, was often threatened by the poor political re-
lations between the two countries, and Cabora Bassa was constantly
surrounded by guerrilla action which imperilled its distribution
lines. Both projects reinforced the lesson to intending developers
all over Africa, that large schemes required a degree of political sta-
bility which most African countries did not yet enjoy. The dictum
that ˜Small is beautiful™ was to be the watchword for the 1970s and
Hydroelectric projects were not, of course, the only examples of
mis-spending and mis-borrowing by the governments of the 1960s.
Nearly every government wished to celebrate its independence by
328 Africa since 1800

founding a national airline, using imported aircraft and a great many
foreign employees to ¬‚y routes, many of which were quite uneco-
nomic. Again, nearly all African countries spent far more than they
could afford on arms and military equipment, much of it far be-
yond their means to service and control. Luxury hotels built by the
public sector too often stood empty for lack of reliability in the ba-
sic services like electricity, water, and drainage. Presidential palaces,
yachts, hunting lodges, aircraft, and armoured motorcars absorbed
grotesque proportions of some national revenues. Nevertheless, dur-
ing the 1960s, and for a year or two beyond, most African economies
appeared to be improving, albeit very slowly. The small farmers of
Africa, who still formed more than 90 percent of the continent™s pop-
ulation, were maintaining and even increasing their production of
food and export crops. The capital cities were growing rapidly, but
the ¬rst generation of city-dwellers tended to maintain their fam-
ily connections with the countryside, which gave them ¬‚exibility in
the means of survival and provided the urban labour market with a
plentiful supply of cheap labour.
In some African countries, such as Egypt, Morocco, and parts of
Nigeria, industrial production had long preceded the colonial era.
Again, in many African colonies, industrial processes had been ini-
tiated by African as well as by European and Asian entrepreneurs.
Nearly all of this had been low-level industry “ breweries, tanneries,
cotton ginneries, cigarette and match factories, motor vehicle ser-
vicing, and maintenance. Political independence, by the removal of
some colonial controls such as those on urban building standards,
gave a boost to these kinds of small-scale industrial activities, espe-
cially those run by Africans. This was the case even in some coun-
tries with nominally socialist or Marxist economic policies. Much
of this activity was so small-scale that it slipped unnoticed through
the meshes both of legal controls and economic statistics, and so
made up a vast informal sector of African economies. Most of these
very small industries were concerned with the processing and dis-
tribution of food, drink, clothing, and household goods, as well as
with construction and household repairs and with passenger and
goods transport. At the upper end of the market, however, were busi-
nesses involving imports and exports, shipping, insurance, accoun-
tancy and banking, rural plantations, and city property, which during
Economics and Society in Independent Africa 329

colonial times had been managed by expatriates working for foreign
companies. During the early years of independence, most of these
were reconstituted as local ¬rms, with a majority of local directors
and managers. These African businesspeople formed, together with
their opposite numbers in the public sector, the nucleus of a largely
new African middle class, upon which the health and progress of the
new national economies largely depended.

The Years of Stagnation and Decline
The economic performance of African states varied greatly from one
to another, but looking at the overall picture, it becomes clear that
during the second and third decades of independence, the earlier
modest growth in gross domestic product (GDP) per head of popu-
lation ¬rst slowed to a halt and then began to decline. There were
several reasons for this, of which the most important was certainly
the steadily accelerating growth of population throughout the con-
tinent. As we have seen (in Chapter 21), this was not due to any
increase in the fertility rate, but simply to the fact that every year
saw an increase in the number of childbearing women, of whom the
great majority expected “ like their parents before them “ to have ¬ve,
six, or seven children in the course of their married lives. During the
¬fteen years between 1972 and 1987, the population of sub-Saharan
Africa grew from about 275 million to about 450 million,1 with a
yet more striking increase in the proportion of those who were still
too young to be producers. The World Bank™s study of sub-Saharan
Africa published in 1989 stated the position in the starkest terms: ˜By
1987 this region of some 450 million people “ more than double the
number at independence “ had a total gross domestic product . . . of
nearly $135 billion, about that of Belgium, which has only 10 million
An analysis by country of the 1987 ¬gures for GDP shows that
there were four countries “ Libya, Algeria, Gabon, and South Africa “
which stood in a class by themselves, with GDP between $2,000 and

These ¬gures, assembled by the World Bank, do not take into account the ¬ve North African
countries “ Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt “ with a combined population of about
110 million in 1988. The estimated population for the whole continent in 1991 was 650 million.
330 Africa since 1800

$7,000. Libya and Gabon were countries with small populations and
large reserves of oil. Algeria and South Africa, as former colonies of
European mass settlement, had attracted signi¬cantly more invest-
ment at an earlier date than other African countries, and so enjoyed
more broadly based economic infrastructures. After these four came
a group of eleven relatively prosperous countries, with per capita
GDP between $500 and $1,000. It comprised, ¬rst, the three North
African countries of Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco, which, though
fairly well industrialised, lacked oil or other mineral resources. It
included, next, ¬ve of the Atlantic-facing countries “ Senegal, Ivory
Coast, Cameroon, the Congo Republic, and Angola “ all with well-
developed plantation industries combined with offshore oil. Finally,
it included three southern African countries “ Zimbabwe, Botswana,
and Swaziland “ which had gained economically from their proxim-
ity to South Africa.
A third group of countries, with GDP ¬gures between $200 and
$500, included several of the largest and politically most signi¬cant
countries “ Nigeria and Ghana, Sudan and Kenya, Uganda and Zam-
bia. Nigeria, at the height of the oil boom around 1980, had brie¬‚y
seen its GDP rise to more than $1,000: its subsequent fall to $370 had
been due to falling oil revenues, accompanied by overspending and
overborrowing during the good times. Ghana and Uganda had both
come to independence as prosperous countries with well-developed
commercial crops and considerable mineral resources: their subse-
quent economic failure was due to misgovernment and political in-
stability. The Sudan was basically a poor and undeveloped country,
which had suffered nearly thirty years of civil war: it owed its modest
prosperity to the ef¬cient development of irrigated commercial crop-
ping of long-staple cotton in a tiny economic heartland adjacent to
the capital. Kenya was not well endowed with minerals, but made the
most of its well-watered highlands to produce tea and coffee, and of
its more arid game parks and its sunlit beaches to promote a lucrative
tourist industry. The case of Zambia illustrated the danger of depen-
dence on a single resource “ in this case, copper “ which provided
more than 90 percent of the country™s foreign-exchange earnings.
When the bottom fell out of the copper market in 1975, Zambia was
overwhelmed by a series of economic crises. During the 1960s, it had
grown its own food and often produced a surplus; through neglect
Economics and Society in Independent Africa 331

of its farmers, it became by the 1980s an importer of food. For a
time, the government continued, by external borrowing, to provide
these imports and maintain the social services for its mushrooming
urban areas on the copperbelt; but, foreign exchange soon ran out,
manufacturing output fell, and heavy debt was incurred, amounting
by 1987 to $600 for every Zambian citizen, against a GDP of $470.
Several smaller African countries belonged within the same third
bracket of GDP ¬gures, including Sierra Leone, Liberia, Mauritania,
Mali, Niger, B´ nin, Togo, the Central African Republic, Rwanda,
Burundi, Somalia, and Lesotho. There was also a fourth group of
extremely poor countries with GDP ¬gures between $100 and $200,
which was remarkable for including four of the largest and best-
known African states “ (1) Ethiopia, the former historic empire and
more recently the seat of the Organisation of African Unity; (2)
Tanzania, which had led the East African countries into indepen-
dence, and which under the twenty-¬ve-year presidency of Julius
Nyerere had seemed to be the great laboratory of African socialism;
(3) Zaire, which had been ˜the model colony™ of Belgium, richly en-
dowed with minerals and with well-watered agricultural land; and
(4) Mozambique, never a rich land, but commanding the seaports
and the lines of communication to a vast and rich interior in South
Africa, Zimbabwe, Malawi, and eastern Zambia, a country which
had borne the main weight of the struggle against Portuguese colo-
nialism, only to go on and destroy itself in ¬fteen years of civil strife.
It is certain that by 1990, Somalia, too, would have fallen, and for the
same reason, from the third bracket to the very bottom of the fourth.
It was in a continent already experiencing the social distress of
economic crisis that the HIV/AIDS epidemic erupted during the
early 1980s. At ¬rst it seemed to be con¬ned to countries in cen-
tral Africa from Zaire to Kenya south to Zambia, but rapidly spread
north and south from there. By the end of the decade, it had be-
come a pandemic stretching from the Sudanic zone all the way to
South Africa. Initially, it was thought to be mainly an urban phe-
nomenon. Figures available in the late 1980s showed that 8 percent
of the population of Kinshasa had HIV/AIDS and that in Kampala
the number of cases reported was doubling every six months. It soon
became apparent, however, that vast rural areas were also affected,
particularly those which had been overrun by undisciplined soldiery
332 Africa since 1800

in times of civil strife, or which provided labour migrants to the
mines. The HIV/AIDS pandemic had serious economic as well as
social consequences. Young adults “ the prime labour force “ were
the worst hit of all age groups. Their children became orphans and
their parents were left to face old age and incapacity without their
support “ and this at a time when the revenues of governments were
still far too slender for any kind of social security safety net to be
within the bounds of possibility. By the early 1990s, it was still too
early to do more than guess at the ultimate scale of the HIV/AIDS
calamity for Africa or to make any useful comparison of its ravages
alongside those in¬‚icted by drought, famine, and civil war. However,
it could perhaps be estimated that, even in a worst-case scenario,
all these natural disasters together would be unlikely to reverse the
more general trend of population growth in the continent as a whole.
It is clear that many of the most crucial economic problems of
African countries during the critical years after 1972 stemmed from
the sharp variations in the world price of oil. During the 1960s, and
until 1972, oil had been priced at less than $2 a barrel. Even at that
modest price, the discovery of oil in Libya in 1965 had been suf¬cient
to turn one of the poorest African countries into one of the richest.
Even at that price, Ojukwu had thought it worthwhile to attempt the
secession of Biafra (see Chapter 21). But, in 1973, the oil-producing
countries of the Middle East combined to form the Organisation
of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and, by cutting supplies,
drove up the price to $12 a barrel in 1974, skyrocketing to $34 a
barrel in 1981, at the height of the war between Iraq and Iran. The
¬rst consequence for African countries was obviously to divide still
further the fortunes of the Haves and the Have-nots. For the Haves, it
meant a sudden access of prosperity, suf¬cient in the case of Nigeria
temporarily to triple the GDP of a large and populous country. For
the Have-nots, however, the effect was to multiply by ¬fteen times
or more the cost of their most essential import, for lack of which
their transport systems and many other aspects of their economy
would grind to a halt. In Tanzania, for example, oil, which had pre-
viously absorbed 10 percent of the country™s export earnings, had
by 1980 risen to 60 percent. In more concrete terms, where a ton
of exported tea had bought 60 barrels of oil, it now bought only 4.5
Economics and Society in Independent Africa 333

But this was not all. As fast as the OPEC countries invested the
surplus from their hugely increased earnings in banks and ¬nance
houses throughout the developed world, so these institutions began
to ˜recycle™ the funds by offering loans on relatively attractive terms
to governments, including many Third World governments, which
sought to alleviate their growing ¬nancial problems by borrowing.
Between 1970 and 1980, the external debts of African countries rose
from $6 billion to $38 billion. In 1988, the total had reached $134 bil-
lion, and it was still rising. By the end of the 1980s, Africa™s debt was
equal to its annual GDP and 3.5 times its earnings from exports. Debt
services actually paid during the years 1985“8 amounted to 27 per-
cent of export earnings, but this represented only three-¬fths of the
region™s obligations. From 1980 onwards, only twelve sub-Saharan
countries serviced their debts regularly. But, even so, ¬gures have
been produced which show that between 1982 and 1990, Africa paid
out in debt services $217 billion against net resource in¬‚ows of $214
billion: these included all bilateral and multilateral development aid,
investment, new loans, and export credits.
Clearly, not all of this mounting level of African debt was at-
tributable to the recycling of enhanced oil pro¬ts, but for about ten
years, from 1975 to 1985, the availability of such funds did much
to postpone the day of reckoning when most African governments
found themselves unable to borrow any more money on straightfor-
ward commercial terms. During this last decade of relatively easy
borrowing, many of the structural weaknesses of African economies
went uncorrected, and with results that became ever more debil-
itating. Most obvious among these weaknesses was the steadily
rising cost of the public payroll. Nearly all governments failed to con-
trol the self-generating pressures for growth in their bureaucracies
and their armed forces. Many civil service posts had become virtual
sinecures, held in combination with other occupations in the private
sector. Again, many military and police chiefs played upon the fears
of politicians, who knew themselves to be increasingly unrepresenta-
tive, to build unnecessarily large and lavishly equipped armed forces
to contain civil unrest rather than to protect their countries against
external dangers. In socialist-oriented states, the directors of pub-
lic corporations likewise failed to control their payrolls, leading to
losses and claims for subsidies from the revenue. Less obvious, but
334 Africa since 1800

no less hurtful, was the manipulation by nearly all African govern-
ments of the exchange rates of their national currencies, which were
in general ¬xed at many times their real value in the market place.
This had the effect of making imports arti¬cially cheap, including
the luxuries enjoyed by the elite, but also the imported foodstuffs
increasingly used by the ordinary citizens of the rapidly growing
capital cities. These imports, themselves often the result of farm
subsidies in the countries of origin, undercut the prices of locally
produced foods, which meant that African farmers, despite the pres-
sures of increasing population, concentrated on subsistence crops
for their own consumption and grew less, rather than more, food for
the local market.
The arti¬cial exchange rates were, of course, only sustainable with
the aid of strict exchange controls and licensing systems for both im-
ports and exports, and these in their turn provided irresistible temp-
tations to those in power, from presidents and ministers at one end of
the scale to junior bureaucrats, such as customs of¬cers, at the other.
The prevalence of this kind of corruption “ ˜the 10 percent rule™, as it
was often called “ was one of the major causes of indiscipline in the
public services. Finally, there was the steady progress of conspicuous
expenditure by many, if not most, African heads of state. Presiden-
tial palaces proliferated; retinues increased; presidential motorcades
grew longer, noisier, and more intimidating; ¬‚eets of buses carried
rent-a-crowd audiences to ululate at presidential speeches delivered
in huge new sports stadia. The venue to the annual summit confer-
ences of the OAU was much sought after by African leaders, and
lavish sums were spent in preparation for them. For the 1965 con-
ference, Nkrumah had built a palace containing 60 luxury units and
a banqueting hall to seat 2,000, causing some of his disenchanted
countrymen to coin the slogan ˜One man, one motor-bike™. But in
1977, President Omar Bongo of Gabon constructed a row of seafront
hotels in Libreville and a new palace for himself at a cost of $200 mil-
lion. Two years later, President Tolbert spent half of Liberia™s annual
budget to host the OAU summit; whereas in 1980, President Siaka
Stevens went one better by spending two-thirds of Sierra Leone™s
budget on the same cause. The most lavish spender of the 1980s,
however, was surely President Mobutu, who, at a time of severe
Economics and Society in Independent Africa 335

economic crisis in Zaire, spent more each year on the presidency
than on the combined budgets for roads, hospitals, schools, and so-
cial services. In 1988, he admitted to a personal fortune of $55 mil-
lion, but some claimed that the true ¬gure was probably ten times
higher. Mobutu spent vast sums on rebuilding his home village at
Gbadolite on the Oubangi, where he constructed a magni¬cent coun-
try palace for his own use, with an airport large enough for the Con-
corde, which he often leased from Air France. He owned chateauxˆ
in France and Belgium and estates in Spain, Italy, Switzerland, and
the Ivory Coast. In later years, he spent much of his time aboard a
luxury yacht in the Congo River, which earned him the nickname of
˜le voisin™ (˜the neighbour™) among his increasingly disaffected and
scornful compatriots.

The Hard Road to Recovery

Although the broad picture of economic disarray in African coun-
tries was well appreciated by the larger development agencies and,
in particular, by of¬cials of the World Bank and the International
Monetary Fund (IMF), their advice, tendered with increasing ur-
gency from about 1975 onwards, was resisted by most governments
for as long as any alternative sources for renewed borrowing re-
mained open. The government of Kenya was one of the ¬rst to
accept a measure of surveillance by IMF representatives, who es-
tablished an of¬ce in the country™s Central Bank. A wider measure
of surveillance was instituted in Zaire from 1978 with of¬cials of the
World Bank and the IMF installed in the Central Bank, the Audit Of-
¬ce, and the Ministry of Finance. From 1981, however, the favourite
client of the IMF was Ghana, where Flight-Lieutenant Jerry Rawl-
ings, aged thirty-four, had just seized power from the incompetent
civilian government which he had himself inaugurated following his
coup d™´ tat in 1979. Ghana™s economy was then at an extreme low
ebb. Cocoa production had fallen from 560,000 tonnes in 1965 to
150,000 tonnes in 1981. The transport system had gravely deterio-
rated. The railways were almost at a standstill. Very little foreign
currency was available for even the most essential imports, such
as spare parts for agricultural and manufacturing machinery. The
336 Africa since 1800

factories were operating at about a quarter of their capacity. There
was even a shortage of power because the level of Lake Volta had been
drastically reduced by drought. Rawlings went about a recovery pro-
gramme with a determination and realism that his predecessors had
lacked, accepting IMF aid, control, and conditions. The grossly over-
valued currency was progressively devalued until by 1988, the cedi
was worth only 2 percent of its nominal value in 1982. In¬‚ation and
budgetary de¬cits began to fall, the balance of trade improved, and
the GDP rose. Helped by good weather, cocoa production doubled
between 1983 and 1989. Gold and other mining production rose,
and manufacturing also recovered. New generating equipment for
the Akasombo dam restored power supplies. But these substantial
economic gains were only achieved at a considerable social price, in
high unemployment, reduced medical and social services, and cuts
in educational expenditure. The government imposed a high sales tax
in order to lower consumption of imported produce, which severely
affected the living standards of city-dwellers. There were several at-
tempted coups, student strikes, and much popular unrest. But, by
the early 1990s, the economy was in a healthier condition than it
had been since the early days of independence, and Rawlings, un-
der IMF prompting, slowly edged Ghana toward a more democratic
form of government.
Increasingly during the 1980s, the IMF found itself in the position
of being the only available lender, and so it was able to adopt a ¬rm
policy of imposing conditions in exchange for its help. Moreover, as
the Cold War drew to a close, it was able to mobilise the diplomatic
support of all the main donor countries in persuading African gov-
ernments to accept its prescribed remedies. Most applicants were
henceforward required to follow the example of Ghana in under-
taking a phased devaluation of their currencies, with the principal
objective of restoring a proper balance between the prices of locally
grown and imported foodstuffs. While this was very much in the in-
terest of African farmers, it weighed heavily upon city-dwellers, who
were much better able than the farmers to express their discontent.
Thus, when President Kaunda, for example, turned to the IMF in
1985 to rescue Zambia from near collapse, one of the remedies pre-
scribed by the Fund was the removal of the subsidy on maize meal.
Economics and Society in Independent Africa 337

This led to such violent riots in the copperbelt towns that the govern-
ment broke off its relations with the IMF and restored the subsidy.
By 1990, however, it was ¬nally forced to return cap in hand, ac-
cept the remedies, and face further riots in consequence. Similarly,
in Gabon, an austerity programme prescribed by the IMF in 1986
led stage by stage to serious riots in Libreville and Port Gentil. The
most unfortunate initiator of such reforms was President Thomas
Sankara of Burkina Faso, who so alienated the small but powerful
class of bureaucrats and urban workers in his country that he was
assassinated in a coup in 1987. Most of the IMF™s clients, however,
fared better than Sankara and, in the continent as a whole, GDP
¬gures improved, if only slightly, after 1985. In its 1989 report, the
World Bank heaped special praise for the improvement on the con-
tribution of the small-scale private sector which had emerged in and
around the burgeoning cities:

During the recent years of economic crisis, small ¬rms in the informal sector
have provided a growing share of jobs and output. Estimates indicate that these
enterprises currently provide more than half of Africa™s urban employment, and
as much as one-¬fth of GDP in many countries. Unregulated and unrecorded, the
informal sector is home to small ¬rms in agriculture, industry, trade, transport,
¬nance and social services. It is not static, and not necessarily traditional in its
techniques, but it undertakes innovation indicated by market forces. In the infor-
mal sector enterprises ¬nd a business environment that is competitive, free from
unjusti¬ed regulatory restraints and well adapted to local resource endowments
and demand.2

Coming at a time when so much else in the African scene was redo-
lent only of gloom and disaster, there was much encouragement to
be found in this judgement by the World Bank about the enterprise
shown by African townspeople. For, if the most important fact about
the African condition in 1990 was that population was doubling every
twenty years, then the next most important fact was that the popula-
tion of the cities was doubling every ten years. In 1990, one-quarter
of all Africans lived in the towns, and it was anticipated that by the
end of the century, the proportion would have risen to one-half. This
might still leave a great many people living in rural areas “ more,

World Bank, Sub-Saharan Africa: From Crisis to Sustainable Growth, Washington, 1989, p. 10.
338 Africa since 1800

indeed, by the year 2010 than the entire population of the continent
in 1990. Nevertheless, a new Africa was being born in the towns and
in the countryside immediately adjacent to them. If in these key ar-
eas economic enterprise was beginning to be self-generating, then
there was every hope that from there it would spread, along with
improved local government, into the peripheral regions where the
worst conditions of poverty and destitution were to be found.
TWENTY THREE. Into the Third

F or Africa as a whole, the ¬nal decade of the twentieth century
saw little to justify the heady hopes held by many well-wishers at
the end of the 1980s. True, the collapse and dissolution of the Soviet
Union and of its empire in Eastern Europe had provided the indis-
pensable condition for a radical change of regime in South Africa,
from a white minority government to a democracy based on univer-
sal suffrage. Elsewhere, however, the partial disengagement of the
two world superpowers did little to stabilize the internal divisions
within African countries. To the contrary, it often set the scene for
a sharp increase in civil violence, both in countries or regions that
had already experienced Cold War con¬‚icts and in those that up till
then had remained relatively peaceful.

The Ashes of the Cold War in Angola and the Horn of Africa

In Angola, Jonas Savimbi continued “ and even intensi¬ed “ his
twenty years of con¬‚ict with the MPLA government in Luanda by
buying sophisticated weaponry and equipment from a circle of will-
ing suppliers, who delivered them by air direct to his military head-
quarters in the bush in exchange for the diamonds mined in his
political enclave in the southern part of the country. The MPLA
government, deprived now of its Cuban mercenaries and Russian
weapons, had to rearm itself by spending most of the royalties
which it was receiving from its offshore oil¬elds “ revenues which
might otherwise have helped to reconstruct a war-torn economy. The

340 Africa since 1800

Benguela railway, which had formerly provided the main outlet of the
copper mines of southern Zaire and northern Zambia, and which was
important for the revenues of all three countries, remained closed
throughout the Angolan civil war. Only after Savimbi himself fell to
an assassin™s bullet early in 2002 was a cease¬re signed by his follow-
ers which gave hope of a lasting settlement. By this time, the death
toll in the war had risen to some 3 million, with an approximately
equal number of refugees forced to ¬‚ee from their homes.
The Horn of Africa was another region in which violence, far from
abating after the end of the Cold War, markedly increased. Here, the
removal of the Cuban contingent from Ethiopia, coupled with the
cessation of the massive Soviet arms shipments, released pent-up
tensions both within that country and around its borders. The insur-
gency long conducted by the Eritrean and Tigrean liberation move-
ments in Ethiopia soon triumphed over the military dictatorship of
President Mengistu, who in 1991 ¬‚ed into exile in Zimbabwe. His
place was taken by the Tigrean leader, Meles Zenawi, who was able
to establish his authority over the disparate peoples of the centre and
south of the country, on the promise of a radical devolution of pow-
ers to ten regional authorities, but who was compelled, in 1993, to
grant full independence to Eritrea. Sadly, relations between the two
countries worsened to such an extent that, in 1998, Eritrea invaded
a small slice of Ethiopian territory known as the Yirga triangle. The
Ethiopians met force with force, and the resulting war is reckoned to
have cost the lives of some 30,000 combatants before Eritrea ¬nally
accepted defeat in 1998. At the height of the ¬ghting, Eritrea was
spending a third of its gross domestic product on defence, a ¬gure
unparalleled elsewhere in the world.
Meanwhile, straddling Ethiopia™s eastern frontier, the Somali
nation “ though still united in language and by the common practice
of Islam “ was splintering politically into a score or more of war-
lordships based on the clan systems of pastoral people, who were
constantly shifting the grazing grounds of their animals. During the
Cold War, the Mengistu regime had managed, with Soviet support, to
control the Somali inhabitants of the Ogaden province in its eastern
lowlands, while the majority of Somali living in their own country
paid some kind of respect to the feeble bureaucracies inherited from
the former colonial rulers at Mogadishu and a few other coastal
Into the Third Millennium 341



2 Dahlak

1 Asmara
NA Hanish
9 EN
K Ba Island
Af L b
ar Assab







O Djibouti



1991 1998
Blue N Berbera

ile declared
Hargeisa independent


Addis Ababa 8



5 O
E 6

G O Bal©




7 Operation
L. Turkana Restore Hope


0 100 200 300 400 miles N
0 100 200 300 400 500 600 km

1961“90 Eritrean nationalist struggle

against Ethiopia
Ethiopian incursions into Kenya
2 Sudan“Eritrea conflicts 1995“98
Somalia“Ethiopia wars 1970s“1990s
3 Eritrea“Ethiopia war 1998“9
1977 Ogaden Liberation Front
reached Harar and railway line
4 Tigrean Peoples' Liberation Front 1975“85
9 Eritrea“Yemen dispute
5 Ethiopian involvement in civil war in
Eritrea occupied Hanish Island 1995
Southern Sudan
10 Eritrea“Djibouti border dispute 1995
6 Oromo Liberation Front 1975“91

31. Con¬‚icts in the Horn of Africa.
342 Africa since 1800

towns. These had been dominated through most of the ¬rst twenty
years of Somali independence by President Siad Barre, who progres-
sively became more dictatorial, especially after receiving recognition
and economic and military aid from the United States, following the
Soviet assumption of in¬‚uence in Ethiopia. With the departure of
Mengistu, American interest in the region reverted to Ethiopia, and
Barre lost much of his prestige. He ¬‚ed from Mogadishu in 1991 and,
the following year, went into exile in Kenya. Barre™s departure left the
pastoral warlords to vie with each other for control of the coastal
towns and of the powerless, sedentary cultivators living between the
Webi Shebele and Juba valleys in the far south of the country. The
northern part of Somalia “ the land of the old British Protectorate “
broke away and was declared independent as Somaliland and, in
1992, Muhamed Egal, one of the founders of united Somalia in 1960,
was elected president of the breakaway state.
Later in 1992, a calamitous drought struck not only Somalia,
but also neighbouring parts of Ethiopia, Kenya, and the southern
Sudan. The UN and other western relief agencies struggled to bring
food and basic medical aid to a starving and demoralised people. A
multinational task force, led by the United States in the wake of its
victory in the ¬rst Gulf War, landed at Mogadishu in December 1992
in an attempt to stop the ¬ghting between rival warlords and ensure
that the donated food reached those for whom it was intended. This
massive foreign intervention, which at its peak numbered 31,000
troops “ more than two-thirds of them Americans “ merely added
fuel to the ¬re of Somali inter-clan politics. The Mogadishu warlords
battled to control the distribution of food themselves and to direct
it to their own supporters. The multinational troops were caught up


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