To send content items to your account,
please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies.
If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account.
Find out more about sending content to .
To send content items to your Kindle, first ensure email@example.com
is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings
on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part
of your Kindle email address below.
Find out more about sending to your Kindle.
Note you can select to send to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations.
‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi.
‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.
Rebels focused on profit sometimes provide civilian governance, contrary to the expectations of political economy and “new war” analysts. But the governance that these rebellions supply differs considerably from that of insurgents trying to win the hearts and minds of non-combatants. Charles Taylor’s NPFL controlled most of Liberia between 1990 and 1992. The chaotic environment that it created would appear to help substantiate that a “greed” approach means rebels do not govern. In fact, it was integral to maintaining a distinctive political regime. Its war was not “new” and the spaces it controlled were not “ungoverned.” Violence and patronage were integral to the NPFL regime. In both respects NPFL leaders extended political practices they had learned in prewar Liberia, especially from President Samuel Doe’s regime. Violence served accumulation. Maintaining insecurity facilitated personal loyalty to political leaders and military commanders. Profits from commercial ventures went into the pockets of leaders and commanders. The veneer of a government administration, legislature, and courts was constructed primarily for an unsuccessful effort to gain international recognition and for additional opportunities to collect bribes.
Africa's creditors stress ‘capacity building’ measures to strengthen bureaucratic effectiveness to reverse economic and political decline (Dia 1993). World Bank officials point to the East Asian example of success in using government policies and institutions to promote ‘market friendly’ growth policies insulated from the pressures of clients demanding payouts as a positive example for Africa (World Bank 1993a). Analysts recognise, however, that decades of patron-client politics and intractable rent-seeking behaviour (the use of state resources for personal gain) among state officials limit short-term prospects for increasing revenue collection. With little internal financing for market-boosting policies, World Bank programmes prescribe extensive civil service layoffs. Subsequent reductions in unproductive expenditures will reduce corruption, balance national budgets and remove obstacles to private market growth. Economic growth will in turn produce a class of entrepreneurs to demand more policies and slimmed-down bureaucracies to enhance economic efficiency. This ‘growth coalition’ will identify their interests with those of cost-effective technocratic administrators (World Bank 1994a:10–13).
Meanwhile, reform programmes stress the role of foreign investment in generating reliable, politically insulated revenues, especially where domestic public and private investment is limited. A recent World Bank report recommends privatisation and commercialisation of customary state activities where scarce revenues and political entanglements make technocratic reform unlikely (World Bank 1994b:22–51). It argues the advantages of private contractors taking direct responsibility for state services, especially in public works and utilities that are crucial to attracting more foreign investors and supporting local entrepreneurs.
By the late 1970s a new type of rebel struggled against despotism and repression – reform rebels. Their targets were indigenous African rulers such as Uganda's Idi Amin (1971–79) and Ethiopia's Mengistu Haile-Mariam (1975–91). Leaders of these new rebels promised to fight against repressive African governments to bring about a “second liberation” to implement new ideas of governance in areas that they controlled. They adapted the anti-colonial rhetoric of national emancipation and a new societal order. Like anti-colonial and majority rule rebels, reform rebels accepted existing borders. Even Eritreans who fought to create a separate country argued that Eritrea's status as a former Italian colony (1896–1941) and its 1950 UN-sponsored federation with Ethiopia entitled it to separate statehood, and that Eritrea's independence was just the last stage of decolonization.
These rebels faced a difficult environment in which their appearances seemed to be at odds with the idea in this book that rebel behavior and organization reflect the broader political context in which they fight. Yoweri Museveni's National Resistance Movement (NRM), the Eritrean People's Liberation Front (EPLF) and Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) in Ethiopia, and the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) lacked the international support that their anti-colonial and majority rule counterparts enjoyed. Those rebels could reasonably count on support from the OAU Liberation Committee and the UN Decolonization Committee, provided that they could convince outsiders of their capacity to fight alien rule.
This book surveys the history of armed conflict in Africa in the period since decolonization and independence. The number of post-independence conflicts in Africa has been considerable, and this book introduces to readers a comprehensive analysis of their causes and character. Tracing the evolution of warfare from anti-colonial and anti-apartheid campaigns to complex conflicts in which factionalized armies, militias and rebel groups fight with each other and prey upon non-combatants, it allows the readers a new perspective to understand violence on the continent. The book is written to appeal not only to students of history and African politics, but also to experts in the policy community, the military and humanitarian agencies.
Violent encounters between states and rebels and the international community's assumptions about how Africa's states should be governed underscore the last half-century of warfare on the African continent. The founding compact of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) in 1963 that forbade countries from conquering their neighbors' territories had a very real impact in nearly eliminating conventional wars between African states. Much of this had to do with the mutual recognition of vulnerabilities. But the wider global decision that international borders would be sacrosanct no matter how illogical or inconvenient they may appear has turned attempts at conquest such as Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's bid in 1990 to annex Kuwait into futile projects that generate almost total condemnation by other states and in this case reversal by a military invasion. This compact has largely held in Africa, as it has in much of the rest of the world. The Tanzanian invasion of Uganda in 1978–79 forced from power Uganda's President Idi Amin after he had violated this compact with his occupation of a chunk of Tanzanian territory. Ethiopia's and Eritrea's war, which broke out in May 1998, was about the exact location of an international border, not its revision. The Ethiopian army's 2006–09 intervention in Somalia came at the invitation of the weak, UN-backed transitional government. Morocco's war to annex Western Sahara on Spain's withdrawal from its colony in 1976 really was an irredentist exception, although some argued that Morocco made no claim against the territory of an existing sovereign state.
The rebels who fought white-dominated regimes for majority rule in Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), South West Africa (Namibia), and South Africa tried to present themselves as deserving international recognition. From the 1960s through the early 1990s international politics greatly influenced how these rebels presented their goals and strategies to their followers and the rest of the world. As in the case of the anti-colonial rebels, external supporters pressed rival rebel groups to show evidence of popular support in a particular country and to unify into a single organization, although often there was disagreement among these backers as to which rebel group was to be preferred. Rebel leaders knew that they had to convey an image of unity, through either agreement or superior performance on the battlefield, if they were to attract the money and diplomatic backing required to fight their wars. The link between socialist ideology and the organization of rebels and their strategies was evident too. Many majority rule rebels also sought rear bases and solidified their personal and operational ties to their anti-colonial brethren as those rebels came to power in the wake of the Portuguese withdrawal in 1974.
The regional politics of majority rule left its imprint on rebel organizations. Internal politics of the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) and the Zimbabwe African People's Union (ZAPU) reflected the necessity for these movements to align their ideas with those of Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere and Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda to secure their backing.
Between 1961 and 1974 the anti-colonial rebels considered in this chapter fought in the Portuguese colonies of Guinea, Mozambique, and Angola. Majority rule rebels who fought the white minority–dominated governments in other parts of southern Africa are the subject of the next chapter. These two categories of rebels share many features. Nowhere did armed groups win a decisive military victory, although the Partido Africano da Independência da Guiné e Cabo Verde (PAICG) came closest, capturing about 80 percent of Portuguese Guinea by the time Guinea (Bissau) declared unilateral independence in 1973. White minority rule in Rhodesia ended with rebels in control of about a third of the country's territory. Right up to the end of the South African apartheid regime, the ANC had difficulty coordinating action inside the country. International diplomatic and material support for rebels reflected the global condemnation of colonialism. Also facing the intensification of international political isolation and ever-tightening economic sanctions, the white minority regimes recognized that the apartheid system was no longer tenable and held democratic elections that ultimately led to a black majority government in 1994. Thus international support for these rebels and pressure on the governments of target states played decisive roles in shaping the path for rebel victories.
The Oodua People's Congress (OPC) in southwestern Nigeria would seem to have been a good candidate to become a reform or a separatist rebel group. From about the mid-1990s, it had substantial grassroots support within the Yoruba ethnic community. It supported vigilante groups to protect this community against a terrible crime wave in which many people suspected police complicity. It worked alongside organizations that advanced political programs such as the Oodua Liberation Movement, the Oodua Youth Movement (OYM), and the Yoruba Revolutionary Movement. “Our primary objective,” said OPC National Secretary Kayode “Sankara” Ogundamisi, “was to canvas a sovereign national conference that will lead us to an autonomous Yoruba nation,” whereas the OYM called for an “Oodu'a Republic.” OPC organizers used alliances with cultural associations to promote the popular political narrative of self-determination and opposition to the corrupt state. OPC's capacity to control and administer neighborhoods and to fight the police suggested that it occupied new fields of leverage in congested urban areas to challenge the state and to chart a new political future.
A closer look at the OPC's activities revealed numerous links to incumbent politicians and showed how the OPC acted more as a tool of politicians' ambitions rather than as a new force in politics. This tendency became more pronounced with Nigeria's return to electoral politics in 1999, one year after the death of the dictator Sani Abacha. In December 2001, for example, Nigeria's Attorney General Bola Ige was shot in an unsolved murder.
Widespread fighting started in 1996 in Zaire, which in 1997 was renamed the Democratic Republic of Congo. According to one estimate, by 2004 this conflict had killed 3.9 million people from direct violence and the effects of the breakdown of public order. By 1994, four years of fighting in Liberia had driven more than 794,000 people, about 30 percent of the country's population, to seek refuge in neighboring countries. About 30 percent of Sierra Leone's population, or 1.15 million people, were internally displaced or became refugees in 1999, the eighth year of that war. These measures of disorder reflected the failure of warlord rebels to build liberated zones, protect non-combatants, or rally people around convincing political programs as alternatives to corrupt or oppressive regimes. Warlord rebels tended to devote at least as much time to fighting among themselves as to fighting government forces. Much the same can be said of government forces that also suffered factional splits and preyed on their own citizens.
Warlords dominated conflicts in the 1990s and early 2000s in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Côte d'Ivoire, and Guinea-Bissau. They also played major roles in Congo, Somalia, and elsewhere. People in these places often saw warlord rebels as at least as corrupt and oppressive as their often-violent and disorganized governments. Although some warlords had significant support from communities that stood to benefit if the warlord was able to seize state power, warlords did not court mass domestic or foreign support.