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About this book

An indispensable introductory textbook that provides students with a genuinely comparative study of the different trajectories and experiences of independent African states. Paul Nugent explores a range of key concerns including the impact of HIV and AIDS, the contagion of warfare, and efforts at achieving national reconciliation both in the past and today.

This is an ideal core text for modules on Modern African History, African Politics or Africa since Independence - or a supplementary text for broader modules on African History - which may be offered at the upper levels of an undergraduate History, Politics or African Studies degree. In addition it is a crucial resource for students who may be studying modern African history for the first time as part of a taught postgraduate degree in African History, African Politics or African Studies.

Table of Contents

Introduction: The Basis of Comparison

Abstract
To embark on writing the history of an entire continent is inevitably a highly ambitious enterprise. Indeed, given the number of abandoned wrecks littering the historiographical roadsides, one might even conclude that it is foolhardy. To write a history of Africa is yet more ambitious, given the sheer size and complexity of the subject-matter. This remains the case even if one excludes North Africa and some of the islands, as I do here.1 Despite a persistent belief that Africa is vast but pretty much the same — how else can people talk of travelling ‘to Africa’? — it is far more diverse than Europe, whether measured in terms of language, social organisation, religion, environment or cultural expression. It has also undergone even more dramatic upheavals over the past half-century, which is saying something. Finally, Africa is the continent which has been subjected to the greatest distortions and wilful misunderstandings with respect to its past, and this still impedes our progress. Before saying anything substantive, the historian has to spend much of his/her time simply trying to set the record straight. If North Americans find Europe bewildering, with all its historic enmities and obsessions, then they should be prepared for something even more taxing when it comes to Africa.
Paul Nugent

1. African Independence: Poisoned Chalice or Cup of Plenty?

Abstract
Although this book is concerned with Africa since independence, there is a compelling case for adopting a somewhat longer-range perspective. Few historians would dispute that colonialism left a legacy which endured beyond independence day, and many would contend that its echoes still resonate in the twenty-first century. Hence the clock cannot realistically be started in 1960 — the so-called year of African independence — or, for that matter, in 1956 when an independent Sudan came into being. At the very least, one needs to take account of the protracted processes of decolonisation which unfolded in the aftermath of the Second World War, because the permutations prepared the ground for much which was to follow. The aim in this chapter is not to provide an exhaustive account of colonialism or of decolonisation, both of which have been the subject of substantial monographs in their own right.1 It has a more limited remit, namely to convey some sense of what the rulers of newly independent states were actually inheriting and to examine how new languages were coined — of participation, development and a common humanity — which helped to shape the post-colonial world.
Paul Nugent

2. A Profile of Africa at Independence

Abstract
In the chapters that follow, we will consider how Africans made the best of the difficult legacy which had been bequeathed by the departing colonial powers. Whereas the rest of the text follows a broadly linear historical sequence, albeit within a thematic structure, this chapter provides a simple cross-section of post-colonial states as an aid to the discussion that follows.
Paul Nugent

3. The Shape of Things to Come: Irredentism, Secessionism and the Pan-African Ideal

Abstract
As we have seen in Chapters 1 and 2, the playing out of the colonial endgame gave rise to a territorially fragmented continent where the sheer viability of many of the constituent states was open to question. Although independence was seized with alacrity in most cases, there was a lack of consensus about whether the new map of Africa ought merely to be taken as a starting point or its contours should be considered immutable. In many cases, leaders clung on jealously to what was theirs, whilst others pursued irredentist claims against their neighbours. Some, like Kwame Nkrumah, expressed a keen interest in territorial mergers with a view to avoiding the perils of continental balkanisation, while demands for secession elsewhere threatened to break the continent into yet smaller pieces. Of all the weighty questions facing the first generation of post-colonial leaders, perhaps none was of greater moment than the configuration of the political map. With the benefit of hindsight, some have bemoaned their over-eagerness to perpetuate the terms of the European partition. But it would be a mistake to forget that over the first decade or so there were many efforts to chart a different course. In order to understand what eventually transpired, we need to take account of a combination of factors which tilted the balance in favour of one outcome rather than another: including the ambitions and resources of the leaders concerned, their levels of grassroots support and the international environment in which they were forced to operate.
Paul Nugent

4. Modernity and Tradition, Power and Prestige: Monarchs, Chiefs and Politicians, 1956–74

Abstract
In 1970, Pierre Alexandre, who had served a lengthy stint in the French colonial service, observed that,
The problem of chieftaincy in Africa would seem today, according to certain points of view, to be outmoded, a thing of the past relegated to the background by the more pressing questions of political, social and economic development which are more in tune with the modern world. Chiefs now appear to interest only the ethnologist, if not the archaeologist or even the paleontologist.1
Paul Nugent

5. ‘Ism Schisms’: African Socialism and Home-Grown Capitalism, 1960–85

Abstract
In Chapter 4, we dealt with the rearguard action by ‘traditional leaders’ to cling to their once-exalted position in the face of the determination of politicians to concentrate and monopolise political power in the name of modernity. In this chapter, we will compare two versions of that modernist vision: namely ‘African socialism’ and ‘African capitalism’. The African descriptor is not redundant here. As the above quotes demonstrate, the champions of each of these tendencies saw themselves as departing in significant ways from Western models — from pure economic liberalism in the one case and from classical Marxism in the second. With the benefit of hindsight, it is tempting to argue that these paths were not really so different after all, given the centrality of the one-party state in each case and the frequent use of public resources for private gain. However, this would be an overly reductionist reading, glossing over substantive differences. The fact of the matter is that Kenya and Tanzania did make very different choices after independence, and these had real consequences for the citizens of both countries.
Paul Nugent

6. Khaki Fatigue: Military Rule in Africa, 1960–95

Abstract
At independence, it was widely assumed that the Armed Forces would accept their support role in relation to the duly constituted civilian authority. However, it did not take very long before this assumption was called into question. The Congo crisis, which propelled Mobutu to the fore, provided an early indication that the men in khaki had the capacity to set themselves up as the arbiters of the fate of squabbling politicians. From here, it was but a short step to dispensing with the politicians altogether, as Mobutu and his Beninois counterparts were to do in 1965. The first substantive coup d’état took place in Togo in 1963, during which Sylvanus Olympio was assassinated as he attempted to escape into the American Embassy compound. This was followed by a rash of military takeovers across the continent, which consumed both the more fragile states like Benin, the Central African Republic (CAR) and Upper Volta, as well as those which seemed more viable like Ghana, Uganda and Nigeria. By 1984, there were only 16 countries left which had not experienced a successful coup, whilst takeovers averaged three per year since 1963.1
Paul Nugent

7. Second Liberation: Guerrilla Warfare, Township Revolt and the Search for a New Social Order

Abstract
Whereas Chapter 6 dealt with the invasion of the political arena by the Armed Forces shortly after independence, here we are largely concerned with a different face of militarism: namely, the phenomenon of the liberation movement. In the Portuguese colonies, it required sustained guerrilla warfare before the last vestiges of European rule were removed from African soil in 1974/75. Apart from Djibouti, that only left white minority rule in Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) and South Africa, and the latter’s dominion over South West Africa (Namibia). Here liberation wars were also fought, but with differential levels of success. In each of the cases under consideration, a retarded liberation also brought a significant reappraisal of basic objectives. Whereas the first generation of African leaders were only too happy to accept the reins of power from the departing colonial power, the initial optimism surrounding independence had dissipated by the end of the 1960s. The liberation movements therefore envisaged a different kind of freedom, which would not merely substitute black faces for white ones,but transform the very nature of power itself. In the Portuguese territories, Rhodesia and (to a lesser extent) SWA, nationalists embarked on a ‘people’s war’ — a term which signified that liberation would benefit the mass of the population, but equally that it would result from their active participation.
Paul Nugent

8. Invasion of the Acronyms: SAPs, AIDS and the NGO Takeover

Abstract
In the heat of decolonisation, the deceptively simple concept of ‘development’ was born. Whereas the interwar colonial regimes had been far more concerned with sound administration and with balancing their books, their post-war successors sought to morally rearm themselves by presenting the state as the harbinger of economic development and social improvement. At independence, African regimes commandeered the package, encouraged by newly established international organisations, like the World Bank and the tentacular agencies of the United Nations that proliferated after 1945. It became an unquestioned assumption that African countries would add annually to their GDP growth rates and their living standard indices as part of a global human progression. As we have seen, African rulers believed that they had to jet propel themselves if they were to catch up with the advance party.
Paul Nugent

9. Democracy Rediscovered: Popular Protest, Elite Mobilisation and the Return of Multipartyism, 1990–2011

Abstract
The last two decades of the twentieth century were not merely remarkable for the extent to which African states surrendered their autonomy in the face of aid conditionalities and the invasion of the NGOs. As striking was the rediscovery of competitive politics. Under one-party and military rule alike, the circles of decision-making had typically narrowed to nested cliques, even though the regimes in question often claimed to be looking out for the interests of the whole population and sometimes lured interest groups into quasi-corporatist structures. Large sections of African society operating outside the charmed circle may have appeared to confer tacit consent on these arrangements by remaining overtly quiescent, but the silences often belied a more complex reality. Ordinary Africans concentrated their energies on getting by and, if they were lucky enough, exploiting the opportunities for rent-seeking which accompanied the African crisis. Many also found coded ways of deflating the pretensions of the powerful through carnivalesque humour. By the start of the 1980s, cynicism abounded, not least within the single parties and military coalitions themselves. In the 1980s and 1990s, the pendulum swung back again as significant sections of society weighed into politics with a gusto which had not been witnessed since the heydays of nationalism — and often exceeding it.The cities became the crucible of political opposition, whereas rural populations had learned not to reveal their hand prematurely.
Paul Nugent

10. Millennial Africa: The National Question Revisited

Abstract
At the start of the new millennium, the configuration of Africa was more varied than at any point since the Scramble. In some countries, democratisation led to a reinvigoration of politics and to an alleviation of political tensions. In others, the grim determination of incumbent regimes to cling to power at all costs, raised the real prospect of endemic civil unrest and renewed military intervention.1 More seriously still, the viability of the state itself was thrown into question across much of the continent, as armed factions carved out their own territorial niches. In most cases, they aspired to ultimate control of the centre, but where no faction commanded a decisive advantage, there was often a de facto fragmentation into competing fiefdoms. Whereas the international community had once worked on the assumption that the globe was naturally composed of sovereign states, there was a greater willingness to live with the possibility that states might fall off the map altogether — even if the termination of sovereignty remained the ultimate taboo. In this chapter, we examine the playing out of the national question across the continent from the 1990s. We start by revisiting some of the political unions that had been forged around the time of independence (see Chapter 3). We then consider the experience of countries plagued by a long history of civil wars. After that, we turn to the contagion of warfare in Central and West Africa. Finally, the book concludes with some general observations about the pursuit of national reconciliation and the acceptance of diversity at the start of the new millennium.
Paul Nugent
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