“Consider within Africa, the Soviet Union decided to

“Consider the main
features and impact of superpower intervention in Africa” 


With the Cold War being that of a
war of Ideology, the main objectives of both the United States and
the Soviet Union was to help the establishment of either Socialist or
Capitalist nations within Africa, with “no
middle ground between the two camps” (Patman, 1990, p.35). In
order to ensure this, superpower intervention was required. In
this essay, I will discuss the features and impact of such superpower
intervention. Firstly, exploring the shift in spheres of
influence throughout the period, and its effect
on each power’s foreign policy. Secondly, I will
explore the impact of the established governments within
African nations on the changing levels of
democracy over the cold war. Finally, I shall
investigate the result of proxy wars that emerged
within Africa, exploring their effect on nations,
both socially and economically. 

We Will Write a Custom Essay Specifically
For You For Only $13.90/page!

order now



At the start of the cold war, before either superpower
had intervened within African affairs, both US and Soviet foreign
policy towards Africa was very similar. Both aimed to establish government
sympathetic towards their political regime, in order to increase
their sphere of influence. For the US, this policy was perused for
quite some time, with help from the fact that newly independent nations were,
according to Frantz Fanon, “practically under the
obligation of maintaining definite and deferential relations with the former
oppressor”. This thus created western friendly capitalist regimes within
Africa, increasing American influence within the continent. It was this
increase in US influence that in fact deterred the USSR from
making relations with newly independent states. This being due to the
soviet view that these nations were under the “virtual rule of
British and American imperialism” (Patman, 1990, p.41). 


In 1960
however, in order to finally gain influence within Africa, the Soviet Union
decided to change its foreign policy, establishing diplomatic relations with
newly independent Somali following a border disputes
with Ethiopia left it out of the US sphere. Here the Soviet Union decided
to offer
military aid without “political conditions” (Patman,
1990, p.49) unlike that of the US. Here it stepped back from its
policy of establishing socialist states within Africa claiming
that Somalia was “Socialist by nature” (Patman, 1990,
p.49). This way it could still increase its sphere through providing
economic and military assistance. This proved successful, leading to perusing a policy of indirectly supporting separatist movements within Africa. This policy is displayed in the provision of “over one billion dollars worth of arms” (Patman, 1990, p.205)
to Cuban combat troops in Ethiopia during their civil
war. This allowing the establishment of Soviet supporting regimes. This
policy was successful in increasing the soviet sphere, with
the establishment of numerous socialist nations such as


As a
result of increased soviet influence within Africa post 1960, the US was
obligated to revise their foreign policy with Africa in order to keep
their influence. This was stated by President Ford, saying that the shift in
foreign policy was simply “resistance to Soviet
expansion”(Wright, 1997, p.75). During the 1970s the US followed policy similar
to that of the Truman Doctrine, which as historian Eric Foner claims, expressed a need to assist anti-communist
regimes, “no matter how undemocratic” (Foner, 2007,
p.892). This policy is evident in 1977 when support was given to the white
minority government in South Africa, during its involvement in conflict
within Angola and Mozambique. Even when America had accepted the need for
change towards black majority rule” within Africa (Saunders and
Onslow, 2010, p.222). This is recognized by
assistant secretary of state Bathsheba Croker, stating that the
“ultimate goal” of US foreign policy in Africa was to “reduce
and eliminate the communist combat present” (Bender et al, 1985, p.115).
Showing a major shift in US foreign policy as a result of an increasing Soviet



A second
key feature of superpower intervention within Africa, was that of the
installment of regimes ideologically similar to the superpowers, in
order to help gain spheres within Africa. However, due to the shift in
more aggressive policy from both superpowers throughout the cold war,
an impact of such established regimes was on the levels of democracy
expressed. At the start of the cold war, due to America’s more
relaxed policy within Africa, the establishment of democratic regimes was the
main objective. This is most evident in Ghana, in which following its
independence, the political regime was quickly abused, becoming a
one-party state. Though Ghana was very much still a capitalist country, and
remained within the US sphere, the CIA is reportedly responsible
for organizing a coup, which led to the re-establishment of a
democratic government with Ghana (Blum, 2013, p.199).     


during the 1970s when the communist sphere was increasing, US policy
was more focused on supporting regimes that will not fall
to communism. As a result, in 1971, the US supported the installation of
Idi Amin’s military dictatorship, which replaced the previously Soviet
supported socialist government via a coup d’état. Amin, who has
been described as “one of the most brutal military dictators
to wield power in post-independence Africa”
(Keatley, 2003), went against all of America’s
democratic beliefs. Doing this
by, dissolving parliament, killing off political opponents, and
creating a police state (Keatley, 2003). However, in 1976, Britain and the
US broke off diplomatic relations with Amin, following the Entebbe raid.
This showing that American tolerance toward the acceptance of
anti-communist regimes was limited. Ironically, following this
break in relations, Amin shifted his elegance to the USSR. The fact that the
Soviets embraced Amin and his regime shows that both superpowers were
willing to support a brutal dictator in order to gain influence within Africa.
This is furtherly shown following the USSR’s lack to condemn Amin’s
invasion of their “Friend” Tanzania (Ottaway, 1979). 



Finally, with a high level of tension
between the two superpowers during the cold war, and the threat
of mutually assured destruction following any direct conflict, a main feature
of superpower intervention within Africa was that of Proxy wars.
the superpowers indirectly supported insurgents/regimes favourable
to them within conflicts, providing them with training
and funding to successfully fight on their behalf. A key example of
such proxy wars was displayed
in Angola, where, following a civil war, a Soviet backed group
came on top.
This resulted in the CIA establishing covert
operations to fund rebel groups, and overthrow the
government (Wright, 1997, p.65). Such conflict had a huge
internal impact, with it being estimated that from 1980-89, 1.3
million people died as a result
of conflict within Angola and Mozambique (Jaster et
al, 1991, p.131). Many of these deaths however are not as a
direct result of conflict, but is made up of innocent
civilian deaths, for example in Mozambique 1983-4, a famine caused
by rebel disruption of farms, led to the deaths of 100,000
civilians (Jaster et al, 1991, p.131). This type of famine was common within
countries involved in such proxy wars, and massively effected
the life expectancy of citizens, with the average life expectancy of
an Angolan in 2003 being less than 40 (Polgreen, 2003).  


In Addition, a large consequence of these
wars was mass terrorism. Here, rebels attacked the
states infrastructure, burning down farms,
destroying schools, transport systems, and hospitals. As
well as, murdering, mutilating, and kidnapping foreign aid workers,
teachers, nurses, and engineers. This resulted in the stagnation of progress
within these nations, making them “ungovernable and
uninhabitable” (Jaster et al, 1991,
p.136). This resulted in destroying the nation’s economy,
with both Mozambique and Angola losing half their potential GDP in
1988 to the conflict. This additionally added towards the lowering
of life expectancy, after the destruction of half of all of the
health centres between 1982-89 in Mozambique (Jaster et al,
1991, p.136) caused 2 million citizens to
be deprived of healthcare in 1985. This destruction
of the state resulted in a refugee crisis In Angola and
Mozambique, it has been estimated that during these wars, eleven million
citizens were driven from their homes, with 1.5 million felling
to neighbouring states, and 9 million becoming internally displaced
(Jaster et al, 1991, p.131). This led to vulnerability,
especially amongst children, leading to the sexual abuse of
girls and use of child soldiers within rebel groups. As
stated by Jaster, it was children who were “the main
victims” of proxy wars (Jaster et al, 1991,


In conclusion, it is evident that superpower intervention
within Africa resulted in a number of problems. This battle for influence
within the continent led to an increasingly aggressive
change towards foreign policy in an attempt to maintain and
furtherly increase such influence. This change in policy began to
neglect democratic principles, shown in the rise in acceptance
of autocratic and ruthless regimes, as well as the creation of proxy
wars. This resulted in a lack of governance within the nations,
both in nations under military dictatorships and involved
in proxy wars. This damaged many nations’ economies as
well as their infatuation, creating high levels of poverty, refugees
and death.   





Books and Articles:


Bender, G.J., et al, “American Crisis Areas & U.S. Foreign Policy”,
University of California Press (1985)


W., “Killing Hope”, Zed Books (31 July. 2013)


E., “Give Me Liberty! An American History”, W. W. Norton & Company (19 Dec.


R.S. et al, “Changing Fortunes: War, Diplomacy, And Economics in South Africa”,
Ford Foundation (1992)


C., https://www.theguardian.com/world/2003/dec/06/russia.georgia,
6 Dec. 2003


M.P.,  The Cambridge History of the Cold
War Volume III (“The Cold War in Souther Africa, 1976-1990”), (Cambridge
University Press, 2010)


 Patman, R.G., “The Soviet Union in the Horn of Africa”,
Cambridge University Press (1 Jun. 2009)


L., http://www.nytimes.com/2003/07/30/world/angolans-come-home-to-negative-peace.html,
30 Jul, 2003


D.B., https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/politics/1979/01/16/tanzanian-economy-hurt-by-conflict-with-uganda/6549fcd2-2799-4972-9723-a49ec0cc1cd0/?utm_term=.f536230cebd9,
16 Jan. 1979   


G., “The Destruction of a Nations”, Pluto Press (1997)







New York Times


Washington Post