Identify the problems that 2 African countries have faced since Independence
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As the population of white settlers increased in Africa due to colonization, the problems faced by the native Africans increased. Problems such as tribal disputes within borders created by the European colonialists, immense poverty among Africans, and neglected European promises thrived in all African countries. To the Africans it seemed that independence was the only way out of such crises and so after almost 40 years of colonial rule, war against colonization broke out as an attempt to construct a better Africa.
By the 1970s independence was gained and liberated Africans had begun to make their own decisions, but it seemed that Africa had gone from bad to worse. Poverty, starvation, diseases, corruption and civil wars broke out over Africa, darkening an already ‘dark continent.’ Although the colonialists can be held responsible for causing many of these problems, not all problems are a result of colonized Africa and many can be linked to the decisions made by the Africans themselves. Whether the problems can be linked to colonization or not depend on the type of issues, their causes, and also at what point in African history they took place. Different countries have faced different problems, some of which are results of colonization, some which aren’t.
To gain a better understanding of the types of problems faced and whether they can be related to European colonization, I will use two countries as examples. I will give accounts on the issues faced in two different African countries, namely Zaire (earlier Congo) and Uganda and the problems they faced after independence.
After gaining independence in 1960 from the Belgian colonists, the Congolese inhabitants were immediately exposed to racial turmoil. The first major problem that was faced by Congo was the bloodshed that was caused by racial tension between the European settlers and the Congolese. Although the Belgians had granted independence easily, they left the country disorganized and in total unrest. For the five years following independence, it is estimated that more than 200,000 Congolese were killed1 due to racial conflict and civil wars.
Seizing the opportunity, dictator Mobuto Sese Seko grasped his place in the government as president of the renamed Congo- Zaire. During the 30 years that Zaire was ruled by Mobuto with support from foreign countries, the country suffered a vast economic, social, and political downfall. By pocketing huge amounts of his country’s economy along with immense amounts of foreign aid and bringing in dictatorship with military rule, Mobuto only made things worse. Being as ‘refugees in their own country’2 the Zairians were helpless against the military supported Mobuto.
In 1996 Mobuto fled into exile due to a revolutionist democratic movement that started out in the east of Zaire under the support of Laurent Desiree Kabila who later affirmed himself president. The country was split into two partitions, the east that is controlled by rebel groups, and the west and south that are controlled by the government. The division remains till today along with unemployment, poverty, high taxes, starvation, and a country that looks like its routed straight for anarchy.
The fact that the Belgian colonists left Zaire without struggle did prove to be a slight advantage to both as neither had to suffer at the time. However the Zairians having had no experience of ruling a country due to the Belgian direct rule policies, thus the country suffered a great deal due to disorganization. The civil wars played a major part in Zaire’s struggle as well. These were mainly aroused due to more than 200 different ethnic groups being confined to the European laid borders3. Although Mobuto coming into power can be blamed onto the Zairians themselves, a fundamental part of his victory depended on the support of foreign countries, such as the U.S, Belgium, France and Morocco, all of who provided ample support especially during the Cold War. The support kept the Zairians from overthrowing Mobuto and also kept Mobuto from ceasing the abuse he laid upon the Zairians.
Uganda has also faced many problems after independence. After independence in 1962 from the British colonialists, Uganda seemed like it would be one of the more successful independent African countries. The country’s infrastructure had been well built and maintained by the British. The British settlers, having governed the country though indirect rule policies had given Uganda a better start than other colonialists. However, even Uganda’s perfect beginning did not keep the country from its near future downfall that was caused by political issues.
As political turmoil began rising Uganda’s economic as well as social situation began to deteriorate. This caused the rise of Idi Amin, a dictator who promised improvement but only succeeded in increasing the already existing disorder. Military coups took over as an effort to bring Idi Amin to a complete dictatorship reign and resulted in vast massacres and human rights violations. One of the other consequences of Idi’s doings was racial discrimination. Similar to Mobuto in Zaire, Idi Amin pocketed immense amounts of foreign aid that were intended to help cure the country’s major decline in economic status.
Being supported by foreign countries, the Ugandans could not overthrow Amin and were instead expected to bear the abuse that he laid upon the citizens of his own country. 7 years after Amin’s rise he was defeated by the ‘United Liberation Front’ and Obote was brought into power. However, Obote only succeeded in making matters worse as neither his economic, nor his political decisions helped the country, but instead turned Uganda’s downfall going at a constant rate. Finally the break out of the HIV/AIDS epidemic promised to completely destroy Uganda.
Here again we see that foreign countries had a major part to play in supporting Idi Amin through his detrimental rule, however that is not the result of colonization but instead the Cold war. In my opinion I believe that the failure of Uganda as an independent country is due more to the havoc caused by the African leaders themselves rather than colonization. It could be debated that most countries in Africa suffered to obtain democratic governments because colonization had caused them to be politically ignorant as well as inexperienced. However Uganda’s political instability seems to have been caused because of its incapable leaders. The HIV/AIDS epidemic cannot be classified as a result of colonization because it originated after the country was liberated from its colonialists. Thus concluding that a greater part of Uganda’s downfall was due to the country itself rather than its colonized past.
In conclusion, although many of the problems that African countries have faced can be related to colonization either fully or partially, many problems have been caused by the decisions made by the Africans and their leaders. One of the problems faced throughout Africa after independence was political instability. The fact that this was an issue in all colonized countries could be an argument against colonialism, however as we saw in Uganda, political problems could also have cropped up due to the leaders themselves. All in all it wouldn’t be a fair judgment to hold colonialists responsible for all the problems faced in Africa, as if that were the case, more than a few decades should have been enough to resolve those problems…shouldn’t they?