Since the 1970s, Africa has become a caudillo of civil wars. For example, Angola and Mozambique degenerated into civil wars simultaneous with the gaining of independence from Portugal. In the 1980s, new civil wars erupted in various countries in Africa, including Liberia and Somalia. Furthermore, in the 1990s, Algeria, Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Sierra Leone became infected as well. At the beginning of the first decade of the twenty-first century, war broke out in the Ivory Coast, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Darfur region of Sudan. Some of these wars have ended in countries like Angola, Mozambique, Liberia, Sierra Leone and the Ivory Coast. However, the ones in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Somalia and the Darfur region of Sudan continue.
The emergent corpus of the scholarly literature has proffered various theoretical frameworks for explaining the causes of the various civil wars that have rocked the African region. For example, the ethno-communal theory blames antagonisms between and among various ethnic and other communal groups for the scourge (Horowitz, 1985; Kaufman, 2001; Haynes, 2007). The "greed and grievance theory" posits that civil wars on the continent are propelled by the greed of various rebel movements for the predatory accumulation of wealth through the control of natural resources (Collier and Hoeffler, 2000:3-4). The elite pathology Weltanschauung attributes the causes of civil war in the region to the "failure of governance" (Boas, 2001; Roessler, 2007). The anarchical or "new barbarism" theoretical animus pioneered by Robert Kaplan identifies a confluence of stresses--demographic, environmental, ethnic and governance--as the motor forces for civil wars on the continent(Kaplan, 1994; Kaplan, 2001).
Against this background, I contend in this article that one of the central collective weaknesses of the various theoretical frameworks is that they exclusively focus on domestic or internal factors as the causes of civil wars in Africa, and ignore the critical role of the overarching global tapestry--the world capitalist system--in contributing to the causes of civil wars on the continent. Ali and Matthews (1999:4) note the importance of global factors in the civil war matrix thus:
Civil wars may result not only from the impact of domestic social forces and the failure of governing elite. They can also emerge from forces, events, and activities originating outside the country, from the surrounding region or the world at large.
Using Liberia as a case study, this article examines the role of American neocolonialism in the creation of the contradictions and crises that led to the first Liberian civil war. In other words, in what ways did American neocolonialism help to sow, nurture and germinate the seeds of civil conflict and war in Liberia? Furthermore, the study uses Nkrumah's (1965: xi) definition of neo-colonialism as its conceptual framework. According to Nkrumah,
Neo-colonialism is ... the worst form of imperialism. For those who practice it, it means power without responsibility, and for those who suffer from it, it means exploitation without redress. In the days of old fashioned colonialism, the imperial power had at least to explain and justify at home the actions it was taking abroad. In the colony, those who served the ruling imperial power could at least look to its protection against any violent move by their opponents. With neo-colonialism, neither is the case.
Nkrumah (1965) posits that neo-colonial states are nominally independent and sovereign. This is because they have all of the outward trappings of international sovereignty (Nkrumah, 1965:1). However, in reality, their economic systems and thus their political policies are directed from the outside (Nkrumah, 1965:1). This then has the net effect of the neo-colony doing the biddings of its imperial patron.
Davidson (1992) traces the origins of neo-colonialism in Africa to the end of the colonial era. He posits that when African states gained their independence from the various European colonial and imperialist powers, beginning in the 1960s, they however found themselves enveloped by another web of servitude that was tied to a whole system of economic controls and conditions (Davidson, 1992:196). These economic controls and conditions are integral parts of the broad array of modes of interactions within the global political economy, which the imperialist powers use to subjugate and transform peripheral states into neo-colonies.
Treading on the same path, Babu (1992:15) argues that neo-colonialism is the off-shot of colonial ideologies and economics, conditioned by the exigencies of the Cold War. Within the context of the Cold War, the various imperialist powers transformed African countries into their respective neo-colonies. The primary function of the latter was to serve the economic, political, strategic and other interests of the former.
Harshe (1997) posits that neo-colonialism is a particular phase of imperialism and its associated web of domination and control. Neo-colonialism creates the nexus between the dynamics of external domination and the formal political independence of the subjugated peripheral states. Operationally, neo-colonialism functions through various modes--cultural, economic, political, and social. And further, Jones (2006) assesses the impact of neo-colonialism on the compradorial (the local wing of the ruling class) and subaltern classes of African states. In the case of the compradors, neo-colonialism has created an enabling environment in which they can enrich themselves through what he calls "parasitic and corrupt primitive accumulation" (Jones, 2006:1). And in contradistinction, neo-colonialism has visited deprivation and impoverishment on the subalterns through the process of neo-liberal reforms anchored by the "structural adjustment programs" of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Theoretical Framework: The Theory of Neo-colonialism
This study employs the theory of neo-colonialism as its framework. Drawing from the scholarly literature, the theory is based on several pillars. Neo-colonialism is anchored on an asymmetrical relationship between dominant and weak states. At the core is the disparity in national power--economic, military and political. The power asymmetry is then used by the dominant power as the leverage for getting the dominated peripheral state to do its biddings. In part, this is made possible because the leaders of the neo-colonies have been mentally colonized to accept the so-called "superiority" of the imperialists. In other words, the leaders of the neo-colonies lack the requisite political, sociological and philosophical education that would fully equip them to understand the machinations of neo-colonialism and to struggle against them.
Conversely, another element of the theory is that neo-colonialism operates through a broad array of modes of interactions between the dominant and dominated states--cultural, economic, political, military-security and social. For example, the dominant state gives economic and military aid to its neo-colony for the ostensible purpose of compensating the bureaucratic compradors, who manage the affairs of the state. As well, when the bureaucratic compradors are challenged by the subalterns, the dominant power uses various means to support the compradors. However, when the compradors either fail to do the biddings of the neocolonialists or no longer have value, …