U.S. Policy in Postcolonial Africa: Four Case Studies in Conflict Resolution

Article excerpt

U.S. Policy in Postcolonial Africa: Four Case Studies in Conflict Resolution. By F. Ugboaja Ohaegbulam. New York: Peter Lang, 2004. Pp. xvi, 280. $32.50 paper.

F. Ugboaja Ohaegbulam's study offers an extremely teachable book for area studies, global studies, and history undergraduates as well as a resource for scholars in these fields. A strong historical analysis that encourages coordination between local and international conflict resolution mandates opens the way for more productive policy less encumbered by the colonial legacy. In a book designed around the most urgent unresolved African conflicts and their regional aftermath-the Horn of Africa, Western Sahara, Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Rwanda-the most critical chapter for the U.S. foreign policy specialist is Chapter 4 because of its careful descriptions of all the U.S. interventions in Africa that have promoted conflict resolution. However, this chapter is overwhelmed by decades of U.S. disregard of Africa as revealed in the case studies. When Ohaegbulam concludes that: "Of all the members of the United Nations, the U.S. is the most reluctant to endow the organization with sufficient capacities to be effective, except on issues directly affecting American's geopolitical interest... We consider the U.S. policy the most significant obstacle to resolving the Western Sahara conflict" (p. 127). It is abundantly evident that every conflict mentioned in the book is best understood, for this author, in the context of the woefully neglectful United States.

While Ohaegbulam's text begins with a nod toward postcolonialism, this framework hangs like a forgotten footnote through most of the text. Postcolonialism is not simply the era at the end of colonialism, it is also, certainly, earmarked by new migrating social identities and the emergence of new relations and actors whose successful interrogation of concepts such as "conflict resolution," ironically is modeled quite elegantly in the case chapters, if not informing the analysis of the actual conflict resolution measures. In this study, we get very little sense of the people and the key agents from Africa and their ability to negotiate these conflicts. Rather, the book is peopled with combatants and their victims, and internally displaced persons, who make for a desperately militarized independent Africa. Indeed, the 1.5 billion dollars spent by the United States on weapons in Africa from 1950-1989, the millions of people dead and displaced, and the personal and communal disasters that proliferated alongside the militarized Cold War conflict makes for a postcolonial Africa marred by anguish and oppressed by a mendacious and brutish United States. …