African Political Development:
Beyond the Cold War
SAM C. NOLUTSHUNGU
It is far too early to even to begin to appreciate the impact of the transformation of world power relations on African states, and the difficulties and opportunities it represents. Equally, the past, the Cold War is still too much with us for its significance to be fully grasped. What follow therefore, are only a few preliminary remarks that pose anew an old problem of politics.
The Cold War affected the evolution of politics and society in Africa in ambiguous, largely indirect, relatively limited ways. But the impact was real.
For most of the period of the Cold War, the major issues of international politics in Africa related to decolonization and to the relations with former colonial powers. Since these were key members of the Western alliance into which they had more or less incorporated or integrated their strategic and economic assets in the former colonial world, tension between Africa and the former European colonizers inevitably produced conflict with the United States. Two issues of decolonization loomed larger than any other: the decolonization of Southern Africa and the elimination of apartheid in South Africa. There was also the Arab-Israeli conflict, which was also bequeathed by colonialism.
The legacy of colonial rule and of the nationalisms that challenged it was not restricted only to international relations but reached into the domestic politics and economics of African states in such a way that internal development was always linked to relations with external powers. Ideologically, imperialism, as a general condition of Western domination and exploitation extending beyond the dissolution of formal empires was, to a greater or lesser extent, in the minds of most African intellectuals, closely linked with the condition of Africa: its underdevelopment and its political conflicts.
Since the Soviet Union declared itself against colonialism and neocolonialism and lost no opportunity to embarrass its Western rivals on this