The Cold War and Africa’s Political Culture

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Abstract


Leadership and political systems in most of Africa have been described in several negative ways. Paternalism, clientelism, dictatorship, corruption and such pejorative labels have been used to described the type of politics prevalent in most of Africa today. A number of studies have explained Africa’s political challenges in the context of the choices of postcolonial African leaders. Others have pointed to European colonial exploitation and its destructive legacies as the foundations of the perverse political culture that define contemporary Africa. While these factors play important roles in defining the type of politics that has endured in the continent during the past half century, this paper takes a look at another epoch that had significant impacts on Africa’s political culture. The paper argues that the foreign policies of the United States and USSR - two major actors in Africa during the Cold War - had some of the most significant impacts on the political culture that evolved in postcolonial Africa. In pursuit of ideological supremacy, these foreign actors focused on undermining each other, with little consideration on how their actions in Africa were shaping the continent’s political development. By providing military support to opposing forces in African countries, the Cold War actors institutionalized a violent political culture in postcolonial Africa.

About the authors

Kenneth Kalu

Ted Rogers School of Management, Ryerson University

Email: kenneth.kalu@ryerson.ca
Toronto, Canada
PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Global Management

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