History of Africa
In the last decades of the twentieth century, on the contrary, divisions and lacerations were accentuated, remaining the situation of the continent largely tributary to the organization established in the colonial era, with artificial borders, the predominance of Islamism in the North, a fracture between Anglophone, Francophone and Lusophone, the predominance of coastal areas and cities to the detriment of inland and agricultural areas, affected by widespread poverty and persistent rural exodus that favored massive urbanization phenomena. An economic, institutional and political inheritance inadequate to the problems of development and coexistence at internal and among African states themselves was the cause of the explosion of ethnic, religious, cultural centrifugal tendencies, of civil wars and bloody struggles that tore the continent apart. Furthermore, the end of the global confrontation between the USA and the USSR intervened to increase the picture of instability, with the consequent withdrawal of the Soviet bloc that had played a leading role in Africa. A striking case, in this sense, was represented by the collapse of the Ethiopian regime of Menghistu who, without Russian support, proved to be easy prey for an armed resistance capable of conquering the capital Addis Ababa (1991). See countryaah for all countries in central Africa.
The dictator’s departure also gave a solution to the age-old question of the independence of Eritrea and involved the launch of a new constitutional order in Ethiopia. However, the same was not the case in Somalia, where the popular uprising of 1991 against the power group gathered around Siad Barre it immediately turned into a dramatic confrontation between the various clans present in the country. Thus began a new disastrous civil war that destroyed the state, facilitated the separation of the North-West (the former British Somaliland) and found no way out even after the energetic intervention of the UN troops(1992-1995). On the other hand, first decolonization, the decline of neo-colonialism then and finally the withdrawal of the two greatest contenders of the Cold War (as well as the more gradual one of France, already the main neo-colonial power) left a void from which decisive consequences for the destinies of the entire continent. In fact, in connection with the developments of economic globalization, the role of international economic-financial organizations was strengthened World Bank and the Monetary Fund, guarantors of Western interests for the exploitation of African subsoil resources (minerals and oil) and for orders in the new infrastructure and telecommunications markets. This progressively reduced Western economic support to African countries to the humanitarian aspect alone, forced to develop regional integration policies, with the relative crisis of their national dimension and the progressive affirmation of local powers. The hopes repeatedly aroused by the advent of new ruling classes and by the recurring aspirations for an “African rebirth” thus ended up systematically shipwrecked in the face of a reality which, in the inability of the OAU to cope with the problems of the continent, was laboriously finding possible solutions to crises and conflicts, particularly in Northern Africa, isolated from the rest of the continent by the Sahara and located close to one of the critical nodes of the international balance, between the Middle East and the Mediterranean; this accentuated the attraction of the countries of Maghreb area towards the spheres of influence of the US power and of the closest Europe, both interested in the stability of an area that is a source of oil resources and with an expanding market due to its demographic potential (just think that the Maghreb population has tripled from the years of independence of the various states in the area). In the last decade of the twentieth century, the projects of economic and political collaboration advanced by both Europe and the USA (accompanied by the first offers of military cooperation with NATO addressed to Algeria and Tunisia) therefore aimed at encouraging an overall recomposition of the balance of the region, subjected to numerous internal and external tensions. Libya on the sovereignty of the Aozou belt (for many years the subject of dispute), the problem of the independence of Western Sahara from Morocco remained unresolved, the cause for years of the separatist guerrillas of the Polisario Front and a dispute with the neighboring Algeria, interested in one outlet to the Atlantic. Despite the failure of the repeated attempts at a referendum for self-determination proposed by the UN, the Saharan question seemed closer to a solution with the advent of the new Moroccan king Muḥammad VI (1999), protagonist of a measured reform and democratic opening.