A SHORT SUMMARY OF SOME OF THE CONFLICT IN SOUTHERN AFRICA
The Apartheid state was codified into law under President Jan Smuts in 1948. Apartheid, essentially the process of keeping the races apart, had already been practiced in South Africa unofficially for almost three centuries. Marriage between blacks and whites was forbidden. Restaurants has Whites-Only and Blacks-Only areas. The pass laws restricted movement for blacks. The intent behind codifying Apartheid was to control the black masses better in a legal framework.
Blacks could not vote in general elections. To put a veneer of propriety to the mass disenfranchisement of the majority of the population, the South African government created Tribal Homelands or Bantustans, Ciskei, Transkei, KwaZulu, Bophuthatswana, etc. Thousands of Blacks were forcibly relocated to these Homelands and stripped of their South African citizenship. Unlike Lesotho and Swaziland, which are truly independent nations inside South Africa, these homelands’ independence was fictional. The South African military reserved the right to use force in the Homelands, and the Homelands’ budgets were subsidized and controlled by the South Africa government. No one was fooled, and no one outside of South African recognised these “nations” as real.
A liberation movement started in the 1960s: The face of the liberation movement was the African National Congress (ANC), though many entities opposed White Rule. The ANC was largely ineffective as a revolutionary movement: a few bombings here and there, nothing too destabilising. Reactionary forces in the government and military used every provocation to escalate the repression of blacks. This increased the ANC’s popularity commensurately.
Trade and arms embargoes imposed by the Western nations were largely ineffective as the South African government developed an extensive third party networks to get around sanctions. Sports sanctions were arguably the most effective measures at producing change, as South Africa could no longer participate in international rugby tournaments.
In 1990, President F.W. de Klerk entered into negotiations with ANC with the intent of ending segregation and introducing majority rule. He released Nelson Mandela from prison, repealed Apartheid legislation and set multiracial elections with universal suffrage for April 1994.
Whites throughout southern Africa were worried about Black Rule in South Africa because almost every other African country granted independence since World War II had fared horribly. South Africa was the economic powerhouse for the whole region and the ripple effect from South Africa’s decline would be tragedy for a hundred million people.
No one could really object to Nelson Mandela, but he was an old man already when he was released from prison on Robben Island. Many white South Africans were more concerned about who would follow Mandela. His wife Winnie, Chris Hani and Cyril Ramaphosa were all in Mandela’s inner circle, and any one of whom could have been his successor.
Winnie was the second wife of Nelson Mandela and was known to her supporters as the "Mother of the Nation". She served as a Member of Parliament and on the ANC's National Executive Committee but then her name became synonymous with abuse of power. Her security detail, known as the “Mandela United Football Club”, necklaced* alleged police informers and apartheid government collaborators. She was convicted of the kidnapping, torture, and murder of 14-year-old Stompie Sepei but went to jail years later for fraud and corruption.
Chris Hani, the head of the South African Communist Party (SACP), was assassinated in 1993 in Dawn Park in Johannesburg by Janusz Waluś, an anti-Communist Polish refugee who had close links to the White nationalist Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging (AWB). Hani enjoyed widespread support beyond his constituency in the SACP and ANC.
Cyril Ramaphosa was the ANC's Chief Negotiator during South Africa's transition to democracy. Ramaphosa had also built up the biggest and most powerful trade union in the country: the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM). Ramaphosa is now well known as a businessman, and his estimated net worth in 2019 is over R6.4 billion ($550 million) with ownership or leadership in companies such as McDonald's South Africa, the multinational telecom company MTN and the mining company Lonmin. Cyril famously turned his back on his base, mineworkers, when he pressed for action against the miners striking at Marikana, one of Lonmin’s mines. He called strikers conduct "dastardly criminal" and sanctioned "concomitant action" to be taken. The subsequent Marikana massacre was the most lethal use of force by South African security forces against civilians since 1976. In 2018, he did finally become President of South Africa.
The Mozambican Civil War was fought from 1977 to 1992 between Mozambique's ruling Marxist Mozambique Liberation Front (FRELIMO) and the anti-communist insurgent forces of the Mozambican National Resistance (RENAMO). RENAMO was heavily backed by the anti-communist governments of Rhodesia and South Africa who supported them as a proxy to undermine FRELIMO support for militant nationalist organisations in their own countries. The war ended when RENAMO’s support was withdrawn, first from Rhodesia, then South Africa.
The Bush War or Zimbabwean War of Independence started in 1964 and ended in 1979. The main players on the Black side were the ZANU and ZANLA. The Cold War was in full swing, so the Bush War became a proxy war for East vs. West, communism vs. capitalism. The Rhodesian Government of Ian Smith relied on support from South Africa. Sanctions busting was rampant as many countries that publicly decried Rhodesian racism did business with Ian Smith’s government through backdoor, third-party channels.
The beginning of the end of Bush War was heralded the wildly successful Rhodesian cross-border army raid into Mozambique in August 1976 (dubbed "the Nyadzonya Raid"*) that killed over 1,000 people. The commander officer told the press that his forces has targeted a guerrilla training camp. The international press had a different take, though, upon revelations that many of the people killed appeared to be camp followers or innocent civilians. World opinion generally condemned the raid as a massacre. While Rhodesian could be credited with holding their own on the military front, they were losing the political war. The next year, during Operation Dingo, military commanders replicated the “success” of Nyadzonya, in Chimoio and Tembue. These horribly lethal attacks on ZANLA encampments in MOZ were simply re-labelled by the international press as massacres, and, similar to Nyadzonya, had, despite thousands of enemy casualties, zero impact on Rhodesian steady trajectory to defeat.
Robert Mugabe’s ZANU eventually won the Bush War, but, over time, the “Father of the Nation” ruled more dictatorially. He killed more Zimbabweans than Ian Smith ever would have been able to stomach. Dissent was squashed. Protestors kidnapped, tortured, and buried in mass graves. He celebrated lavish birthdays as his people starved from his economic policies. Hyperinflation made life impossible for ordinary people. One trillion-dollar bills printed were worthless before they made it into circulation. His cronies profited handsomely. Land was forcibly taken from white farmers (not a first, but eventually, without compensation) and given to the Veterans of the Zimbabwean War of Independence who had complained bitterly that 20 years after liberation they still had nothing. The land went fallow. Zimbabwean food production was fraction of that of Rhodesian, and Mugabe had to rely on aid and food imports to feed his people. Mugabe never saw his policies as the problem. He blamed the Whites, the West, outside agitators and inside traitors. He became the poster boy for “absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
*See also Michael Knipe, "Rhodesians ask UN to investigate camp raid", The Times, August 25, 1976.
THE RWANDAN CIVIL WAR
There are two main tribes in Rwanda, the Hutu and the Tutsi. Traditionally, the Tutsi had a herding tradition. The Hutu were primarily farmers. The Tutsi have been described as light-skinned and tall, while the Hutu dark-skinned and short. In modern times, the difference between the two groups is not that well demarcated due to frequent intermarriage and the use of a common language, Kinyarwanda.
Before the arrival of the Europeans in Africa in the 1800s, the region now referred to as Rwanda was ruled by a line of Tutsi kings. The colonial powers (Germany before World War 1, Belgium after) kept the Tutsi kings in power.
It was not until a Hutu coup in 1961 officially deposed the Tutsi king and abolished the Tutsi monarchy. Rwanda became a republic, and an all-Hutu national government came into being. Independence from Belgium was proclaimed the next year.
The transition from Tutsi to Hutu rule had not been peaceful. From 1959 to 1961 some 20,000 Tutsi were killed, and many more fled the country to neighbouring countries, Uganda and Zaire (now called the Democratic Republic of the Congo). Additional rounds of ethnic tension and violence flared periodically and led to mass killings of Tutsi in 1963, 1967, and 1973.
By the late 1980s, the country was divided into two fighting factions. The Rwandan Armed Forces, representing the government of Rwanda under the leadership of President Habyarimana, were Hutu. The French government supplied materiel, training, and intelligence. The exiled rebel Rwandan Patriotic Front (or FPR from their initials in French) under the leadership of Paul Kagame represented Tutsi interests. The CIA backed Kagame.
In 1990, FPR rebels invaded from Uganda. A cease-fire was negotiated in early 1991 and the civil war ground to a stalemate. By 1993, an end to hostilities was proposed by President Habyarimana, considered by some a moderate. Hutu extremists were strongly opposed to peace.
On the evening of April 6, 1994, the plane carrying Habyarimana was shot down on approach into the capitol’s (Kigali) airport. Hutu extremists claimed the Tutsi were responsible and used Habyarimana’s assassination as a pretext to take control of the government and to start a planned program of mass killings of Tutsi. All evidence points to the Hutu extremists having carried out the assassination themselves.
The next few months saw a wave of anarchy and mass killings, in which the army and Hutu militia groups played a central role. Radio broadcasts further fuelled the genocide by encouraging Hutu civilians to kill their Tutsi neighbours, who were referred to as “cockroaches” that needed to be exterminated. It is estimated that some 200,000 Hutu participated in the genocide, although some were unwilling and consequently were forced to do so by the army and Hutu militia groups. The methods for killing were typically quite brutal, with crude instruments often employed to pummel or hack away at victims. Machetes were commonly used. Rape was also used as a weapon and included the deliberate use of perpetrators infected with HIV/AIDS to carry out sexual assaults; as a result, many Tutsi women were intentionally infected with HIV/AIDS.
The FPR resumed fighting in earnest, but this time started winning. They had taken the capital Kigali by July 4. Extremist Hutu leaders fled the country, ending the civil war. During the 100 days, beginning on April 6 and ending in mid-July, extremist Hutus slaughtered between 800,000 and 1,000,000 civilians, primarily Tutsi.