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Africa and the Cold War - Term 2 Week 4

A luta continua! Liberating southern Africa

While Britain and France largely retreated from their African colonial possessions in the 1950s and 1960s, in southern Africa, white minority regimes proved much more intransigent: the Portuguese imperial territories of Angola, Mozambique, and Guinea-Bissau; the self-declared independent state of South Rhodesia; and apartheid South Africa. Unable to secure independence via peaceful means, African liberation movements took to violence. In this class, we will explore the experience in exile of these guerrilla organisations, especially in terms of their connections with the communist world, which provided military aid and ideological guidance. Westad provides an overview; the three case studies elucidate different dimensions of the liberation struggles, offering contrasting perceptions of unity and division


1. Why did the armed liberation movements adopt violence as a means of struggle against Portuguese colonial rule and apartheid South Africa?

2. What was the impact of Soviet military training programs on African soldiers?

3. ‘The Cold War divided Africa’s armed liberation movements more than it united them.’ Discuss.

4. How critical was the support of the Soviet Union to the success of South Africa’s ANC?

Class readings

*Odd Arne Westad, The Global Cold War: Third World Interventions and the Making of Our Times (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), 207-18 [e-book].

Natalia Telepneva, ‘Mediators of Liberation: Eastern-Bloc Officials, Mozambican Diplomacy and the Origins of Soviet Support for Frelimo, 1958-1965’, Journal of Southern African Studies, 43 (2017), 67-81.  

George Roberts, ‘The Assassination of Eduardo Mondlane: FRELIMO, Tanzania, and the Politics of Exile in Dar es Salaam’, Cold War History, 17 (2017), 1-19.  

Jocelyn Alexander & JoAnn McGregor, 'African Soldiers in the USSR: Oral Histories of ZAPU Intelligence Cadres’ Soviet Training, 1964–1979', Journal of Southern African Studies, 43:1 (2017): 49-66  

General readings

Jeffrey S. Ahlman, ‘Road to Ghana: Nkrumah, South Africa and the Eclipse of a Decolonizing Africa’, Kronos, 37 (2011), 23-40.

Inge Brinkman, ‘War, Witches and Traitors: Cases from the MPLA’s Eastern Front in Angola (1966-1975)’, Journal of African History, 44 (2003), 303-25.

Jeffrey James Byrne, Mecca of Revolution: Algeria, Decolonization, and the Third World Order (New York: Oxford University Press, 2016). [e-book]

Amilcar Cabral, Unity and Struggle: Speeches and Writings (London: Heinemann, 1980).

João M. Cabrita, Mozambique: The Tortuous Road to Democracy (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2001). [e-book]

Basil Davidson, The Liberation of Guiné: Aspects of an African Revolution (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1969).

Stephen Davis, ‘The African National Congress, its Radio, its Allies and Exile’, Journal of Southern African Studies, 35 (2009), 349-373.

Stephen Ellis, ‘The ANC in Exile’, African Affairs, 90 (1991), 439-447.

Stephen Ellis, ‘Mbokodo: Security in ANC Camps, 1961-1990’, African Affairs, 93 (1994), 279-98.

Stephen Ellis, External Mission: The ANC in Exile, 1960-1990 (London: Hurst, 2012). [e-book]

Stephen Ellis, ‘Nelson Mandela, the South African Communist Party and the Origins of Umkhonto we Sizwe’, Cold War History, 16 (2016), 1-18.

Sayaka Funada-Classen, The Origins of War in Mozambique: A History of Unity and Division (Tokyo: Ochanomizu Shobo, 2012). [e-book]

Fernando Andresen Guimarães, The Origins of the Angolan Civil War: Foreign Intervention and Domestic Political Conflict (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2001). [e-book]

Allen Isaacman and Barbara Isaacman, Mozambique: From Colonialism to Revolution (Westview: Gower, 1983).

*Shubi L. Ishemo, ‘“A Symbol That Cannot Be Substituted”: The Role of Mwalimu J. K. Nyerere in the Liberation of Southern Africa, 1955-1990’, Review of African Political Economy, 27 (2000), 81-94.

Stephen F. Jackson, ‘China’s Third World Policy: The Case of Angola and Mozambique’, China Quarterly, 142 (1997), 388-422.

Edim Kodjo and David Chanaiwa, ‘Pan-Africanism and Liberation’, in Ali A. Mazrui (ed.), UNESCO General History of Africa, vol. 8: Africa since 1935 (Oxford: Heinemann, 1993), 744-68.

Colin Leys and John S. Saul, Namibia’s Liberation Struggle: The Two-Edged Sword (London: James Currey, 1995).

Arianna Lissoni, ‘Transformations in the ANC External Mission and Umkhonto we Sizwe, c. 1960-1969’, Journal of Southern African Studies, 35 (2009), 287-301.

Hugh Macmillan, ‘The African National Congress of South Africa in Zambia: The Culture of Exile and the Changing Relationship with Home, 1964-1990’, Journal of Southern African Studies, 35 (2009), 303-29.

Clapperton Chakanetsa Mavhunga, ‘A Plundering Tiger with Its Deadly Cubs? The USSR and China as Weapons in the Engineering of a “Zimbabwean Nation”, 1945-2009’, in Gabrielle Hecht (ed.), Entangled Geographies: Empire and Technopolitics in the Global Cold War (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2011) [e-book]

*Norrie McQueen, The Decolonization of Portuguese Africa: Metropolitan Revolution and the Dissolution of Empire (London: Longman, 1997).

Eduardo Mondlane, The Struggle for Mozambique (Baltimore: Penguin, 1969).

Eric Mourier-Genoud (ed.), Sure Road? Nationalisms in Angola, Guinea-Bissau, and Mozambique (Leiden: Brill, 2012). [e-book]

Simbi Mubako, ‘The Quest for Unity in the Zimbabwe Liberation Movement’, Issue, 5 (1975), 5-17.

Barry Munslow, Mozambique: The Revolution and its Origins (London: Longman, 1983).

Walter Opello jr, ‘Pluralism and Elite Conflict in an Independence Movement: FRELIMO in the 1960s’, Journal of Southern African Studies, 2 (1975), 66-82.

Michael G. Panzer, ‘The Pedagogy of Revolution: Youth, Generational Conflict, and Education in the Development of Mozambican Nationalism and the State, 1962-1970’, Journal of Southern African Studies, 35 (2009), 803-20.

Roger Pfister, ‘Gateway to International Victory: The Diplomacy of the African National Congress in Africa, 1960-1994’, Journal of Modern African Studies, 41 (2003), 51-73.

George Roberts, ‘The Assassination of Eduardo Mondlane: FRELIMO, Tanzania, and the Politics of Exile in Dar es Salaam’, Cold War History (advance access, 2016).

Hilary Sapire and Chris Saunders (eds), Southern African Liberation Struggles: New Local, Regional, and Global Perspectives (Cape Town: UCT Press, 2013).

Elizabeth Schmidt, Foreign Intervention in Africa: From the Cold War to the War on Terror (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013), chs 4 and 5. [e-book]

Vladimir Shubin, ANC: A View from Moscow (Belville: Mayibuye, 1999).

Vladimir Shubin, ‘Unsung Heroes: The Soviet Military and the Liberation of Southern Africa’, Cold War History, 7 (2007), 251-62.

Vladimir Shubin, The Hot “Cold War”: The USSR in Southern Africa (London: Pluto Press, 2008).

Thula Simpson, ‘“The Bay and the Ocean”: A History of the ANC in Swaziland, 1960-1979’, African Historical Review, 41 (2009), 90-117.

Ian Taylor, ‘The Ambiguous Commitment: The People’s Republic of China and the Anti-Apartheid Struggle in Southern Africa’, Journal of Contemporary African Studies, 18 (2000), 91-106.

Natalia Telepneva, ‘Mediators of Liberation: Eastern-Bloc Officials, Mozambican Diplomacy and the Origins of Soviet Support for Frelimo, 1958-1965’, Journal of Southern African Studies (advance access, forthcoming 2017).

Scott Thomas, The Diplomacy of Liberation: The Foreign Relations of the African National Congress since 1960 (London: IB Tauris, 1996).

Christian A. Williams, ‘Living in Exile: Daily Life and International Relations at SWAPO’s Kongwa Camp’, Kronos, 37 (2011), 60-86.

Christian Williams, ‘Silences, Voices, and “the Camp”: Perspectives on and from Southern African’s Exile Histories’, Humanity, 3 (2012), 65-80.

Christian A. Williams, National Liberation in Postcolonial Southern Africa: An Historical Ethnography of SWAPO’s Exile Camps (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015). [e-book]