It is no secret that the West has had a hand in turmoils and conflicts in Africa. From slavery to colonisation, these western countries have put African countries in dire straits in terms of economic, political, and social development.
These interference has also been seen as far back as the 1950s when most African countries were agitating for independence and later after they gained independence.
America’s Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has been documented to have interfered with Africa’s post-independence government formation and establishment, either by helping depose promising leaders or installing brutal dictators, or both. In most cases, it was successful and in others, they were not
In the 1960s, America had made it clear that they were concerned about communism in the Congo, which would have taken root if democratically elected Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba ran things.
According to documents, there had been a plan by the CIA to ‘remove’ the charismatic leader, endorsed by then U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower. Apparently, the agency wanted to poison Lumumba’s toothpaste. According to then CIA field officer in the Congo:
“Sid was Head of the Technical Services Division, which was the one that provides all kinds of special equipment. He was Q, if you will, if you’ve seen a 007 movie. He arrived with some toothpaste, which would put the man away and some other poison of some sort, which I don’t remember what form but it was there. I was supposed to find some way to use it and I didn’t. I eventually threw it in the Congo River when time of, it had expired, its usefulness had expired.
With the plan now abandoned, the U.S. turned to support the opponents of Lumumba. They did nothing as Lumumba was tortured and arrested by the leaders of the time. They were even aware of the move by the government to take Lumumba to Katanga, the home of his sworn enemy where he met his death.
More declassified information from the U.S. also indicated that CIA gave Mobutu Sese Seko and Joseph Kasavubu money and arms to fight against Lumumba’s supporters.
Although the CIA was not directly involved in the assassination of one of Africa’s sons, it surely contributed to robbing Congo and Africa of one of the charismatic leaders it ever knew.
The CIA has also come under criticism for contributing to the overthrow of Ghana’s first president, Kwame Nkrumah. They are said to have advised and supported the coup plotters ahead of the February 1966 overthrow. According to records, a group known as 303 Committee had rejected an earlier CIA request to overthrow Nkrumah’s government which had annoyed the U.S. for maintaining ties with the Soviets and China. This also tied to the Upper Volta Dam as well as the aluminium project in Ghana, which the U.S. had financed in part.
Records show that the U.S. Embassy in Ghana had prior knowledge of the coup and had been planning to induce his downfall.
(6)Although Nkrumah’s leftward progress cannot be checked or reversed, it could be slowed down by a well conceived and executed action program. Measures which we might take against Nkrumah would have to be carefully selected in order not to weaken pro-Western elements in Ghana or adversely affect our prestige and influence elsewhere on the continent.
(7)U.S. pressure, if appropriately applied, could induce a chain reaction eventually leading to Nkrumah’s downfall. Chances of success would be greatly enhanced if the British could be induced to act in concert with us.
(8)Failure to act can only result in a further deterioration of the situation to the point where we may feel compelled to leave Ghana, thereby facilitating the chance of Soviet success.
The plan also involved painting Nkrumah as a danger to other African countries and thus isolating him.
Nkrumah was successfully deposed on February 24, 1966, when he was in Vietnam for a meeting with Ho Chi Minh. A memo was sent to President Lyndon B. Johnson to update him on the aftermath of the coup. It read:
The coup in Ghana is another example of a fortuitous windfall. Nkrumah was doing more to undermine our interests than any other black African. In reaction to his strongly pro-Communist leanings, the new military regime is almost pathetically pro-Western.
An American diplomat recently revealed that Nelson Mandela would not have been arrested in 1962 if not for a tip-off from the Central Intelligence Agency. The CIA was afraid of his connections with communists and thus informed the South African police of his whereabouts. Mandela would be arrested and sentenced to five years in prison.
In 1963, Mandela and three others were charged with four counts of sabotage and conspiracy to violently overthrow the government and were later sentenced to life imprisonment.
Donald Rickard, who served as the US vice-consul in Durban and was a CIA operative, revealed the agency’s involvement in the capture of Mandela just weeks before he passed away. He said:
Mandela would have welcomed a war. If the Soviets had come in force, the United States would have had to get involved, and things could have gone to hell. We were teetering on the brink here and it had to be stopped, which meant Mandela had to be stopped. And I put a stop to it.”
Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA)
In Angola, the CIA tried to stop the MPLA from taking over the country during independence in 1975 because of its affiliation with communist nations. According to declassified information, the agency was trying to prevent a communist takeover, and thus put its weight behind the National Front for the Liberation of Angola and the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola. They were however not sure that their effort would be successful. Throughout the civil war, the U.S. supported UNITA.
The MPLA was however successful and its leader, Agostinho Neto became the first president of Angola until his death in 1978.
Supporting Chad’s Hissene Habre
In Chad, the CIA supported one of Africa’s dictators Hissene Habre when he overthrew the government and throughout his rule in the country.
He was used as a tool by the Americans to fight against Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi under Ronald Reagan’s order. They formed a partnership with Habre and the first order of business was to put him in office.
Weapons from the U.S. found their way to Chad after a meeting between a CIA agent in Sudan and Habre and his team. Soon after, Habre made his way to N’Djamena and declared the establishment of Chad’s “Third Republic”.
With the same weapons given to fight America’s war against Libya, Habre turned on his people. He killed at least 40,000 people amid other human rights violations including rape and sexual assault.
According to Human Rights Watch, the extent of Habre’s atrocities was only revealed after he was deposed in 1990. This was allegedly due to his close association with the U.S. and France, which had provided the support he needed during his tenure.
A former senior U.S. official said that the U.S. was aware of how bloodthirsty Habre was but decided to turn a blind eye to his activities. “Habré was a remarkably able man with a brilliant sense of how to play the outside world. He was also a bloodthirsty tyrant and torturer. It is fair to say we knew who and what he was and chose to turn a blind eye,” he said.
If the CIA had not forced Habre on the people, one can only wonder which leader would have ruled Chad.