African History 6.7 Communism and War in the Horn of Africa
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“The Derg” might sound like a really fun ex-hippie uncle, but trust us: you wouldn’t want to mess with them.
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So let’s…horn in on it… [Girl uses an air horn]
Here’s how it went down…
In 1974, our buddy Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia was violently overthrown by a
pack of Marxist military officers called The Derg. [The Derg throw Haile away]
The Derg didn’t take down Haile on their own.
The USSR hooked them up with all the weapons and money they needed to take Selassie down.
But not everyone in Ethiopia was cool with the Derg.
Moderate democratic socialists weren’t into the Derg’s hardcore ways, and civil war [Democratic socialists protest on the streets]
flared up immediately.
The war lasted from 1975 to 1991.
Yep, that’s over 15 years of Ethiopian on Ethiopian violence, brought to us by the USSR,
without commercial interruption.
Soviet strategists even helped the Derg write some of their greatest hits, like… mass [Soviet strategist playing the piano]
murder, purges, and military crackdowns.
Soviet influence spread out from Ethiopia like a bad case of poison ivy.
In 1976, the military interim government in Somalia was replaced by a socialist one-party state.
Islamic fundamentalists tried to put up a serious fight, but the Soviets propped up [Men in suits fighting with swords]
the failing socialist government.
Things were downright terrible and out of control. [Soviet soldiers pull the men apart]
But when the USSR went bankrupt and folded in 1991… everything got even more insane.
Two regions, Somaliland in Somalia and Eritrea [air-uh-TREE-uh] in Ethiopia, declared independence.
Islamist movements seized chunks of land in both states. [Islamic man holds a piece of dirt and claims it as his own]
So the countries were crumbling like old, stale biscuits.
Without any gravy in sight.
Ethiopia next launched into a bloody fight for democracy.
Multiparty elections were eventually held in 1994, and a milder socialist government [Man voting at a polling booth]
But the bad stuff was far from over.
Islamic terrorism, Christian nationalism, and regional politics did their best to take
down the new regime.
So it responded with strict police crackdowns and attacks on freedom of the press. [Police running down a street]
Then, in 1998, Ethiopia got into a war with Eritrea over a border dispute and both governments
Oh, and also there was a huge drought. [Man in desert looking for water]
Well, at least we can’t blame the USSR for that one…
Despite everything that happened, Ethiopia is still holding it together.
Sure, it’s got more than its fare share of problems, but it’s still holding elections
and working as a unified state.
But Somalia…err…not so much.
There, several different governments claim to be the true Somali government, and each
rules its own part of the country.
Competing socialist, moderate, and Islamist ideologies have caused bloody street clashes. [Two men fighting in the street]
Different clans, or extended families, have tried to carve out small empires in various
parts of the country for themselves.
Continuous war has prevented real development.
And the increasing poverty and desperation has made Somalia a recruiting ground for terrorists
Anyway, colonialism was wrapping up by the time of the Cold War, but Somalia and Ethiopia
demonstrate how meddling by outside powers was still causing huge problems. [Somalia and Ethiopia both firing guns]
When the power is a superpower like the US or the USSR, those problems can get, uh…super
big… [Zombie smashes through a wall and the USSR and US look terrified]