The African continent has witnessed the following uses of propaganda: spread religion; support imperialism; rally support for world wars and the Cold War; support white minority regimes; and support decolonization and nation building. Today propaganda is routinely used to bolster the one-party rule that characterizes many states in the region, the most notorious contemporary exponent being President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe (1912— ).

The African continent can be divided into two distinct regions: North Africa, with its Arabic-speaking Islamic heritage, and sub-Sa-haran Africa. Islam has also played an important role in much of West Africa. The entire continent was profoundly affected by imperialism. Only Liberia and Ethiopia survived the nineteenth century unconquered. Colonialism remains a major issue in African propaganda as an explanation of African poverty. Southern Africa retains a substantial white presence, especially in South Africa.

Propaganda about Africa began in ancient times with legends about the savage lands beyond civilization. Europeans of the twelfth century imagined a lost Christian kingdom beyond the realm of Islam ruled by Prester John. Such ideas conditioned European reactions to sub-Saharan Africa during the Renaissance. After accepting Africans as profoundly “other,” it was only a short step to accepting their enslavement to provide the labor force for the conquest of the New World. One of the earliest examples of African propaganda is the anti-slavery autobiography written by former slave Olaudah Equiano (1745—1797) entitled The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano or Gustavas Vassa, the African . . . Written by Himself, which was published in London in 1789.

Traditional African societies developed complex systems of political communication. Successful exponents could accomplish considerable feats of mobilization, as was demonstrated by Shaka (c. 1787—1828), who founded the Zulu nation in the early 1800s, and his nephew Cetewayo, or Cetshwayo (c. 1836— 1884), who scored early successes against the British in the Anglo-Zulu War (1879). Traditionally the power of the leader was combined with religious ritual—typically involving dance—to form a cohesive whole. The potent mix of religion (especially Islam) and politics seen in places like Somalia is not a modern phenomenon. Usuman dan Fodio (1754— 1817) conquered an Islamic kingdom known as the Sokoto caliphate in Nigeria in the early nineteenth century. Around the same time a Sudanese leader called Seku Amadu built a kingdom across the Sahara. His propaganda included reference to a forged prophecy that a man named Amadu would become the final caliph. Later in the century Muhammad Ahmad established a theocratic state in the Sudan as the Mahdi (1844—1885). Dubbed “the Mad Mahdi” by the British press, he was defeated by a military campaign led by General Horatio Herbert Kitchener (1850—1916). For their part, Europeans justified their imperialistic designs on the African continent in religious terms. Christian missionaries like explorer David Livingstone (1813—1873) led the way. Christianity did not necessarily breed passive acceptance of Western rule. In Nyasa-land (now Malawi) a Baptist minister named John Chilembwe (c. 1860—1915) led an anti-colonial revolt in 1915.

European imperialism rested on propaganda both at home and in the African colony. European education emphasized the inferiority of Africans and the superiority of the white race, whose destiny was to rule Africa. In this view Africa became the “Dark Continent” needing white enlightenment. Western tools of communication such as photography, mapmaking and, in due course, cinematography were all used wittingly or unwittingly to elevate the white and denigrate the black. Novelists whose fictions perpetuated stereotypes of Africa include H. Rider Haggard (1856—1925), author of King Solomon’s Mines (1885). African subjects were a favorite of the early French documentari-ans. Later filmmakers—such as the postwar French ethnographic filmmaker Jean Rouch (1917— )—have sought to combat the stereotypes of the past, although their subjective medium created distortions of its own. Since the 1970s African filmmakers have increasingly represented themselves in dynamic films of their own, such as the successful Senegalese director Ousmane Sembene (1923— ).

For the European powers of the later nineteenth century, the conquest of colonies in Africa was a form of propaganda by deed, displaying the virility and prowess of the nation concerned. These colonial prophets included Cecil Rhodes (1853—1902). Latecomers to the imperialist game, like Italy and Germany, scrambled to catch up as colonialism became a vital component of domestic political propaganda and international rivalry. Successive waves of European colonization brought competing notions of imperialism. In South Africa tension between the British and the previous wave of white settlers on the continent, known as Afrikaners, sparked the Anglo-Boer War of 1899— 1902—complete with modern atrocities and corresponding propaganda.

Opposition to colonialism created a common ground for the otherwise disparate peoples of the African continent. The early years of the twentieth century saw the development of a Pan-African movement. Key spokespersons included the Jamaican-born activist Marcus Garvey (1887—1940), who attempted to link people of African descent in the New World and the Old through his Universal Negro Improvement Association. Later in the century such leaders included the great African American intellectual W. E. B. Du Bois (1868—1963), who embraced Pan-Africanism late in life, following his disillusionment with the prospects for reform in the United States. Other influential anticolonial writers included Frantz Fanon (1925—1961).

Africa played a role in events leading up to World War II. When Benito Mussolini (1883—1945) attempted to conquer Abyssinia (Ethiopia) in 1935, that country and its emperor, Haile Selassie (1891—1975), became a cause celebre. International support came only in the form of words. During World War II North Africa became a major theater, witnessing the battlefield use of psychological warfare by the Allies with mixed results. The Anglo-American compromise with the Vichy French in North Africa weakened Allied moral claims. Britain’s successful military campaign against the German general Erwin Rommel (1891—1944) was captured in one the most successful documentaries on the war, Roy Boulting and David MacDonald’s Desert Victory (1943); the American side of the story was told in Frank Capra’s Tunisian Victory (1944). In sub-Saha-ran Africa the British used various propaganda methods, including film, to convince Africans to serve in the war effort. In contemporary terms, they sought to “re-brand” colonialism by presenting a “New Empire” of interracial cooperation. Such an approach helped the presentation of the British case in the generally anti-imperialist United States. The content of wartime Allied propaganda in general, with its emphasis on self-determination and opposition to Hitlerian racism, meant that imperialism—new or old— would be difficult to sustain in the postwar world.

The aftermath of World War II brought profound changes to sub-Saharan Africa. The postwar decline of the old European powers opened the way to decolonization, while the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the United States presented rival agendas for modernization. With the United States and the USSR locked in a nuclear stalemate, Africa and the developing world became the battlefield for the Cold War by proxy. Both power blocs pumped propaganda into the region and competed with aid packages, student exchanges, or prestigious projects like the Peace Corps. Cuba became heavily involved in Angola. Following the Sino-Soviet split in the early 1960s, Africa became a three-way ideological battleground as the Chinese sought to export Maoism. African leaders, for their part, have become adept at manipulating world powers to suit their own ends and have made much use of the United Nations as a forum for their aspirations.

Postwar sub-Saharan politics were dominated by the emergence of a number of charismatic male leaders with Pan-African beliefs, who led their nations to independence, including Jomo Kenyatta (c. 1889— 1978) in Kenya, Kwame Nkrumah (1909— 1972) in the Gold Coast, and Julius Nyerere (c. 1922—1999) in Tanganyika. Propaganda played an important part in the nation building of the 1960s, when emerging countries sought to create new identities to supersede tribal and religious differences, thereby developing a modern nation within the boundaries imposed by colonialism. New names were necessary, so the Gold Coast became Ghana, Tanganyika and Zanzibar became Tanzania, Nyasaland became Malawi, Congo became Zaire, and so forth. The new nations faced many problems as debts accumulated and secessionist violence flared, with Congo and Nigeria suffering acutely.

By the late 1960s many of the newly independent countries had slipped into military one-party dictatorships, which leaned even more heavily on the cult of personality and control of the media. The most notorious examples of African dictatorship included Idi Amin (1925— ) in Uganda and “Emperor” Bokassa (1921—1996) in the Central African Republic. The dictators presented themselves as clients of the world powers. In Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo) Joseph Mobutu (1930—1997) worked closely with the Americans, while in Ethiopia Men-gistu Haile Mariam (1937— ) used rhetoric suggesting an alliance with the Soviet Union.

The tide of independence and majority rule encountered resistance in French Algeria, Portuguese Angola, and British Rhodesia, where politicians like Ian Smith (1919— ) played to the prejudices of their white minority supporters. The most notorious rearguard action against decolonization was that fought in South Africa. In 1910, as part of the settlement of the Anglo-Boer War, the British established the Union of South Africa as a single country that included the former Boer lands of the Transvaal and the Orange Free State. Afrikaners played an important part in defining the national culture in this new country. Jan Christian Smuts (1870—1950), who served as prime minister from 1919 to 1924 and again from 1939 to 1948, managed to reconcile Afrikaner heritage with loyalty to Britain and a moderate treatment of the black African majority. J. B. M. Hertzog (1866— 1942), prime minister from 1924 to 1939 and leader of the National Party (founded in 1912) adopted a more extreme position and championed a revival of Afrikaner culture. The centenary of the Boer “Great Trek” away from British influence, which occurred in 1938, became a rallying point for racist politics. Emotive events included a reenactment of the trek. Key propagandists for a policy of racial segregation from black Africans (known as apartheid) included Daniel Malan (1874—1959), editor of the newspaper Die Burger and Hertzog’s successor as leader of the National Party. The party assumed power in 1948 as a result of antiblack scare tactics, with Malan as prime minister. The National Party introduced a shamelessly racist political system that utilized “passbooks” to control the movement of blacks. In 1961 South Africa left the British Commonwealth and became a republic.

Opposition to apartheid sprang from such groups as the African National Congress (ANC), founded in 1912, among whose leaders was Nelson Mandela (1918— ). Other opposition voices included the novelist Alan Paton (1903—1988), author of Cry, the Beloved Country (1948), which was made into a film in 1951 and also served as the basis for the 1959 Broadway hit Lost in the Stars by composer Kurt Weill (1900—1950) and playwright Maxwell Anderson (1888—1959). The ANC smuggled poster and newspaper propaganda into South Africa from neighboring countries and broadcast over what was called Freedom Radio. Like the civil rights leaders in the United States, the anti-apartheid movement was able to publicize white atrocities, including the Sharpeville massacre of March 1960, in which seventy protestors died, and the numerous deaths connected with the Soweto protests of 1976. International tactics included an economic boycott of South African products and a sports-related boycott of South African teams. Among the voices preaching nonviolence was Anglican bishop Desmond Tutu (1931— ), who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984.

The white South African government responded to the challenge of the anti-apartheid movement with their own counter-propaganda, including radio and television broadcasts calculated to strengthen tribal feeling and divide the black community. The campaign included an international dimension emphasizing South Africa’s role as a regional bastion of anticommunism and emphasizing the elements of violence in ANC activities. Strict censorship prevented coverage of the ANC’s campaign in the white media within South Africa. Liberal journalists who resisted this tactic included Donald Woods (1933—2001). Black leaders were “banned,” jailed, and—in the case of Steve Biko (1946—1977)—murdered.

Beginning in 1989 the government of F. W. De Klerk (1936- ) accepted the inevitable and embraced reform. Nelson Mandela, released from jail in 1990, became president following multiracial elections in 1994; he did much to foster what he called “the rainbow nation.” Thabo Mbeki, who succeeded him in 1999, proved less adept. Mandela’s South Africa demonstrated considerable skill in addressing the heritage of apartheid through the operation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (199 6— 1998), chaired by Tutu, which defused opposition propaganda by revealing the atrocities committed under apartheid without resorting to reprisals or divisive trials.

In the 1980s and 1990s international bodies such as the World Health Organization (WHO) sought to use modern mass communications in Africa to prevent the spread of AIDS, among other causes; foreign-based broadcasters such as the Voice of America and the BBC have also played a part in AIDS education. Western media coverage of African events has tended to focus on disasters rather than daily occurrences and more recent success stories such as that of Eritrea, thereby perpetuating stereotypes.

In the 1990s Africa provided an object lesson in the power of the media. American TV news coverage of events in Somalia first necessitated U.S. intervention and then—when the TV images turned horrific—forced a withdrawal. In Rwanda, where the conflict between Hutu and Tutsi tribes was not favored with Western media coverage, Hutu extremists used radio broadcasts to spread tales of atrocities in order to inspire genocide. The end of the millennium saw an attempt to turn the media to Africa’s advantage with the Jubilee 2000 campaign, which demanded the remission of African debts by Western nations.

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