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Joseph N.

Kiarie (MA International studies-Security Studies)



A Paradigm Shift: Security Transformation in Post-

Cold War Southern Africa

19th March 2008

Joseph N. Kiarie (MA International studies-Security Studies)


The essay is a brief attempt to analyze how security has changed in

the Southern Africa region since the demise of the Cold War. The

states of particular interest within the region include South Africa,

Botswana, Namibia, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Angola. I argue that

the end of the Cold War in the region did not translate to a peaceful

and stable region, and neither did the states in the region

disintegrate as some scholars had foreseen. I make a case that the

end of the Cold War in the region had both positive and negative

contribution towards the regional security. What is certain in the

region is that there was indeed a paradigm shift in the nature of the

regional approach to security issues as well as the perception of

those issues.

To support my argument, I illustrate some of the underpinning forces

of this radical shift. Key among these forces of change includes, the

change from the state to the individual as the focal point of security

and a shift from bilateral security arrangements to collective security

approaches. I also argue that there was a shift from state wars to

intra-state wars. The new role assumed by military personnel, new

security Institutions and the complex nature of conflict that emerged,

as well as the role of accumulated weapons in the region after the

cold war, are other post-Cold War factors that I contend as having

Joseph N. Kiarie (MA International studies-Security Studies)

contributed to the change of security nature in Southern Africa



In the great global chess game of cold war, African countries were

used as pawns. Opposing factions fighting for power in these

countries exploited the patronage and protection of superpowers bent

on maintaining a particular global balance of power and influence. As

a consequence of these competing local and international political

powers, the superpowers involvement in Africa became manifested in

the form of protracted proxy wars.

The ‘need’ for the superpowers ideological influence in Africa was

definitely not one motivated by strategic or economic reasons;

neither was her geopolitical setting of that great interest. Africa, it

can be argued, had nothing of particular interest to offer to the two

superpowers, this is clearly evident by their haste retreat soon after

the demise of the cold war. It was only after the Cold War threatened

to become a total war in their strategic locations, that the

superpowers quickly diverted their attention and systemic

competition from the more dangerous to less dangerous theatres of

African states. (Ayoob 1991)

Joseph N. Kiarie (MA International studies-Security Studies)

The principle instruments of the proxy conflict in Africa, as was

generally the case, were diplomacy, economic assistance, ideology,

arms transfers and various forms of direct and indirect intervention.

But economic and ideological dimensions of the Cold War were only a

façade; it was security and the perceptions of security that was the

underpinning element of the Cold War in Africa. (Macfarlane 2002)

Economic and military interventions of the superpowers into the

domestic affairs of African states through different political factions

had a debilitating effect on these emerging and ‘unborn’ nation-

states. But it was the arms transfer race between the superpowers

that had the greatest devastating effect, increasing the incidence of

conflict through the availability of the instruments of conflict.

“The Cold War was hardly a period of stability in the Third World.”

(Acharya 2002, p.79) Acharya assertion is perhaps more truer in the

Southern Africa region than any other part of the Third World.

Baynham points out that “this region was a key arena of superpower

competition and conflict.”(Baynham 1992)

During the cold war, and perhaps even today, no other area in Africa

was regional geopolitics intricately intertwined like in Southern Africa.

And although the superpowers involvement in the geopolitical

supremacy of the region can not be underestimated, the involvement

Joseph N. Kiarie (MA International studies-Security Studies)

of the Southern Africa states in each others territorial affairs and the

ensuing destabilizing effect was overwhelming to say the least.

The USSR together with her allies directed their economic and

military assistance to the Popular Movement for the Liberation of

Angola (MPLA), the Liberation Front of Mozambique (FRELIMO), the

African National Congress (ANC) in South Africa and the South West

Africa Peoples Organisation (SWAPO) in Namibia. While on the other

side of the battle-lines the United States was backing the National

Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), the Mozambican

National Resistance (RENAMO) and the South African Defence Force


The influx of east block military advisers, soldiers and a supply of

arms to the region were indeed staggering. Simon Baynham argues

that the supply of Soviet arms to Angola and Mozambique were only

exceeded in Africa by those to Ethiopia; by mid-1986, Pretoria's

assistance to UNITA alone reportedly totalled over US$1 billion.

(Baynham 1992)

But not everyone believed that the Cold War had a negative effect on

the region, or even on the African continent as a whole. Helman and

Ratner argue that the Cold War actually constrained conflict and

enhanced stability in the third World through superpower diplomacy.

Joseph N. Kiarie (MA International studies-Security Studies)

(Helman and Ratner 1992) Kenneth Waltz is of the same opinion; he

argues that the balancing effect of the superpowers had a stabilizing

effect ensuring democracy and justice. (Waltz 1979) Macfarlane on

the other extreme argues that the Cold War did not really make that

much difference in Africa. (Macfarlane 2002)

A Wind of Change

The abrupt demise of the superpower rivalry and the sudden absence

of a balancing power in the region had very unpredictable

consequences. Many scholars had tried to predict the ramifications of

the end of the Cold War in Africa and in particular the Southern Africa

region. While others held a very optimistic view others held a deep

pessimistic view, believing the worst for Africa had just begun.

But the reality after the end of the Cold War did not border these

quite extremist views. As Macfarlane points out the difference that

the end of Cold War did make was somewhat different from that

which had been predicted. (Macfarlane 2002) But one thing that

became clear when the iron curtain fell and the Berlin wall crumbled,

was that Africa had lost whatever political lustre it may have once

had before the eyes the superpowers; (Perlez 1992) it was time for

her to tread in familiar yet unpredictable political waters.

Joseph N. Kiarie (MA International studies-Security Studies)

Those who held the prevalent view that Cold War created and fuelled

conflict and insecurity in Africa, opined that the end of the Cold War

would translate to greater security and less conflict. (Macfarlane

2002) This optimistic view was no doubt strengthened by the end of

the apartheid regime in Southern Africa. The apartheid regime,

though not to the extent of the superpowers rivalry, did fuel the

regional strife during the cold war. With the end of the apartheid

regime in South Africa, there was hope of the political settlement of

conflicts in the region. As Keith Somerville notes “these expectations

were heightened by the progress towards the independence of

Namibia” and “the hopes for realistic peace talks between the warring

parties in Angola.” (Somerville 2002, p.134)

Again, not all scholars maintained the view that the structural overlay

of the Cold War constrained conflict and enhanced stability in the

region. Simon Baynham had even predicted that “we may be looking

back with fondness at the predictable days of the Cold War.”

(Baynham 1992) Most scholars actually subscribed to this second

school of thought; they held the view that the end of bipolarity would

have a decompression effect on most of the conflicts. Jose Cintra

argued that the two superpowers had actually “suppressed many

potential third-world conflicts”; and while the end of superpower

rivalry had lessened the prospects for internationalization and

escalation regional conflicts, “other conflicts will very probably arise

Joseph N. Kiarie (MA International studies-Security Studies)

from decompression and from a loosening of the controls and self-

controls” exercised by the superpowers. (Cintra 1989, pp. 96–7)

Robert Jervis, was also of the same opinion, he observed that, with

the end of the dampening effect of the conflicts by the cold war, “we

should expect more conflict rather than less of it in future.” (Jervis

1991, p.59)

Oyebade and Alao contend that with the demise of the Cold War, new

problems such as ethnic rivalries and religious clashes emerged

within the continent. The duo maintains that the end of the Cold War

did not translate into a reduction of conflict but on the contrary had

helped to fan it. (Oyebade and Alao 1998) Nowhere in Africa was this

more pronounced than in the Sothern Africa region. Soon after the

end of the Cold War, it become increasingly clear that the Southern

Africa region was still highly unstable, despite the fact that the end

the Cold War had lessened the prospects for internationalization and

escalation of its regional conflicts. Roland Dannreuther later pointed

out that “despite its many inequities, the Cold War sustained and

supported a number of states which have now almost completely

disintegrated”. (Dannreuther 2002, p.43) Later on this statement

became almost synonymous with Namibia, Mozambique and Angola.

Joseph N. Kiarie (MA International studies-Security Studies)

The Paradigm shift

Tom Lodge contend that the end of international bipolar geostrategic

competition in Africa should logically have reduced such capacity, but

instead, there was an “overall weakening of African states and an

intensification of rebellions against their authority.” (Lodge 1999)

Other identifiable causes of conflict such as “weak states, divided

societies, economic deprivation, and social discrimination, the poor fit

between identity and territoriality” continued to deny the region

much needed peace and stability. (Macfarlane 2002, p.22)

Southern Africa’s liberation struggles and civil wars continued long

after the end of the cold war. In South Africa, argues Lodge, the

struggle reached a violent climax between 1990 and 1994 when

about 14,000 deaths occurred. The deaths were as a result of

militarised fights between the African National Congress (ANC) and

the Inkatha movement who had the support of the state. (Lodge

1999) More than three decades, after the end of the cold war, the

war in Angola is still on going. It took 24 years of insurrection and

warfare for Namibia to gain its independence in 1990, while the

Mozambique 16 year civil war only came to an end in 1992.

Apart from the involvement of the superpowers in the region, South

African government was heavily involved in all these conflicts;

sending military and economic support to antigovernment factions in

Joseph N. Kiarie (MA International studies-Security Studies)

states that harboured ANC fighters. Between 1980 and 1992, the cost

of SADF-sponsored wars in Angola, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia,

Zambia and Zimbabwe was estimated as involving the loss of 1.5

million lives and US$45 billion. (Steiner 1993, p.3) Johnson and

Martin argued that the impact of apartheid on the region in

ecological, economic and human terms ‘represents a holocaust’

(Johnson & Martin 1989, p.11)

It was only after 1990 that South Africa formally abandoned her

policy of military aggression and regional destabilization and

embarked on a greater regional cooperation on defence and security

matters. (Nathan & Phillips, 1992) The new impetus towards regional

cooperation as opposed to a hegemonic rule was born from the

realisation that South Africa could not escape the problems of its

neighbours, as they directly impinge upon its own stability and long

term security. The spill-over effects from the security problems of

neighbouring states could only be contained by ensuring peace in

those states. (Willet 1998)

There were other security factors that changed within the region after

the end of the cold war. Some changes were drastic while others took

time to emerge. Though some of the changes occurred within a single

state, the effects were more often regional. These changes were not

just restricted to the region but the entire African continent as well.

Joseph N. Kiarie (MA International studies-Security Studies)

From the state to an individual

During the Cold War period, a threat to state security arose solely

from other states armed forces challenging its sovereignty and

territorial integrity. But with the demise of the cold war, there was a

move from a state centric perception of security to a more holistic

one. Security became conceptualised as a multidimensional and

interdependent phenomenon. As Batchelor et al contends, the

referent objects of security was no longer confined to states, but

extended to other levels of interaction and analysis, to include

poverty, oppression, injustice and environmental degradation, among

others. (Batchelor et. al. 2002, p.27) Security and perception of

security became widened to embrace social, economic and political

issues and from national to both trans-national and sub national

levels. (Buzan 1991; Booth 1991)

With security no longer viewed from an external and purely military

perspective, but rather from an internal and non-military angle, the

security referent point was no longer the state but the individual. The

fundamentals within the concept of individual security included, food

security, environmental security, water security, etc. (Coning 1997)

South Africa ANC policy document on defence acknowledged this

drastic shift calling for a new approach to individual security. The

document stressed that

Joseph N. Kiarie (MA International studies-Security Studies)

“Security should not be restricted to military, police and intelligence

matters, but . . . political, economic, social and environmental

dimensions . . . Underdevelopment, poverty, lack of democratic

participation and abuse of human rights are regarded as grave

threats to the security of people”. (ANC 1992, Section Q2)

Towards collective security

Based on the notion of interdependence and the realisation that there

were global dangers which threatened the entire region, and which

could not be solved by boundary protection or by military centred

solutions alone, there was a dire need to move from the Cold War

military centred perceptions of national security to the larger sense of

collective security. Soon after the cold war, military power

increasingly appeared less appropriate to the maintenance of

international security or power, and at odd with new emerging

patterns of global threats. (Nye 1990)

Proponents of collective security such as Susan willet argued that

“Military centred notions of national security had become
fundamentally flawed in a highly interdependent world facing multiple
security threats that are not amenable to traditional statist solutions.”
(Willett 1998)

As a consequence of these paradigm shift, most Southern African

traditional security establishment and especially in South Africa,

found themselves in an equivocal position. They were faced with the

Joseph N. Kiarie (MA International studies-Security Studies)

difficult task of realigning themselves to conform to emerging new

patterns of reality. These changes were driven by a newly

empowered civil authority that advocated for a shift from the narrow

militaristic approach to an all embracing collective security approach.

(Thompson 1996)

A multilateral institution in the region was the inevitable response to

these changing patterns of security. As a result, the Southern African

Development Community (SADC) was created on 17 August 1992. Its

security arm, the Regional Security Council (RSC), was formed under

the principle of a “regional security policy [that] seeks to advance the

principles of common security, nonaggression and the peaceful

resolution of conflict.” (Batchelor et. al. 2002, p.27)

The new underlying security pattern in the region became one where

national security was sought with rather than against other states.

There was also the recognition that “international relations are

dominated by competing national interests and the risk of conflict”.

The only way to deal with this emerging phenomenon was to

embrace a collective security approach and “promote a culture of

peaceful conflict management and resolution.” (Willett 1998)


There was a great emphasis on the military dimension of security, in

Southern Africa during the cold war, this not only led to the

Joseph N. Kiarie (MA International studies-Security Studies)

burgeoning of military institutions and bureaucracies, but also

resulted in a serious neglect of non-military aspects of security such

as economic, environmental and human security.

After the cold war, a successful transition to peace and democracy in

the region depended on defence budget cuts and the downsizing of

defence force, coupled with the adoption of non-offensive defence

doctrines, and the implementation of confidence and security building

measures. Thousands of soldiers were demobilized in the region, for

example, between 1991 and 1994, full-time force levels were

reduced from 58,000 to 1 1,000 in Mozambique, and from 54,600 to

46,900 in Zimbabwe. (International Institute for Strategic Studies,

1995) while in defence budget, Botswana military spending fell from

$156 million in 1990 to $126 million in 1994, in Zambia from $74

million to $31 million; while in Zimbabwe from $388 million to $242

million. (Paul et al. 1997)

The disarmament and demobilization process was not one without

security consequences. Ex -combatants who could not find work

were in danger of falling back on what was the only skill they had –

the use of weapons – resulting in increased crime and possible

insurrection. The availability of weapons made this a more acute

danger. ( Motumi and McKenzie 1998) These fears became a

reality when civil wars broke out in some of the Southern Africa

Joseph N. Kiarie (MA International studies-Security Studies)

countries. As Cock argues the demobilised ex-combatants in Namibia,

Mozambique, Angola and Zimbabwe became a source of instability

within these countries. (Cock 1993)

Macfarlane, as well as other optimists, had believed that the

diminution of the two opposing global forces in the region and a shift

of the states attention from an emphasis on defence to economic and

political development, through cutting of defence expenditures, would

sow peace dividend in the region. (Macfarlane 2002, p.24) But this

was never to be the case, the civil wars and the liberation wars that

continued in the region after the end of the cold war, had shattered

this illusion.

Proliferation of Light weapon and small arms

According to Jacklyn Cock “the southern African region was awash with

small arms and light weapons.” (Cock 1998) The presence of this huge

amount of war materiel resulting from the arms race in the region

during the cold war, posed a new and more serious threat to the

regional security. The proliferation of this material vehicle of violence

ensured the perpetuation of armed conflict, a surge of an

unprecedented wave of violent crime in the townships and city centres

and an intensification of individual human insecurity in the region.

(Willet 1998)

Joseph N. Kiarie (MA International studies-Security Studies)

In states where peace had been hard won, particularly In South Africa,

Angola, Mozambique and Zimbabwe the proliferation of ‘war materiel’

potentially threatened the duration of peace accords and state

stability. As Cock opines, the proliferation of light weapons became the

key issue which threatened the consolidation of the regional security

on which all other transformation, such as economic, social and

political, depended. (Cock 1996)

New type of Conflicts

Cock argues that “since 1989 there have been global changes in the

nature of violence and armed conflict”, with a shift from the traditional

“war between states using major weapon systems, to intra-state war

involving light weapons.” (Cock 1998) This “remarkable break with the

past” quips Tilly (Tilly 1990, p.180) became more pronounced in Africa.

As Goulding further notes, "almost all the conflicts in Africa since the

end of the Cold War were conflicts within sovereign states. (Goulding

1999, p.158) But it was Southern Africa region that was the hub of

these intra-state conflicts.

The predicted era of peace and stability after the end of the Cold War

in the region was quickly shattered by an acceleration and

intensification of small but intense civil wars, characterised by racial,

ethnic, linguistic and cultural differences. these ‘teacup wars’ as Gelb

sarcastically calls them, (Gelb 1994) somehow flared up under the

Joseph N. Kiarie (MA International studies-Security Studies)

pressure of the region new found freedom, erupting to protracted civil

wars especially in Mozambique, Angola and Namibia, while a racial war

threatened to tear apart South Africa and Zimbabwe. (Coning 1997)

These ‘new’ forms of warfare that the end of the Cold War helped to

unleash in the region, can be partially explained by the above noted

differences, but more so by the fact that national boundaries in the

region, as in all African states, are fluid and shifting and their meaning

is ever a matter of contention and rivalry.

These arbitrarily states boundaries, have been blamed as the major

catalyst for the intra-state conflict in the region after the cold war. The

widespread proliferation of intrastate conflicts, as Susan Willett

contends, appear to have increasingly raised the threat of the system

of sovereign states; the conflicts threatened to disintegrate warring

states into new forms of organising principle of international relations

and diplomacy. (Willett 1998) Mozambique and Angola became an

exemplar of Willet unfounded fears.

New Complex Emergencies

With the demise of the Cold War in 1989 and the proliferation of

intra-state warfare’s, the distinction between combatant and civilian

during warfare become not only blurred but also almost irrelevant.

Civilians became increasingly the targets and instruments of war, and

as a consequence, the number of casualties increased exponentially.

Joseph N. Kiarie (MA International studies-Security Studies)

These ‘complex emergencies’ were complex in terms of the shear

numbers of players involved. They were also complex in their causes

and complex because of their repercussions; they resulted to massive

humanitarian tragedies that defied local help and required the

intervention of the international community. In Southern Africa

region, the Angolan civil wars are an excellent case of this post-Cold

War phenomenon.

New Types of Institutions

As the nature of conflicts changed and became more complex, new

forms of responses were required to tackle these conflicts. There was

a shift from the Cold War bilateral responses to conflicts settlements

to a new multilateral approach to conflict resolution. It was only with

the end of the Cold War that the United Nations became more active

in performing the kind of duties foreseen for it in 1945. as Macfarlane

observes, the UN " had been prevented from properly fulfilling its

role in the promotion of security by the cold war-induced impasse

within the Security Council”, but the “end of the Cold War permitted

more decisive action by the organization in response to threats to

international peace and security”. (Macfarlane 2002, p.24)

The resumption of civil war in Angola in the early 1990s soon after

the end of the Cold War is attributed to the failure of the UN to send

Joseph N. Kiarie (MA International studies-Security Studies)

peacekeeping forces in Angola to ensure a smooth transition from

war to a stable state. The UN failure to send the troops is in turn

blamed on the Security Council impasse and unwillingness to commit

the UN in such a venture.

The Organisation of African Unity (OAU) as well as South African

Development Community (SADC) were also unshackled from the Cold

War geopolitical constrains becoming more active in the attempt to

reconcile warring factions in Africa and Southern Africa states

respectively. In South Africa for example, the White Paper made

provision for and recognized the regional as well as the international

multilateral institutions as key players towards establishing a stable

and peaceful South Africa as well as the Southern Africa region.

New role for military Personnel

With the end of the Cold War and with the conflict resolution moving

from a bilateral to a multilateral level, the role of military personnel

also underwent radical shift. Peace operations as opposed to

traditional military duties, which mainly revolved around war making

during the cold period, became their new responsibility. In peace

keeping operations the military assumed other duties which were

otherwise seen as ‘civilians’ duties’. These included tasks such as,

human rights monitoring, election monitoring, demobilisation and the

reintegration of ex-combatants into civil society, civilian police

Joseph N. Kiarie (MA International studies-Security Studies)

monitoring, and protection for the civilian and humanitarian

personnel in peace operations, among other ‘civil duties.’

The end of the Cold War also saw civilian personnel working together

in peace settlement processes and in rebuilding of states after the

war. Economic, social and political reconstruction that took place in

southern Africa, especially in Angola, Mozambique and Namibia after

the end of the civil wars, is a good example of military and civilians

working together after the end of the Cold War period.


But even after the end of the cold war, southern Africa region, as is

the case with the rest of the Third World states, remained a prey to

the designs of the great powers. This can probably be explained by

the regions rich natural resources, especially in South Africa, Angola

and Mozambique which has seen the resumption of civil wars in

Angola and Mozambique several times after the end of the cold war.

The departure of the superpowers in the region saw the rise of South

Africa as the region as well as the continent most powerful state. In

the region South Africa has been accused by other states of

harboring ‘hegemonic tendency’ and supporting rebel groups in

neighboring states in her bid to achieve regional dominance.

Joseph N. Kiarie (MA International studies-Security Studies)


Despite African states having adopted a non-aligned foreign policy in

the attempt to shield the continent from the influences of the

superpowers during the cold war, the attempt not only failed but also

resulted to the continent becoming a key geopolitical arena of the

two superpowers. The impact of the end of the Cold War was felt

throughout the entire region, but it is the “perceived strategic

significance” as well as the “internal characteristics” that determined

the extent of the security impact of the subject states in question.

(Acharya 2002, p.32) Similarly, Oyebade and Alao argue that the

extent of involvement of each state was determined “more by the

vicissitudes of its internal and sub-regional politics”, and not their

“original intent to say out of Cold War politics”. (Oyebade and Alao

1998, p.8)

The paradigm shift in the nature of security in the southern Africa

region was an inevitable occurrence. It was not so much because of

the region’s geopolitical status, but as a result of the ‘wind of

change’. The end of the Cold War heralded a "new world order” which

called for new strategic, political, and economic interrelationships

globally. It is these global changes, after the demise of the cold war

that dictated the change of security and the perception of security in

the Southern Africa region.

Joseph N. Kiarie (MA International studies-Security Studies)


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