The Fate of Africa: A History of Fifty Years of Independence Paperback – Jun 27 2006
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. The value of Meredith's towering history of modern Africa rests not so much in its incisive analysis, or its original insights; it is the sheer readability of the project, combined with a notable lack of pedantry, that makes it one of the decade's most important works on Africa. Spanning the entire continent, and covering the major upheavals more or less chronologically—from the promising era of independence to the most recent spate of infamies (Rwanda, Darfur, Zimbabwe, Liberia, Sierra Leone)—Meredith (In the Name of Apartheid) brings us on a journey that is as illuminating as it is grueling. The best chapters, not surprisingly, deal with the countries that Meredith knows intimately: South Africa and Zimbabwe; he is less convincing when discussing the francophone West African states. Nowhere is Meredith more effective than when he gives free rein to his biographer's instincts, carefully building up the heroic foundations of national monuments like Nasser, Nkrumah, and Haile Selassie—only to thoroughly demolish those selfsame mythical edifices in later chapters. In an early chapter dealing with Biafra and the Nigerian civil war, Meredith paints a truly horrifying picture, where opportunities are invariably squandered, and ethnically motivated killings and predatory opportunism combine to create an infernal downward spiral of suffering and mayhem (which Western intervention only serves to aggravate). His point is simply that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely—which is why the rare exceptions to that rule (Senghor and Mandela chief among them) are all the more remarkable. Whether or not his pessimism about the continent's future is fully warranted, Meredith's history provides a gripping digest of the endemic woes confronting the cradle of humanity. (July)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
*Starred Review* When the decolonization of European empires in Africa began 50 years ago, the process was greeted with jubilation and immense hope for the future. Blessed with bountiful natural resources and led by Western-educated elites, the continent seemed to have a realistic chance to create stable, prosperous, democratic societies. Why did it all go wrong, and can it be made right? Meredith is a journalist, biographer, and historian who has written extensively on modern African history. His massive but very readable examination of African history over the past century unfolds like a drawn-out tragedy. Of course, the arrogance and ignorance of European masters planted the seeds of many of Africa's current problems. But Meredith refuses to let Africans off the hook for the endemic violence, corruption, and political repression that plague so many African states. While he pays tribute to icons like Mandela and Senghor, his contempt for the venality and worship of power that has characterized so many leaders from Nasser to Mugabe is palatable and justified by extensive documentation. One hopes for shreds of optimism for the future, but Meredith remains skeptical. This is a brilliant and vitally important work for all who wish to understand Africa and its beleaguered people. Jay Freeman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
Ghana was the first African state to gain independence in 1957; it was ruined within 8 years. Today the whole continent produces less than Mexico. Upon taking power, African leaders appointed their cronies in government instead of properly trained civil servants, of which there weren't many anyway. These ruling elites indulged in corruption, oppression and bribery from the beginning.
The continent has been cursed with corrupt, incompetent and greedy leaders who never cared for their subjects. There have been at least 40 successful and many more unsuccessful coup attempts these 5 decades. The latest fashion is to hold sham elections. In oil producing countries like Angola, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Nigeria and Cameroon, all the oil money ends up in the pockets of small ruling cliques while ordinary people subsist in misery.
The chapters are arranged according to this rogue's gallery of leaders like Amin, Bokassa, Mobutu, Nyerere, Banda, Mugabe, Kaunda, Kenyatta, Mengistu, Nasser, Nguema, Nkrumah. Other reasons for the failure are also considered, for example the rapid rise in population and unfavourable trade terms with the West.
But always the pattern repeats: coup d'etat, cruelty, misery, murder, refugees and the collapse of infrastructure. No matter how much money the West throws at the problem. Africa has had the equivalent of six "Marshall Plans" but the money ends up in Swiss bank accounts.Read more ›
This is depressing reading for the pattern continues in country after country, one leader after the other, and war after war, famine after famine. A rich continent is a basket case yet has every reason to be prosperous and vibrant. Only South Africa gives a glimmer of hope but that country still has many massive problems to overcome before it can reach out and help its neighbours.
This is a book of the politics of despair and cynics who care nothing for the people they are supposed to lead and protect. Revolt against this tyranny is either crushed or replaced with more of the same. It can only be hoped that now there is no excuse for any western powers to support these monstrous regimes for any reason. Martin Meredith has exposed the truth. He must be truly hated by Africa's ruling elites.
Other titles that treat this African malaise are DISCIPLES OF FORTUNE , AFRICA UNCHAINED, THE SCHACKLED CONTINENT, TRIPLE AGENT DOUBLE CROSS. Together these titles exposed the personal and collective problems of the people and the personal and collective efforts made, and the means and ways to take the Africa forward despite all the constrains.
Most recent customer reviews
A competent account of African politics and society since independence.Published 9 months ago by Willi Bee
...as this is one hefty book and looooong. Having said that, it is pretty clear and concise writing. Read morePublished on Nov. 4 2007 by Brian Maitland
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