The State of Africa

A History of the Continent Since Independence

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    • £5.99
    • £5.99

Publisher Description

Africa is forever on our TV screens, but the bad-news stories (famine, genocide, corruption) massively outweigh the good (South Africa). Ever since the process of decolonialisation began in the mid-1950s, and arguably before, the continent has appeared to be stuck in a process of irreversible decline. Constant war, improper use of natural resources and misappropriation of revenues and aid monies contribute to an impression of a continent beyond hope.

How did we get here? What, if anything, is to be done? Weaving together the key stories and characters of the last fifty years into a stunningly compelling and coherent narrative, Martin Meredith has produced the definitive history of how European ideas of how to organise 10,000 different ethnic groups has led to what Tony Blair described as the 'scar on the conscience of the world'. Authoritative, provocative and consistently fascinating, this is a major book on one of the most important issues facing the West today.

1 September
Simon & Schuster UK

Customer Reviews

G.R.H.C ,

The State of Africa

The best I have read on Africa and the easiest to read. It really brings to light the plight of Africa caused by their leaders. This book puts in perspective the whole recent history of Africa. Loved it..

Adamant 123 ,

The Destruction of a Continent

This is a compelling account of the relentless decline in the potential for Africa to have shrugged off its colonial past, to have harnessed the infrastructure left by its former masters and to have tapped into its vast potential to improve the lives of its people since independence. Instead, the cult of the "Big Man" has predominated from the Maghreb through Francophone Africa and most of the former British colonies, leaders formerly committed to the cause of a new beginning for their people, but ultimately carving out personal fiefdoms at the expense of all but their own tribes and families, tolerating no dissent, inciting murderous hatred against any who dare oppose them and in the process squandering the opportunities they inherited, not to mention stealing vast quantities of the estimated $850 billion in aid that has flowed into Africa since the first days of independence.

Martin Meredith's account is by turns horrifying, grotesque, even bizarrely comic at times. One despot's (blatantly rigged) election slogan -- after years of the wholesale repression, rape and murder of the entire population by his henchmen -- was " he killed my pa, he killed my ma, but still I will vote for him". Few players in this drama -- former colonial powers and their agents, the Cold War warriors from the Soviet Union, the US, Cuba and China, aloof British expats, Arab strongmen, foreign multinationals, the Big Men and their families and cronies -- emerge with any credit at all. Particularly unforgivable was the role played by France in colluding with the Hutu Government of Rwanda which massacred three-quarters of its Tutsi population in little more than 100 days. Nobody knows how many actually died, but President Mitterand continued to support the leaders who incited their fellow Hutus to kill all the Tutsi "cockroaches" to maintain Francophone influence in this former Belgian colony and to prevent the influence of what he saw as Anglo-American proxies in Uganda and other East African states who were backing Paul Kigame's Tutsi rebel force closing in on the Rwandan capital at the time. The then Secretary-General of the UN, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, also emerges as one of the villains of the piece for his part in emasculating the UN peacekeeping force, despite the pleas of its Canadian commander to intervene to stop the massacres. There are a few saints encountered in this story: Nelson Mandela chief amongst them

Nevertheless, in Meredith's account most of the blame for the failings of African states falls on the Big Men themselves, from Amin to Bokassa, from Mobutu to Mugabe, they have plundered, abused, played the anti-colonial card, developed useless vanity projects at vast expense, destroyed their economies, played on inter-tribal or religious rivalries to retain their grip on power, recruited drugged child soldiers to fight their bloody battles, all at the expense of their long-suffering people, who continue to lack the most basic of human rights: food; clean water and sanitation;
education; the right to hope for a better life. This is a magnificent survey of the capacity for human folly and evil, superbly told.

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