Ahmadou Kharouma has created a thoroughly engaging character in Birahima our guide through Africa's wild west. He is like so many of the poor street children that pound Africa's streets doing their best to survive. He is a good kid, from a loving family, who do their best to protect him from the attractions of a life of crime.
Upon capture in Liberia where Birahima was going in search of his aunt with his village sorcerer, he is captured and joins the ranks of a group of child soldiers. He continues through Liberia and Sierra Leone joining the armies of a variety of power crazed war lords, each seemingly more insane than the previous. Documenting his personal experiences in a diary, he gives an often hilarious account of some of the most depraved, sadistic acts that anyone could imagine. These experiences no doubt helped to produce the colourful and vibrant voice that bursts from each page. Birahima's detached manner enables him to look objectively at the madness and contradictions that surround him and Africa in general.
It's a real slap in the face to Live 8's naive views that if we erradicate 3rd world debt, we erradicate poverty. It is minds that need to change and education that can only provide this. Otherwise Africa is doomed to repeate this cycle of abuse reeped upon them people such as Charles Taylor, Foday Sankoh, Hinga Norman etc. Birahima recognizes this and it is his despair at the ignorance of his fellow men that makes him angry.
All in all it was a fantastic read and one i can't highly recommend enough.