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73 of 75 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sad Sad Sad..., 25 Mar 2007
This review is from: The State of Africa: A History of Fifty Years of Independence (Paperback)
Martin Meredith has written en excellent and thoughtful account of Africa's post-independence years. The book is not only well-researched but shows a familiarity with the Continent that is rare among Western commentators on Africa.

It is a stark, panoramic and forensic examination of the Continent. No country is left out. Mr Meredith captures the sense of optimism felt by many Africans at independence by painting real-life portraits of independence leaders like Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia, Kwame Nkumah of Ghana and Senghor of Senegal. He brings Africa's Big Men into sharp relief. We see Nkrumah's charisma, Nyerere's singled-mindedness, Idi-Amin's savagery, Senghor's diplomacy, Lumuma's intransigience, Awolowo's tribalism and Bokassa's megalomania.

The book chronicles post-colonial Africa as a Cold War playground between the West and The Soviet Union. In Angola, Zaire and Mozambique, Western support for unsavoury leaders was seen as necessary to stop the spread of Communism. This had devastating consequences for the Continent.

On page after page the author documents Africa's woes, backed up with World Bank data: economic decline, gross governmental incompetence, patronage, destruction of civil society, neglect for the rule of law. And all for what?, he asks. So that the elite can buy luxury homes in the South of France and the send their children to Western universities. How true.

What I appreciated most about the book was Mr Meredith's remarkable insight into "African" nature. He does not diminish the African attachment to the tribe as many European writers have done in the past. He observes accurately that tribal loyalty supercedes loyalty to the newly created African nation-states. He does not write out of pity but from genuine empathy with the ordinary African. This style contrasts sharply with other Western writers who seek to impose their arm-chair liberalism on the reader.

He keenly observes that the legacy of colonial rule was not to develop the conquered peoples but to extract the wealth of the country for the benefit of its rulers. It was a legacy that Africa's post-colonial leaders inherited. Mr Meredith concludes that the root cause of Africa's malaise is not lack of resources but a crisis of leadership. It is a view that I, as an African (a Nigerian), concur with.

Forget all you think you know about Africa and read this book. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
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