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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Extremely well-written recent history that makes you sad and mad, 15 May 2008
This review is from: The State of Africa: A History of Fifty Years of Independence (Paperback)
In only 688 pages Martin Meredith succeeds in capturing the recent history of more or less the whole of (sub-Saharan) Africa, throwing in a few countries above the Sahara for good measure. After a brief introduction, he starts off at independence of most countries, and what you read does not make you happy. With only very few exception new rulers with initially good intentions turn within no-time into greedy, ruthless killers that divide the loot (read "the treasury"and "the natural resources of their countries") among themselves, their close familiy, their tribe and their cronies. When things get too obvious, a military coup follows, after which the new leaders do exactly the same. And in the meantime the common people suffer, be it from the lawlessness of Somalia, the genocide in Rwanda, the economic ruins in Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe, or the denial of Mbeki in South Africa that HIV causes AIDS. And these are only a few of the countless examples that make you feel quite depressed. Despite all the foreign aid that is being poured into a continent that has such rich resources (gold, diamonds, oil and a host of minerals), the economic situation of most people has only deteriorated since independence. and this is also in stark contrast to for example Southeast Asia that has gone through an economic explosion.

I regularly work in Africa in collaborative scientific research projects on infectious diseases and I see abysmal hospital facilities, people (including colleagues) dying from diseases that can easily be cured and hot-shots whose only attitude is "what is in it for me?" (and they are so shameless that they actually ask you that question). But I also see tons of very dedicated people -mainly in the lower echelons-, trying to make the best of the meagre resources they have available, people who thoroughly know how to enjoy life and are as hospitable as can be. I always tell them that they are too friendly and slightly naive in believing the promises made. If in the west we would have a ruler like Mugabe, we would have kicked him out years (and put him in prison for good measure).

In my opinion education is key to solving the problems of Africa: educated people are people who can make their own decisions, are able to critically evaluate their options and ultimately can decide together what is best for their country. And yes, maybe in some instances it will be necessary to re-consider borders so that they coincide better with historical delineations between tribes and religions. But it will ask for vision, courage and patience and the question is whether there will be sufficient time available...
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