The Fate of Africa: A History of Fifty Years of Independence Paperback – 6 Jun 2006
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About the Author
Martin Meredith is a journalist, biographer and historian who has written extensively on Africa. His previous books include In the Name of Apartheid; Nelson Mandela; Our Votes, Our Guns: Robert Mugabe and the Tragedy of Zimbabwe; and Elephant Destiny. He lives near Oxford, England.
Top customer reviews
The author has written the present book that covers the last fifty years in detail, but really it covers most coutries farther back with many references going back to the mid 19th century and earlier. This is a comprehensive 700 page book in medium to small font and I think it takes a few weeks to read and absorb all the details. He has a very brief introduction with historical maps of Africa and it is followed up with about ten pages of notes and comments at the back of the book, plus a number of references for further reading. I have just begun to read the book, but I have skimmed most of the book briefly to get an overall grasp of the writings. He goes through essentially every country in Africa from the north to the south tip, east to west, country by country, decade by decade describing colonial intrusions, resource and country trading by the big colonial powers, revolution, dictatorships, wars, military actions, famines, economic disasters, racism, and on and on.
He has 35 chapters divided into four broad catagories: colonialism and revolution, consolidation and revolution, developments and failures, and then the modern era. Those four section titles are my inventions, not his, to simplify the book and the 35 chapters. The divisions in the book are a bit more complicated with many subjects overlapping time periods and countries, and I am simplifying here.
The chapters tend to run in parallel, rather than simple chronological order. He starts out with Kwame Nkrumah (1909-1972)the preseident of Ghana elected in 1957 with the new independence. It was British West Africa, a colony part of the "Gold Coast". He then goes on to Egypt and King Farouk (1920-1965) who was thrown out in a 1952 military coup led by Nasser. By the way, the coup took place while Farouk was at the gambling tables, living the carefree high life, and he dismissed the idea of the coup when his entertainment was briefly interrupted by a telephone call from his foreign minister who reported the coup. He goes on to cover Algeria and France's abandonment of the colony to the independence movement, and he covers the flight of the non Muslims back to France. He goes through most of the countries discussing the politics, the leaders, the history, the corruption, and where we are today.
If you can digest the boook, you will in effect know the modern history of Africa in detail, and you will be able to understand the myriad of map changes, tribal rivalries, etc. He has three sets of black and white pictures that show the flight from Rwanda, the corruption of Zimbabwe, and they reference the leaders of the Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia, etc. We see pictures of many famous leaders from South Africa to Gadaffi, some shaking hands with Bush or dancing with Queen Elizabeth. We learn what colonial power dominated what region, when there was an overthrow of the colonials, who took charge, how the government evolved, and who were the people that have run and now run each country.
Truly an impressive book.
Clearly 5 stars.
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.
Africa has been cursed with corrupt and incompetent leaders who never cared for their people. There have been at least 40 successful and many more unsuccessful coup attempts over the past five decades, whilst the latest fashion is to hold sham elections as happened recently in Zimbabwe. Wherever there are natural resources like oil, the money ends up in the pockets of small ruling cliques while most ordinary people live in misery.
The rest of Africa has followed Ghana's example. The first African state to gain independence in 1957, the country was bankrupt within 8 years. Upon taking power, African leaders appointed their cronies in government instead of properly trained civil servants, of which there weren't many to begin with. These ruling elites indulged in corruption, oppression and bribery from the beginning. Today the whole continent produces less than Mexico.
The rogue's gallery of African despots includes Amin, Bokassa, Mobutu, Nyerere, Banda, Mugabe, Kaunda, Kenyatta, Mengistu, Nasser, Nguema and Nkrumah. The extent of the corruption has given rise to the term Kleptocracy. Meredith also looks at other reasons for the failure of Africa, for example rapid population increases and trade protectionism in the West.
The pattern set by Ghana is still repeating, leading to coups d'etat, oppression, misery, murder, refugees and the collapse of civil society. In the 1990s there was the tragedy of Rwanda and most recently, the genocide in Darfur, Sudan. Throwing money at the problem has never resolved anything but may instead have made things worse. Africa has had the equivalent of six Marshall Plans but most of the money ends up in overseas bank accounts. The author points out the relentless tide of graft that characterizes government and business in Africa.
Meredith also looks at the exceptions, like Botswana, South Africa and Senegal. These countries are multiparty democracies with well-run economies. They represent some hope that Africa might one day become a decent place to live. The book includes maps, black & white photographs, explanatory notes and bibliographic references. Well-researched and well-written, it will remain the standard work on the modern history of Africa for a long time to come.
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Read before visiting any of the african countries so that you understand its people...Read more
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