The State of Africa

The State of Africa tells the tale of African politics in the years from independence up to recent times. Rather than focus upon corrupt politicians and lampoon them for their selfish and harmful ways, Martin Meredith instead exposes the corruptions and wars and political suppression without comment; removing his own opinion makes the reader draw their own, often making the events recounted even more shocking. The only time that a kind of authorial bias shows itself is when Meredith is scathing of French involvement in arming the Hutu proponents of the Tutsi genocide, and the willingness of the international community (in part led by Boutrous Boutrous-Ghali, then UN Secretary General) to stick their heads in the sand and ignore a genocide, and then reward the guilty party with a lavish aid package.

But The State of Africa is not concerned with listing all of Africa's problems. It is a fair assessment of the years since colonialism, setting out that the biggest obstacle to the development of Africa has been the so-called Big Men, dictators with absolute power such as Amin of Uganda, Mobuto of Zaire, Taylor of Liberia and Mugabe of Zimbabwe, who tolerate no opposition and fall foul to the lure of power, destroying the infrastructure of their countries in order to benefit personally. However, the book also focuses upon the success stories post-independence, showing that it is possible to develop economically and that the favoured argument of the Big Men for their continuance in power, that a single-party state is the most beneficial for the quickest way to development, is a false truth.

The State of Africa is a clear, easily understandable book, giving an overview of the history of Africa in the last 50 years and an excellent introduction to the politics of Africa. It is a sad tale, a story of squander and corruption, of absolute power and collective repression, manipulation of the past to entrench those at the top, but it also shows that there is hope, that Africa is beginning to turn the page and that in further 50 years, it should be a totally different story from the last.


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