The Fate of Africa: A History of Fifty Years of Independence

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9781586483982: The Fate of Africa: A History of Fifty Years of Independence

Fifty years ago, as Europe's colonial powers withdrew, Africa moved with enormous hope and fervor toward democracy and economic independence. Dozens of new states were launched amid much jubilation and the world's applause. African leaders, popularly elected, stepped forward to tackle the problems of development and nation-building. In the Cold War era, the new states excited the attention of the superpowers. Africa was considered too valuable a prize to lose.

Today, Africa is a continent rife with disease, death, and devastation. Most African countries are effectively bankrupt, prone to civil strife, subject to dictatorial rule, and dependent on Western assistance for survival. The sum of Africa's misfortunes — its wars, its despotisms, its corruption, its droughts — is truly daunting.

What went wrong? What happened to this vast continent, so rich in resources, culture and history, to bring it so close to destitution and despair in the space of two generations?

Focusing on the key personalities, events and themes of the independence era, Martin Meredith's riveting narrative history seeks to explore and explain the myriad problems that Africa has faced in the past half-century, and faces still. From the giddy enthusiasm of the 1960s to the "coming of tyrants" and rapid decline, The Fate of Africa is essential reading for anyone seeking to understand how it came to this — and what, if anything, is to be done.

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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.

From Publishers Weekly:

Starred Review. The value of Meredith's towering history of modern Africa rests not so much in its incisive analysis, or its original insights; it is the sheer readability of the project, combined with a notable lack of pedantry, that makes it one of the decade's most important works on Africa. Spanning the entire continent, and covering the major upheavals more or less chronologically—from the promising era of independence to the most recent spate of infamies (Rwanda, Darfur, Zimbabwe, Liberia, Sierra Leone)—Meredith (In the Name of Apartheid) brings us on a journey that is as illuminating as it is grueling. The best chapters, not surprisingly, deal with the countries that Meredith knows intimately: South Africa and Zimbabwe; he is less convincing when discussing the francophone West African states. Nowhere is Meredith more effective than when he gives free rein to his biographer's instincts, carefully building up the heroic foundations of national monuments like Nasser, Nkrumah, and Haile Selassie—only to thoroughly demolish those selfsame mythical edifices in later chapters. In an early chapter dealing with Biafra and the Nigerian civil war, Meredith paints a truly horrifying picture, where opportunities are invariably squandered, and ethnically motivated killings and predatory opportunism combine to create an infernal downward spiral of suffering and mayhem (which Western intervention only serves to aggravate). His point is simply that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely—which is why the rare exceptions to that rule (Senghor and Mandela chief among them) are all the more remarkable. Whether or not his pessimism about the continent's future is fully warranted, Meredith's history provides a gripping digest of the endemic woes confronting the cradle of humanity. (July)
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