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The Dark Continent

Book Review: The State of Africa - A History of Fifty Years of Independence, by Martin Meredith
Fans of Alexander McCall Smith's Botswana can take some comfort from the fact that there are about two paragraphs on that country in this book of around 700 pages, in which Meredith notes that as a stable multi-party democracy it is very much an exception to the rule of post-independence Africa. For the most part, this is a depressing read. The book begins with Ghanaian independence from Britain, and the hopes for the future, but if the initial impression is of a process of orderly transition of power, within a few chapters we have rapidly moved on to more chaotic changes in French and Belgian colonies, and within a few chapters more we have entered an apparently forever-repeating cycle of coups and corruption, regimes often propped up during the Cold War as proxyies for either side with a blind eye turned to "internal affairs". Meredith is more sympathetic to the stability of the surviving white regimes in Rhodesia and South Africa, though not necessarily to their values, and even Mandela's post-apartheid South Africa is dismissed as ineffectual. In fact, it's difficult to assess whether there is any political bias on the part of the author, because the book is so overwhelmingly critical.
Tags: books, history
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