The State of Africa: A History of the Continent Since Independence
Africa is forever on our TV screens, but the bad-news stories (famine, genocide, corruption) massively outweigh the good (South Africa). Ever since the process of decolonialisation began in the mid-1950s, and arguably before, the continent has appeared to be stuck in a process of irreversible decline.
Constant war, improper use of natural resources and misappropriation of revenues and aid monies contribute to an impression of a continent beyond hope.How did we get here? What, if anything, is to be done?
Weaving together the key stories and characters of the last fifty years into a stunningly compelling and coherent narrative, Martin Meredith has produced the definitive history of how European ideas of how to organise 10,000 different ethnic groups has led to what Tony Blair described as the 'scar on the conscience of the world'.
Authoritative, provocative and consistently fascinating, this is a major book on one of the most important issues facing the West today.
stolen. Payrolls were padded with ‘phantom’ workers – bogus employees. Government-owned banks, a prime target, were obliged to lend large loans to politicians, their wives and associates without any prospect that they would ever be repaid. A report on Uganda’s state-owned bank concluded : ‘To every regime, the Uganda Commercial Bank was a gravy train. New ministers, army officers and parliamentarians would descend upon it and take out huge loans, often with inadequate or non-existent collateral .
devastation. 20 FAULT LINES The fault line running across Sudan and Chad around the twelfth parallel, dividing the Muslim north from the non-Muslim south and ‘Arab’ from ‘African’, was the cause of endless conflict. At independence in Sudan in 1956, northerners gained control of the central government in Khartoum, eventually precipitating a revolt by southerners. In a reverse sequence in neighbouring Chad, southerners gained control of the central government in Fort Lamy (N’Djamena) at
The vast majority of indigènes were illiterate, poor and unemployed. In general, they were seen as an inferior race, treated with disdain, indifference or outright abuse. Their numbers were fast growing. In fifty years the Algerian population had nearly doubled, prompting fears among pieds noirs that they were in danger of being ‘swamped’. In urban areas, most lived in wretched bidonvilles – tin-can slums – on the outskirts of towns. Algiers in 1954 harboured 140 bidonvilles built on wasteland
thousands of peasants, the government, though aware of the disaster, made little attempt to alleviate it; nor did it seek help from international agencies for fear of damaging the country’s reputation. When Haile Selassie belatedly paid a visit to the area, he merely referred to the ‘natural disasters beyond human control’ that had often afflicted Ethiopia and implied that little could be done to prevent them. The government’s inertia over the Wollo famine caused a wave of exasperation among the
unsurpassed by any other African leader. His excesses included seventeen wives, a score of mistresses and an official brood of fifty-five children. He was prone to towering rages as well as outbursts of sentimentality; and he also gained a reputation for cannibalism. From an early age, Bokassa’s life was affected by violence. When he was six years old, his father, a petty chief in the village of Boubangui, was beaten to death at the local French prefect’s office for protesting against forced