Kat's Reviews > The Fate of Africa: A History of Fifty Years of Independence

The Fate of Africa by Martin Meredith
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's review
Oct 23, 2009

it was amazing
bookshelves: africa, foreign-service, non-fiction
Read in December, 2009

This book is not for the faint of heart.

Unless of course you're reading it for a class, at which point you really have no choice.

This book is essentially 700 pages of "They were oppressed and sometimes brutally killed before independence. Then they got independence. Then there was oppression and sometimes thousands (or hundreds of thousands) were killed. Human rights were abrogated. Famine. Corruption. Selfish foreign powers making it worse and/or turning a blind eye. (Hey, France during the Rwanda genocide for the former, and the USA for the latter.) Etc. Etc."

On the whole, I really think I should have read this book before the others. I appreciate that Meredith doesn't attempt to see beyond the past century--making this pretty much entirely a work of history rather than political science. That way the focus was on the actual history rather than the conclusions that could be reached for the future from said history. I thought Meredith did a stellar job of not taking sides or judging, though of course the writing did condemn the violent rulers of Africa.

Of course, the lack of vision for the future left me exceedingly depressed and thinking there was no way to escape the vicious cycle of violence. That's when I picked up "The Bottom Billion" and felt better.

Regardless. This is extremely informative, "easy" to read (I put that in quotes because the subject matter is so jarring), and overall a fantastic summary of the last fifty-or-so years of a very complicated continent. There was just enough to give a solid idea of what was going on within each country (even tiny Equatorial Guinea!) without overwhelming me. It also tantalized me to want to read more about individual despots and the working countries (Botswana! Too bad half your population has HIV. :( ).

My only complaint, and this is a small one considering how difficult it would be to manage, is that the plethora of names and organizations got confusing after awhile. I had to make myself a list of the first generation leaders and the countries they "ran," then the second generation, and I gave up trying to organize all the political action groups. Having a reference in the back of the book of such things would not have gone amiss--even just entries like "Mugabe, Robert - President of Zimbabwe 1980-current, paranoid megalomaniac" would have been fine with me.

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