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Dictatorland: The Men Who Stole Africa

4.46  ·  Rating details ·  237 ratings  ·  36 reviews
The dictator who grew so rich on his country's cocoa crop that he built a 35-storey-high basilica in the jungles of the Ivory Coast. The austere, incorruptible leader who has shut Eritrea off from the world in a permanent state of war and conscripted every adult into the armed forces. In Equatorial Guinea, the paranoid despot who thought Hitler was the saviour of Africa an ...more
Hardcover, 432 pages
Published January 2018 by Apollo
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4.46  · 
Rating details
 ·  237 ratings  ·  36 reviews

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Oct 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: arc, non-fiction
My knowledge of 20th Century history is spotty at best. There are things I am reasonably well-informed about but large parts of history I have cursory knowledge of. The history of Africa is one of those areas (and even typing this makes me cringe - I have to admit to not knowing a lot about a whole fricking continent) and I was very eager to remedy this. As a starting point this book is absolutely perfect. Paul Kenyon manages to give enough of an overview to situate me to then give enough detail ...more
Ian Miller
Oct 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
In the 19th century, European countries built their empires that included countries in Africa, but by the mid-twentieth century it became time for them to get out and let them have independence. This book is an account of the disastrous behaviour of some Africans who, like scum, rose to the top of these countries, together with that of these European countries and the US. What the West wanted was to control the vast riches of gold, diamonds, copper, oil, cocoa, and whatever that Africa had, and ...more
Shabbeer Hassan
In this vividly written brutal book, British journalist Paul Kenyon explores the strange and stubborn rule of seven kleptocratic postcolonial African leaders:

Democratic Republic of Congo’s Mobutu Sese Seko (1965–1997)
Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe (1980–2017)
Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi (1969–2011)
Nigeria’s Sani Abacha (1993–1998)
Equatorial Guinea’s Obiang Nguema (since 1979)
Ivory Coast’s Felix Houphuet-Boigny (1960–1993)
Eritrea’s Isaias Afwerki (since 1993).

Kenyon paints a horrific picture of how these
Rajesh Amradi
Jun 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
An extraordinary book! Having struggled to find some books or resources that could sum up Africa's history and it's peoples' suffering, I came across this marvel and bought it instantly. I am extremely happy that this book is going to be part of my collection.

The author put great effort in offering most of the important events as interesting stories to read. He brought together all the dictators from the continent, their cruelties towards people, the corrupt minds, the greed, indifference towar
Debjit Sengupta
Sep 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
A century back, if you had to define Africa, you would describe its dusty and barren landscapes, scorching weather and hostile tribes. There was nothing that could excite. These myths and the wrong notion were broken. The Europeans were not fool. They would invest their resources simply not to colonize the nation. Africa was one of major hotspot for slavery. Now this cannot be the sole reason for the European powers to scramble for Africa. They had sensed long back about the continent’s untapped ...more
Jan 31, 2018 rated it liked it
Paul Kenyon is a renowned BBC journalist who's worked on various hard-hitting current affairs strands, not least the BBC's Panorama. He's someone whose work I've long admired. When I saw he had written a book on the dictators who've wreaked havoc throughout Africa, I was keen to read it.

Dictatorland is certainly well written and split into four parts, each corresponding to the "resource curses" which allowed brutal thugs to seize and keep power - gold, oil, chocolate and modern slavery - he troo
Simona Kulakauskaite
Feb 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed reading this fascinating book on African history focused on late colonial and post colonial years. Too often similar books are either too detailed requiring good background knowledge of the events described or fairly superficial barely scratching the surface of the problems explored. This book is nothing like that. It provides sufficient background information and then dwells deep into analysing the regimes of nine African countries. The writing itself is great making this book ...more
Jul 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I wasn’t sure how good this would be or whether it would be a quasi-pornographic look at some of the world’s most unfortunate countries. Although Kenyon doesn’t sugarcoat how vile these regimes are, he draws out both the unique characteristics of each country, as well as what they have in common - it’s probably the clearest overview I’ve read of how catastrophic the Cold War was for many African countries. I won’t pretend to be an expert in African politics, but I’d highly recommend this for any ...more
Dec 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A solid and well-researched tale through some of post-colonial Africa's nastiest leaders. The core strength of this book is that Kenyon has access to an excellent range of sources, including some well-place in both colonial actors and both those close to the dictators and others who were victims. Kenyon does not attempt to be exhaustive, but rather focuses his attention around the resources that made these regimes rich: oil, chocolate, diamonds, and gold, and then throws in Eritrea in addition, ...more
Gearóid O'Connor
Jan 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A really excellent book.
(Warning don't read it before you go to bed...........)
Feb 03, 2019 rated it it was ok

2.5 Stars!

Kenyon focuses on a small number of African countries and their horrendous dictators who raped and pillaged their own land and oppressed their own people. These are the kind of regimes that trigger horror stories filled with words like tortured, maimed, hacked and slaughtered.

There is a lot of killing, torture and misery in here, but for me some of the most interesting aspects of this book were the lesser known and more obscure facts about the various dictators and their family. Such a
Feb 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Paul Kenyon provides a strong narrative which focuses on the dictatorial regimes of 7 African countries since the end of the colonial period. What sets this analysis apart from other books I've read about the region is specific chapters that look at the different natural resources that first motivated the European colonizers and later underpinned some of the worst regimes seen in the 21st century. The book moves at a brisk pace, making for an engaging and worthwhile read that covers a diverse ra ...more
Nov 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
What a fascinating and at the same time sobering, look into several African dictatorships and how they survived and indeed thrived, thanks to western, Russian, Chinese and American backing.

Paul Kenyon focuses on a few countries including Eritrea where the leader continues to tell his people they are on a permanent war footing and a country that is less accessible than even North Korea. The rise of Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe is covered and like a lot of the dictators covered in the book, their ri
Dec 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
* I would like to thank NetGalley and the publisher for the opportunity to review this book *

British journalist Paul Kenyon delivers a compelling slice of contemporary history in Dictatorland. The book looks at the men who led African nations out of colonial exploitation, only to betray their people and enrich themselves. The post-colonial history of countries such as Zimbabwe, Congo, Libya, Nigeria, Cote d'Ivoire, Ghana, Equatorial Guinea and Eritrea are covered, as well as the exploitation of
Aug 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: africa, history
Having read Martin Meredith’s State of Africa and David van Reybrouck’s Congo I wasn’t sure whether this book would add much to my general knowledge on the continent. I was happily surprised though by how well written this book is and the point of view it takes.

Using the natural resources of the continent as a stance from which the different stories about colonialism, large multinationals, and the postcolonial dictators are being told is refreshing and insightful. The author uses a helicopter v
Aug 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is a well researched, well written and very interesting book but after a while I started to gag on the repetition of corruption, power mongering, evil, murder and exploitation.
The oft repeated story of idealistic and intelligent men who fought the destruction and exploitation of colonial powers and multi-national companies, and were hailed as heroes and precipitated into power, only to end up just as bad or worse themselves, is depressing in the extreme. One wonders why that cycle is so ine
Anne Chappel
Feb 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Everyone interested in Africa should read this well researched, well written book about Africa post Uhuru. Kenyon gives the background to independence - he does not let off the colonial powers lightly - both for the lack of preparation for independence and for their interference afterwards. Because afterwards, the destruction of hope in so many countries that believed independence would bring benefits in terms of jobs, education and peace is widespread. The brutality of some of the leaders and t ...more
Sehar  Moughal
Nov 22, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Men hungry for power and money. Men achieving all that power... and accumulating so much wealth that it becomes a string of unfathomable numbers in your head. What would I do if I had access to all that power and money? Will I compromise my values? Will I be a ‘dictator’? What about the people around me? How would they respond to so much power and money? What would drive someone to respond in such a way? Is it a lifelong deprivation of access to anything? These were the questions that drove my t ...more
Becky Dale
Dec 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
Excellent compilation. My copy had a number of typos and grammatical errors that were grating at times, but to overlook those and focus on the substance of the story was rewarding. Even familiar tales (Mobutu, Mugabe, etc.) were enjoyable to read. I'd like to know how a reader fresh to African history would view these narratives. I feel that a base understanding may be necessary, or at least advisable.
John Ashmore
Jun 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
A good overview if you don't know much/anything about post-colonial Africa and its various whacky despots. I've read a few critical reviews complaining Kenyon hasn't covered the likes of Idi Amin, but given the amount of potential material he's done a good job of mixing a broad sweep with detail about individual countries.
Lakshman Hariharan
The sad, oftentimes downright depressing story of the plunder of a great continent by the Europeans and the generals. An essential read for anyone that knows as little as I do about Africa. The bibliography contains references for a lifetime of further learning about the continent for anyone interested.
Oliver Bogler
Jul 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very accessible, unstinting description of the recent history of a handful of African nations that have had a difficult transition from colonial times to independence, and where greedy men have exploited, murdered and wreaked havoc of many kinds for too many years. I read it in a week - couldn't put it down.
Jamie-Lee Burns
Oct 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
By no means an in-depth look at the dictators who have ruled Africa, this was an insightful overview of some of the atrocities faced by the continent following decolonisation. Absolutely enjoyed this one - it was a real page turner.
Sarmad Qureshi
Aug 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great book

Well researched and written book. Would be of interest to anyone with an interest in Africa. Surprisingly the same themes emerge in the different countries covered.

Would like to see a second volume where other countries are covered.
Eoin Fitzgibbon
Jul 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Loved it. It's basically a short review about the insane and corrupt history of several African nations.
Mariya Badeva
Dec 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent read. Essential entry-level book for those interested in modern history of African countries.
Jul 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
Fascinating and informative, could use a bit more proofreading
Renae Aitchison
Sep 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
Great read for anyone interested in learning about the absurd history of colonialism and subsequent dictatorship that has plagued many parts of Africa.
John Levon
Feb 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Maybe it's because it turns out I know very little African history but this was a riveting (and horrible) read. Must stop reading such depressing books...
Jason RB
Jan 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Not a book to read before going to bed as it just makes you angry. How can so much wealth be squandered and so much brutality be justified.

An incredibly well written book and very easy to read even if you have to put the book down to recover from each chapter
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