30 March 2007

Long Shadows

I've been reading The State of Africa: A History of Fifty Years of Independence by Martin Meredith over the past couple of weeks. It's been taking a while, not because it is dense or long (which it is), but because it is for the most part depressing.

Independence is supposed to be a good thing - democracy, peoples' right to govern themselves, citizens shaping their national future, etc. However, Martin's work chronicles 50 years of African leaders exploiting, murdering, enslaving, authorizing genocide, and in general destroying African peoples and landscapes. Some of the most disgusting and depressing parts of the book chronicle how my own country supported some of the worst leaders like Charles Taylor in Liberia or Mobutu in the Congo. I guess I shouldn't be surprised, the US government also supported Pol Pot in Cambodia. Then there are all the fuck ups the US participated in politically, economically, or militarily (or are those really all the same thing?) in various countries throughout the African continent in the name of globalization and the Cold War against communism.

Anyway, each chapter chronicles one big man (and his cronies) after another bleeding the life out of the people and the land. Recent news stories about Zimbabwe demostrate that the phenomena continues. Mugabe is being sternly warned by other presidents of southern African nations, as well as his own party, to step down and not run for re-election next year. Will he? Even if he does, Zimbabwe will be suffering from the shadow of his rule for a long time.

My biggest critique is the dearth of information about Mozambique. It seems to be Africa's forgotten country - both in the popular and scientific literature. There are a few pages (out of 752 total) that discuss the war for independence from Portugal and a couple more on the RENAMO-FRELIMO conflict but not much else. Is it because Mozambique is a Lusophone country (Angola has a chapter, but it also has oil reserves and diamonds)? Is it because Mozambique is overshadowed by its neighbors, South Africa and Zimbabwe (Swaziland, Lesotho, Madagascar, and Botswana don't get much mention either)? Or something else that I am just not seeing?

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