Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Fate of Africa

I spent five of my formative years between ages 6 and 12 in Liberia.  When I was 13 and in 8th grade, we were in the States on home assignment.  A civil war started in Liberia during that year.  We lost all of our possessions.  We never went back.  Many friends died.  The war lasted 15 years.

In 9th grade, my family moved to Ethiopia.  I went to boarding school in Kenya.  During that year, there was unrest in Kenya.  I remember that all of us students had to practice packing an emergency bag.  I remember that it had to be something we could carry for at least two miles.  We had to keep a list of what we would pack so that we could get the bag ready in a hurry.

Also during that year, a war broke out in Ethiopia.  My mom and my brother were evacuated.  My dad stayed behind with some other men, and a few times, they had to hide in an underground bunker.  Once, my dad was in our apartment, and a bullet came through the ceiling.  He kept it for us, but I didn't really want to see it.

I lived some African history.  But I didn't really ever study it. 

And now I've lived in Tanzania for over 8 years.  So I have studied Tanzanian history.  But not really any of the other countries.  Yet we have friends from Zimbabwe, South Africa, Kenya, and Congo. 

So when my great friend Alyssa recommended this book to me, I was eager to read it. 


And so I read it.  All 750 pages.  It took me two months, and about halfway through, I had to start reading something else sometimes because it was seriously depressing me. 

Here's the summary of just about every African country since independence:

1.  A young, charismatic leader takes over the country, with promises of socialism and equality and prosperity.
2.  Western governments get excited about supporting such a great leader, especially if he promises he will never go over to bad evil communist Russia, and then pour billions of dollars of aide into the country.
3.  This leader proceeds to bankrupt the country by amassing his own personal fortune.  He becomes a billionaire while the rest of the country lives in poverty.
4.  A military coup takes place, and the leader makes promises of socialism and equality and prosperity. 
5.  Repeat from #1.

And there you have it.  A History of Africa.  Now you don't need to read 750 pages. 

Okay, so there's a little more to it.

Like how during the 80's Ethiopian Famine, when the whole world was focused on the starving children.....what the media didn't say (or didn't know) was that it was President Mengistu's agricultural policies which caused the famine.  Or how he continued to bomb the affected areas, even while people were starving to death, because those areas contained political opponents.

Like how ordinary Rwandan Hutus slaughtered 800,000 of their friends and co-workers who just happened to be Tutsis, in 100 days.  100 days.  And the world did nothing.  Well, except for the French, who continued to fund the Hutu government even while the slaughtering was going on.

Like how South African President Mbeki refused to believe that AIDS existed and therefore provided no funding or relief or education for AIDS, even when 1 out of 5 people in his country was infected. 

Like how Charles Taylor, who started the Liberian war, intentionally forced the war into neighboring countries, for the purpose of his own financial gain.  He conscripted thousands of child soldiers, gave them drugs and a gun and told them to kill their parents.  And now he is living the high life in Nigeria.

Yeah.  So if you happen to be in a really happy mood and want to do away with it, this is a great book to read.

In all seriousness, I highly recommend this book if you love Africa or have some kind of investment in it.  It was extremely informative and interesting and so very eye-opening.
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