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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Weekend Reading on Africa

During a busy weekend down in Central Virginia where, literally, I had to see a man about a horse, I got a bit of reading done about African history.I’m currently reading two relatively new and very important books: Gerard Prunier’s Darfur: The Ambiguous Genocide, and Martin Meredith’s The Fate of Africa.Prunier’s book makes it clear early on that the present slow-motion genocide in Darfur is the product of the region’s perenially secondary status in a long series of external political and military conflicts, and of a heightened and largely artificial distinction between “Arabs” and “Africans” that was fed not only by Khartoum’s politicians but by outside players, most especially Libya’s Ghaddafi.Meredith’s book is a massive history of post-colonial Africa that encapsulates and (in a country-by-country manner) details the long decline of social and economic progress of the continent since the early days of hope immediately after independence. Meredith is especially compelling in explaining the economic impact of failed Western and Marxist development models for Africa, and how they contributed to the rapid decline in democracy and human rights observances in all but a few countries.I’ll write more about these books when I’ve finished them, but you should definitely read them if you have the chance. Given the recent interest in Africa stimulated by the humanitarian disasters in Rwanda and Darfur; the political crisis in Zimbabwe; and the focus on AIDS relief and debt forgiveness that Tony Blair has helped make a major priority for the world’s economic titans: this is a subject on which we must all begin to understand the basics.

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