With “Congo. The Epic History of a People” (English translation by Sam Garrett, 639 pp. Ecco/HarperCollins Publishers, April 2014) the Belgian historian, archeologist, poet, playwright and non-fiction author David Van Reybrouck wrote the first full history of the country Joseph Conrad referred to as “the heart of darkness”. Starting with fishermen’s villages of prehistoric times, over the slave traders, the arrival of Stanley, the colonisation, to independence, the 32 years of rule by Mobutu, the wars and the turbulent eastern border of today. As no other, Van Reybrouck understands that the history of Congo is in the first place the history of the Congolese people. He gives the floor to rebel leaders, hawkers, child soldiers and pop stars. Through their vivid recollections, he traces back the minor and major events that shaped the country.
Living Memories is a depiction of British colonialism captured from the varied and often disturbing experiences of 13 Kenyans. Many of the stories provide a poignant and dramatic indictment of the cruelty that the British colonialists inflicted on their subjects through such atrocities as beatings, rape, infanticide, dispossession of land, mass murder, incarcerations. In the face of these atrocities, Al Kags provides a different perspective on the eight-year Mau Mau revolt – the indigenous uprising that paved the way for the eventual granting of independence to Kenya.
‘Excuse Me’ is a collection of essays about Nigeria and Nigerians, it’s about a man’s view about the Nigeria he grew up in and the Nigeria he desires to see.
It’s our turn to eat” tells the story of John Githongo, a friend of the author, who served as Kenya’s top anti-corruption official, under the government of President Mwai Kibaki in the late 90s.
Published in 2009 by Hurst Publishers, Gerard Prunier’s book is not just another contemporary history of an African conflict. It questions popular thinking, reviews a number of sources, places the conflict in the context of its time, and is engagingly written. Africa’s World War: Congo, the Rwandan Genocide, and the Making of a Continental Catastrophe stretches its core narrative from the aftermath of the 1994 Rwanda genocide to after the 2007 elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo .
Over the years, the position of the white South African inside the country could either be labelled a curse or a blessing. Unlike their black fellow countrymen who were tied down by ancestry, when trouble came knocking, whites could always haul out the passports and ‘pack for Perth’. In Ways of Staying (published in 2010 by Portobello Books), South African journalist Kevin Bloom ponders ways of staying even when circumstances motivate for the chicken run.
A senior lecturer in sociology at Wits University, the author Sarah Mosoetsa works from the premise that the family is the microcosm of society. In her book (published in 2011 by Witwatersrand University Press), Mosoetsa looks at African households in the KwaZulu/Natal townships of Mpumalanga [Hammersdale] and Enhlalakahle [Greytown]. What she finds is shockingly representative of the entire country – indeed the whole continent and the Third World.
In Darfur: A New History of A Long War (published in 2008 by Zed Books), Julie Flint and Alex De Waal provide a surprisingly accessible account of how the Sudan government, Islamists, the British colonial enterprise, Arab Supremacists and Cold War politics fanned the occasional flares of local conflicts already made worse by climate change.
On September 20, 2008, South Africa’s ruling party, the African National Congress, took the unprecedented step of dismissing Thabo Mbeki, the country’s then president from his position as party chairman. The move, which effectively ended Mbeki’s term presidency, marked the climax of a bitter internal struggle within the party. In Eight Days in September (published in 2012 by Picador), author Frank Chikane describes the circumstances that led to this historical event.
The answer to why Africa is poor is simply that its leaders have made this choice, argues Greg Mills in Why Africa is Poor: And What Africans Can Do About It (published in 2011 by Penguin). The Big Man mentality that is ubiquitous all over the continent has done Africa’s development a lot of harm. Aid, on the other hand, has proven to have the opposite of its desired effect in the continent – it has helped us move backwards rather than catapult us forward into the league of other nations of the world.