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The Ethnic Conflict Research Digest

2001, Vol. 4 No. 1 .

Africa Since Independence
Colin Legum

Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1999
106pp. Hb.: ISBN0-253-33588-4. Pb.: 0-254-21334-7.

This is a skilful scholarly attempt to tackle a wide and complex topic such as Africa since Independence in a very short, condensed and readable book. Colin Legum analyses the struggle for democratic governance and economic growth in the African continent in four main parts: the post-colonial romantic period, the period of disillusionment, the period of realism and the period of renaissance. The evolving of the nation state in Africa during the second half of the twentieth century was marked with turmoil, corruption, wars and ethnicity, but Africa is no exception. Europe underwent similar predicaments during the Hundred Years' War and the Napoleonic conquest. The bitterness of the American Civil War and attempts to reconsolidate the new state exceeded the miseries of episodic violence in the twentieth century Africa. However, Legum points out two important differences. First, the period of reconstruction in the West was a time of rapid economic growth, though partially dependent on colonial natural resources. Second, Africa is unique in the speed with which reconciliation occurs in the aftermath of conflicts; Biafra and South Africa are cases in point.

Ethnicity is responsible for the eruption of many conflicts in the continent, yet, Legum rejects Western stereotype view of Africa as a society of pre-modern tribes acrimoniously involved in continuous conflicts for merely tribal causes. In his opinion power struggle dominated major conflicts and civil wars in the continent and the contribution of regional and international factors to Africa's post-colonial wars was quite significant.

Legum concludes with three predictions for the future of Africa. First, the majority of African states will adopt democratic constitutions. Second, one half of the continent will enjoy democratic governance and economic growth while the rest will remain under autocratic and corrupt governments. Under the third scenario the existing democratic structures will have collapsed and economic growth will have returned to the 1960s' level of negative growth. However, for Legum the only credible prediction is that by the year 2050 Africa will resemble the early twentieth century Europe: a range of states with different levels of stability, wealth and modernisation.

Mohamed Awad Osman PhD

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