KILLING THE WIZARDS: Wars of Power and Freedom from Zaire to South Africa by Alan Cowell

KILLING THE WIZARDS: Wars of Power and Freedom from Zaire to South Africa

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Since the mid-1970's, southern Africa has been engulfed in bloody conflict. From the Shaba massacre in Zaire to South African-sponsored terrorism in Mozambique and Angola to the ""necklacings"" in Soweto, the struggles for freedom have been brutal and immensely complicated affairs. After ten years as a correspondent in the region, Cowell (currently head of The New York Times Cairo bureau) is well positioned to understand some of the motives and passions behind the news stories. The ""Wizards"" of the title are all-purpose villains--the white colonialists and the black dictators who followed them, such as Zaire's Mobutu Sese Seko or Zambia's Kenneth Kaunda. Cowell takes us through Zaire, Zambia, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and South Africa to look at southern Africa's revolutions. He's at his most insightful, and his prose is the most detailed, when he's inside South Africa--the last half of the book. Elsewhere, his storytelling is workmanlike, but his narrative never slows down long enough to allow us to breathe in the air or feel any sense of place. The narrative is sprinkled with quotes from the major players--Robert Mugabe, P.W. Botha, Ian Smith, and others--but Cowell never gets behind their motives or properly conveys who they really are. And though he writes in the first person, the author never appears as a character in his narrative. He never ruminates, struggles with issues, or grows in his grasp of the conflicts. Cowell begins with a flight into Africa and ends with a flight out. Ultimately, we feel like tourists who have been on an interesting trip but do not deeply understand where it is we have been.

Pub Date: April 23rd, 1992
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster