THE FATE OF AFRICA by Jeremy Harding


Trial by Fire
Email this review


 A series of set-pieces that graphically illustrate--but less successfully illuminate--the terrible tangle of ancient legacies and contemporary politics that threaten Africa. Harding (a British journalist who's both traveled and lived in Africa) writes about six very disparate and far-flung countries that share a common challenge of having to make themselves anew in the post-cold-war world: countries like Mozambique and Angola, which must not only restructure their economies to meet the requirements of the World Bank but also deal with the tremendous dislocation of people and production war has caused. Harding begins with Angola, still at war after 30 years, as rebel commander Jonas Savimbi refuses to accept the results of the recent elections. Namibia is next, newly independent after a 24-year war, bustling despite the scars: ``Everywhere you looked there was energy''--an energy that's also visible in Western Sahara, where the Polisario liberation movement is still fighting for independence from Morocco and where, in refugee camps, generations of nomads are trying to grow food in soil that's as salty as the water. In South Africa, the author's focus is the on-going violence in the townships, violence that's making it ``harder and more dangerous to get to work.'' Harding finds that Mozambique, despite peacemaking attempts, is still ravaged by bands of soldiers, and he takes as his final subject Eritrea, finally independent after a long war against Ethiopia, though a quarter of million people remain in Sudanese refugee camps. In each country, Harding visits battle fields, talks to victims of war, and notes everywhere the legacy of destroyed landscapes and economies. Harding's empathy for his subjects' suffering is creditable, but their fate, as well as that of the continent he so obviously loves, get losts in a text that wanders, jumps, and never quite gets in focus. (Maps)

Pub Date: Aug. 12th, 1993
ISBN: 0-671-72359-6
Page count: 464pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 1993