Starting with her 1962-64 ""pigtail safari""--an impromptu ramble from the Cape to Khartoum, from the Congo to Morocco--English photojournalist Kaplan is the ""uncommitted observer"" of her aspirations: neither jaundiced nor romantic, but clear-eyed, brisk, and candid. Her coverage thereafter--reflecting assignments, and accompanied by spanking photos--takes in many of the major news stories of post-independence Africa. Chapters range from the mercenary ravages of the Congo in the Sixties to today's continuing battles, supported by the superpowers, over the Horn of Africa; from Rhodesia's unilateral declaration of independence to Zimbabwe's independence ceremonies 15 years later; from Haile Selassie's eminence among the ex-colonials to the anonymity of his Marxist successors. Kaplan, to her credit, distinguishes between the murderous authoritarian regimes of Idi Amin and Bokassa, and the strong-man regimes--of Tanzania's Julius Nyere, Zambia's Kenneth Kaunda, Kenya's Jomo Kenyatta--dedicated to national survival and integrity. Though not a serious political analyst, she makes effective use of personality closeups to illustrate political and social complexities: the defensive intransigence of South African whites; the divided, often ill-prepared nationalist take-overs in black states; the tensions between tribal stability and cosmopolitan development. Never far from the center of her concerns are the victims of political upheaval, economic change, and natural disaster--for whom there are no Schweitzers, no white saviors. The coverage, though broad and diverse, is not comprehensive: Mediterranean Africa is excluded, the Saharan states are barely touched upon, West Africa receives far less than its fair share of attention; indeed, locales and situations of paramount British interest constitute the ""focus."" But the inquisitive newspaper or newsmagazine reader will find the book personable and informing--a welcome change, too, from such sour appraisals as Shiva Naipaul's Journey to Nowhere.