I just finished reading The State of Africa, by Martin Meredith, over the weekend. I’m glad I read this book, because now I at least have some understanding of how most of Africa got to be in the dire situation it currently is in. But, this book was the most tragic and depressing thing I have ever read. I’m normally a pretty quick reader, but it took me over three months to read this 600+ page book. The number one reason for my slowness? A person can only take in so much tragedy in one sitting. And topics like genocide, child soldiers, and AIDS don’t make for very good before-bed reading. I was incredibly disappointed, over and over again, with the African leadership. I feel so badly for the people of Africa, because most of them just want a peaceful life and the means to be healthy and happy, but their leaders are working against them. Almost all of Africa’s leaders can be described as greedy, corrupt, and selfish and ruthless to the extreme. Nelson Mandela provided the only true ray of light and hope in the 50 years or so of African history that the book covered. South Africa was very lucky to have such a magnanimous leader.
As an aside, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, by William Kamkwamba (with Bryan Mealer), was a great book that prompted my acute interest in African history. It’s an inspirational autobiography by a Malawian teenager who developed windmill-generated electricity for his family by reading at the library, picking up useful pieces of junk around his village, and his own cleverness and hard work.