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The dictator who grew so rich on his country's cocoa crop that he built a 35-storey-high basilica in the jungles of the Ivory Coast. The austere, incorruptible leader who has shut Eritrea off from the world in a permanent state of war and conscripted every adult into the armed forces. In Equatorial Guinea, the paranoid despot who thought Hitler was the saviour of Africa an The dictator who grew so rich on his country's cocoa crop that he built a 35-storey-high basilica in the jungles of the Ivory Coast. The austere, incorruptible leader who has shut Eritrea off from the world in a permanent state of war and conscripted every adult into the armed forces. In Equatorial Guinea, the paranoid despot who thought Hitler was the saviour of Africa and waged a relentless campaign of terror against his own people. The Libyan army officer who authored a new work of political philosophy, The Green Book, and lived in a tent with a harem of female soldiers, running his country like a mafia family business. And behind these almost incredible stories of fantastic violence and excess lie the dark secrets of Western greed and complicity, the insatiable taste for chocolate, oil, diamonds and gold that has encouraged dictators to rule with an iron hand, siphoning off their share of the action into mansions in Paris and banks in Zurich and keeping their people in dire poverty.


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The dictator who grew so rich on his country's cocoa crop that he built a 35-storey-high basilica in the jungles of the Ivory Coast. The austere, incorruptible leader who has shut Eritrea off from the world in a permanent state of war and conscripted every adult into the armed forces. In Equatorial Guinea, the paranoid despot who thought Hitler was the saviour of Africa an The dictator who grew so rich on his country's cocoa crop that he built a 35-storey-high basilica in the jungles of the Ivory Coast. The austere, incorruptible leader who has shut Eritrea off from the world in a permanent state of war and conscripted every adult into the armed forces. In Equatorial Guinea, the paranoid despot who thought Hitler was the saviour of Africa and waged a relentless campaign of terror against his own people. The Libyan army officer who authored a new work of political philosophy, The Green Book, and lived in a tent with a harem of female soldiers, running his country like a mafia family business. And behind these almost incredible stories of fantastic violence and excess lie the dark secrets of Western greed and complicity, the insatiable taste for chocolate, oil, diamonds and gold that has encouraged dictators to rule with an iron hand, siphoning off their share of the action into mansions in Paris and banks in Zurich and keeping their people in dire poverty.

30 review for Dictatorland: The Men Who Stole Africa

  1. 4 out of 5

    Hannah

    My knowledge of 20th Century history is spotty at best. There are things I am reasonably well-informed about but large parts of history I have cursory knowledge of. The history of Africa is one of those areas (and even typing this makes me cringe - I have to admit to not knowing a lot about a whole fricking continent) and I was very eager to remedy this. As a starting point this book is absolutely perfect. Paul Kenyon manages to give enough of an overview to situate me to then give enough detail My knowledge of 20th Century history is spotty at best. There are things I am reasonably well-informed about but large parts of history I have cursory knowledge of. The history of Africa is one of those areas (and even typing this makes me cringe - I have to admit to not knowing a lot about a whole fricking continent) and I was very eager to remedy this. As a starting point this book is absolutely perfect. Paul Kenyon manages to give enough of an overview to situate me to then give enough details to keep my interest. The book is a reasonably comprehensive history of several countries and manages to also connect these parts to a greater whole that gave me a greater understanding how these different dictatorships happened (or are still happening is some cases). We get a greater look into such varied countries as Zimbabwe, Congo, Libya, Nigeria, Cote d'Ivoire, Ghana, Equatorial Guinea and Eritrea. Paul Kenyon structures his book by way of resources the countries own and how these influenced the histories. Starting with diamonds and gold, continuing with oil, talking about cocoa to then showing the weird, tragic case of Eritrea where it is not even known what resources might be found there. There are some things these countries all have in common: the way in which colonialism wrecked them, the way in which other powers influenced them (often in the way of proxy wars in the Cold War era), and the way in which power corrupted people who were considered heroes beforehand. It is an endlessly bleak and frustrating history and one that made me think more than once how much people can suck. It is due to Paul Kenyon's wonderful storytelling sensibilities that I managed to keep reading despite the bleak subject matter. The things that did not quite work for me are probably not fair: for one I sometimes struggled with the structure of the chapters, the timeline was not always very clear and I did not always find the thread connecting these different scenes. However, it is near impossible to tell of history in a neat narrative because history is not neat but rather messy. I would also have liked the sources to be clearer and more extensive. I work in academia and as such I am more used to academic writing which this is not. Overall, impeccably researched, super readable, important book. __________ I received an arc of this book courtesy of NetGalley and Head of Zeus in exchange for an honest review.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Daren

    One of few books in recent years that I purchased new (although only because I was given a gift voucher), and an excellent choice it was. Five stars. In this book Kenyon catalogues the actions of various dictators in Africa, noted below. It was surprising to me how much they were all alike, and how many common threads there were. Each typically started out as an underdog, with idealistic goals who triumphed against either colonial occupation or another tyranny, then rose up up take control and th One of few books in recent years that I purchased new (although only because I was given a gift voucher), and an excellent choice it was. Five stars. In this book Kenyon catalogues the actions of various dictators in Africa, noted below. It was surprising to me how much they were all alike, and how many common threads there were. Each typically started out as an underdog, with idealistic goals who triumphed against either colonial occupation or another tyranny, then rose up up take control and then ultimately be corrupted by that power. There is only one end to the dictatorships they set up, and none of them end well for the dictator. Whispers, subordinates plotting, and ultimately the coup are desperately feared by the always paranoid dictator, and their many millions of dollars of corrupt or stolen money can't stop their downfall. Kenyon does an excellent job of scene setting and describing the situation in each country and what is happening in the adjacent countries as he tells each story separately. The background, the recent events and all that is in between are set out in a logical and readable narrative, and while each dictator could probably have carried off a book on his own, the power of this book is the comparative and additive value of each successive story to form an overall picture - and it isn't a happy one. Mugabe passed away in the days I was reading his story. It is not the first book I have read about Mugabe, and he is clearly a nasty piece of work, who didn't deserve as longer life as he had. Certainly the world is a better place without him, but it reinforced how weak organisations like the League of Nations and then the United Nations are in their inability to deal with these despicable setups which cause such humanitarian crises to the detriment of so many. The parts of this book are: Gold and Diamonds- Congo (Mobutu) Zimbabwe (Mugabe) Oil- Before the Dictators (background) Libya (Gaddafi) Nigeria (Sani Abacha) Equatorial Guinea (Obiang Nguema) Chocolate- Before the Dictators (background, incl Sao Tome & Principe) Cote d'Ivoire (Felix Houphouet-Boigny) Modern Slavery Eritrea (Isaias Afwerki) --

  3. 4 out of 5

    Shabbeer Hassan

    In this vividly written brutal book, British journalist Paul Kenyon explores the strange and stubborn rule of seven kleptocratic postcolonial African leaders: Democratic Republic of Congo’s Mobutu Sese Seko (1965–1997) Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe (1980–2017) Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi (1969–2011) Nigeria’s Sani Abacha (1993–1998) Equatorial Guinea’s Obiang Nguema (since 1979) Ivory Coast’s Felix Houphuet-Boigny (1960–1993) Eritrea’s Isaias Afwerki (since 1993). Kenyon paints a horrific picture of how these In this vividly written brutal book, British journalist Paul Kenyon explores the strange and stubborn rule of seven kleptocratic postcolonial African leaders: Democratic Republic of Congo’s Mobutu Sese Seko (1965–1997) Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe (1980–2017) Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi (1969–2011) Nigeria’s Sani Abacha (1993–1998) Equatorial Guinea’s Obiang Nguema (since 1979) Ivory Coast’s Felix Houphuet-Boigny (1960–1993) Eritrea’s Isaias Afwerki (since 1993). Kenyon paints a horrific picture of how these tyrannical leaders accumulated and exploited their countries’ vast mineral wealth be it oil, cocoa, gold or diamonds. The sheer brutality of crimes committed by successive dictators on their own citizens to ensure that their own and the western world's imperialistic/capitalistic greed remains satiated is shocking. Kenyon makes a case that it's not just these dictators to blame for Africa what it is now, and not what it could have been, but part of the blame lies with the western world's insatiable greed for minerals, shiny objects and slaves. The backs of modern European and their offshoot civilizations are built on Africa's back, willingly and in the majority of cases, unwillingly. This comes off of an uneasy assertion, given that much of western Europe is called the land of free. But to move forward towards more peaceful times, it's quite important to accept and talk about the brutal imperialistic colonialism which was imposed on their "subjects" until the late '60s. Much of the modern angst which probably then feeds the hold of rampant religious fanaticism could be seen as a leftover rage since those times. And it's this, which power-crazy despots, misguided youths and genocidal religious leaders exploit, as the book minces no words about this. The situation is of course, not so simple, and is indeed quite complex with shifting tribal allegiances, power struggles, capitalist greed by multinationals adding to this heady mix, but nevertheless, the two common determinants remain same - hangover of colonial lust for money/power by western European nations and post-colonial greed of despots/dictators. For someone not acquainted with the African continent's savage history and present conditions, this book is rather a solid start. My Rating - 5/5

  4. 5 out of 5

    Ian Miller

    In the 19th century, European countries built their empires that included countries in Africa, but by the mid-twentieth century it became time for them to get out and let them have independence. This book is an account of the disastrous behaviour of some Africans who, like scum, rose to the top of these countries, together with that of these European countries and the US. What the West wanted was to control the vast riches of gold, diamonds, copper, oil, cocoa, and whatever that Africa had, and In the 19th century, European countries built their empires that included countries in Africa, but by the mid-twentieth century it became time for them to get out and let them have independence. This book is an account of the disastrous behaviour of some Africans who, like scum, rose to the top of these countries, together with that of these European countries and the US. What the West wanted was to control the vast riches of gold, diamonds, copper, oil, cocoa, and whatever that Africa had, and to do that they closed their eyes and helped facilitate corruption and the removal of human rights of the so-called "liberated" people on a scale that is almost unbelievable. They facilitated the return of slavery, and while it was not called that locally, it might as well have been. Political ends also required meddling. In the Congo, Lumumba was elected President in what was one of the few democratically legitimate elections. But Lumumba had talked to Moscow, so he had to be removed. The CIA assisted the rise of Mobutu, which led to the execution of Lumumba. After all, we could not have Communism in the Congo, with its big mineral resources. In São Tomé and Princípe, the West needed its cocoa; the fact the workers were essentially slaves was overlooked. The corruption of and the total ignoring of environmental issues in Nigeria and some other west coast African countries makes for awful reading. The book runs through the history of a number of countries, and how a small number of dictators, with the collusion of the West turned what could have been a paradise into a hell for the average African. A well-written well-researched history. Also a depressing history, but that was what happened.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Raj

    An extraordinary book! Having struggled to find some books or resources that could sum up Africa's history and it's peoples' suffering, I came across this marvel and bought it instantly. I am extremely happy that this book is going to be part of my collection. The author put great effort in offering most of the important events as interesting stories to read. He brought together all the dictators from the continent, their cruelties towards people, the corrupt minds, the greed, indifference towar An extraordinary book! Having struggled to find some books or resources that could sum up Africa's history and it's peoples' suffering, I came across this marvel and bought it instantly. I am extremely happy that this book is going to be part of my collection. The author put great effort in offering most of the important events as interesting stories to read. He brought together all the dictators from the continent, their cruelties towards people, the corrupt minds, the greed, indifference towards victims, mass killings of innocent and armies alike, slavery, and the colonial powers' exploitations of these countries, just as elsewhere, for the massive natural resources. It offers equally great insights into the decision making, priorities of the top layers of the governments, and business partnerships and investments that went into discovering diamonds, gold, cocoa and how those resources earned them high number of billions. A few lines are just not enough in describing what this book can offer. It is a must read for anyone that is interested in knowing what went through in the past century in Africa.

  6. 4 out of 5

    James

    Paul Kenyon is a renowned BBC journalist who's worked on various hard-hitting current affairs strands, not least the BBC's Panorama. He's someone whose work I've long admired. When I saw he had written a book on the dictators who've wreaked havoc throughout Africa, I was keen to read it. Dictatorland is certainly well written and split into four parts, each corresponding to the "resource curses" which allowed brutal thugs to seize and keep power - gold, oil, chocolate and modern slavery - he troo Paul Kenyon is a renowned BBC journalist who's worked on various hard-hitting current affairs strands, not least the BBC's Panorama. He's someone whose work I've long admired. When I saw he had written a book on the dictators who've wreaked havoc throughout Africa, I was keen to read it. Dictatorland is certainly well written and split into four parts, each corresponding to the "resource curses" which allowed brutal thugs to seize and keep power - gold, oil, chocolate and modern slavery - he troops out a succession of tyrants and their horrific idiosyncrasies for his readership to gawp at. One of the strengths of Dictatorland is how the author demonstrates that Africa, a continent rich in natural resources, was uniquely placed for such misrule. First the colonial empires, and later those who replaced them, had untold wealth at their fingertips and thus had no need to consider the wishes, or even the needs, of the populace. The world's thirst for gold, diamonds and cocoa ensured that brutal misrule was tolerated at best, actively facilitated at worst, by the international community. That said, there are a number of flaws to this book. While the author does give the background of colonialism and does demonstrate how the colonial rulers abused their colonies, the lion's share of the narrative focuses on the dictators that came after. I felt that the link between the two was missing somewhat. The brutalism of colonialism and how it stunted civic and political development; the arbitrary division of the continent into artificial states which often lumped hostile ethnic groups together; just how actively the Western powers turned a blind eye to the dictators' behaviour, was not fully fleshed out. It is also unclear just how the author selected dictators to appear in the book. As The Economist pointed out in their review, some like Mobutu of Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo), Gaddafi of Libya and Mugabe of Zimbabwe are obvious choices. But why Félix Houphouët-Boigny, the first President of Ivory Coast, and not the far more brutal Idi Amin of Uganda or Jean-Bedel Bokassa of the Central African Republic? On can only presume that Houphouët-Boigny was chosen as he based his rule on the cocoa trade. A final issue, is that while this is a fascinating read, it can also be a little tiring. Reading of the wickedness of dictator after dictator, with no real prognosis for change, is a bit repetitive and blunts the reader's outrage. Reading Dictatorland, one might be forgiven the temptation to write Africa off as hopeless, a continent uniquely susceptible to misrule and oppression. That all said, this is a very well written book. Despite my misgivings outlined above, it did keep me turning the page. If you're interested in dictators, what colonialism has reaped, the damaging legacy the European empires left the continent and the misrule that more often than not results when a country's rulers have untold riches at their disposal, then this is an enlightening, if depressing, read.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

    For what it is, I quite enjoyed this book, and got quite a bit from it. It's very much a history book written by a journalist, with the good (engaging, lots of eyewitness interviews) and bad (narrative prioritised over analysis) of that. It is a bit of a gawkfest picking out the worst dictatorships in Africa, but if you don't want that you shouldn't read a book called Dictatorland. I found that the layout of the book into sections determined by what natural resources are in various countries was For what it is, I quite enjoyed this book, and got quite a bit from it. It's very much a history book written by a journalist, with the good (engaging, lots of eyewitness interviews) and bad (narrative prioritised over analysis) of that. It is a bit of a gawkfest picking out the worst dictatorships in Africa, but if you don't want that you shouldn't read a book called Dictatorland. I found that the layout of the book into sections determined by what natural resources are in various countries was a little clunky and implied (which was semi-consistent throughout the book) that these natural resources were the main reasons for despotism. Part One was about gold and diamonds. The first chapter was on Congo: I thought this was really interesting, I knew very little about Congo beforehand. It didn't linger much on the Congo Free State under Leopold II, but it was very interesting to read about the intellectual climate among young black Congolose people towards the end of the Belgian rule, a theme which kept on being one of the most interesting parts of a number of the book's chapters. There was less on the ongoing civil war in Congo than I would have expected, and I wanted to hear a little bit more about Che Guevara's time there, but I can find that in other books. It was good to get a basic outline of decolonisation, Patrice Lumumba's rule and assassination, and Mobutu's subsequent dictatorship. Chapter Two (still in Part One) was about Rhodesia/Zimbabwe - this was one of my favourite chapters in the book, and I thought it gave a good overview of the white minority government, the dispute between ZIPRA and ZANLA, the Gukurahundi ethnic cleansing, the treatment of whites in Zimbabwe, and Mugabe's rule generally. I find the history of Rhodesia very interesting, and reading this made me want to read more. The best anecdote in it was during Wilson's visit to Ian Smith, where he got very upset at a dinner by a government minister telling a lewd story then doing a 'belly dance' in Wilson's face. The next Part was on oil - it began with the history of oil production during colonial times, which was alright but not really what I was most interested in. Chapter Four was on Libya, which was the country in the book which I knew most about before starting. I struggled to follow Chapter Five a bit, on Nigeria, but I knew next to nothing about Nigeria before starting it so it was interesting, and I'll probably re-listen to that chapter. Chapter Six was on Equatorial Guinea - the book I read before this was 'My Friend the Mercenary' which had a lot about the attempted coup in Equatorial Guinea that Mark Thatcher was involved with, but this didn't mention that I don't think. Part Three was on chocolate - Chapter Eight was about Côte d'Ivoire, but Chapter Seven about cocoa production in colonial times was where the book really shone, and was one of my favourite chapters. It details the slavery of cocoa workers in Portuguese São Tomé and Príncipe, and how this was received in Britain. Despite their anti-slavery Quaker reputation, the Cadbury family was very reluctant to take the reports of slavery seriously, and even after the report they commissioned reported that the cocoa farms relied on slaves, they did very little. Eventually a newspaper reported on this fact and was sued by the Cadbury family for libel - the newspaper's defence lawyer was none other than Edward Carson, what a cameo! Part Four, on 'Modern Slavery', only had one chapter, on Eritrea. The classification system of the book fell apart here - there was some mention of modern slavery in Eritrea, but the book was mostly on the war of independence against Ethiopia and the dictator Isaias Afwerki. The chapter was still really interesting, and it shows the shameful episode of the USSR, GDR, and Cuba supporting the Ethiopian military dictatorship in its war against Eritrea. Overall I liked the book. Some bits were better than others, and you have to take it as what it is, with the aforementioned limitations. It's made me want to read more about African history though, and I found it pretty decent as an introduction and something to make me more interested.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Boudewijn

    It might be impossible to understand Africa without knowing the colonial past. But at the same time it is also important what happened immediately afterwards: economic mismanagement and dictators who stole like the ravens. Mobutu, Mugabe, Gaddafi and many other: one even worse than the other. Power and corruption still is on the agenda of many African governments, but at least there is hope for the future.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Vaiva Sapetkaitė

    Enlightening. Informative. And very sad. Must-read to all who is interested in global affairs. P.S. Many western countries, their business and banks were/ are immoral greedy bastards also.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Debjit Sengupta

    A century back, if you had to define Africa, you would describe its dusty and barren landscapes, scorching weather and hostile tribes. There was nothing that could excite. These myths and the wrong notion were broken. The Europeans were not fool. They would invest their resources simply not to colonize the nation. Africa was one of major hotspot for slavery. Now this cannot be the sole reason for the European powers to scramble for Africa. They had sensed long back about the continent’s untapped A century back, if you had to define Africa, you would describe its dusty and barren landscapes, scorching weather and hostile tribes. There was nothing that could excite. These myths and the wrong notion were broken. The Europeans were not fool. They would invest their resources simply not to colonize the nation. Africa was one of major hotspot for slavery. Now this cannot be the sole reason for the European powers to scramble for Africa. They had sensed long back about the continent’s untapped potential. During the Berlin Conference of 1884-85, the European powers divided the continent among themselves. Later, diamonds were discovered across several places like Belgian occupied Congo, Portuguese occupied Angola and British Colonies Sierra Leone and South Rhodesia (Present day Zimbabwe). The geologists were drawn towards the termite mounds on the parched and near lifeless plains of Kalahari desert. Now to build these mounds, the termites require moisture and damp clay for which they have to burrow down deep. When the particles collected by these termites were examined, it gave evidence of diamonds beneath the surface. More such traces were found in other areas too. Eventually, in one of the most sparsely populated country in Africa – Bechuanaland (Present day Botswana), dozens of diamond filled volcanoes were found. The most demanding source of electricity was coal. It was coal that powered the steam engines in ships and trains. It also drove the electricity. There was no reason for anybody to look for an alternative. During the turn of the 19th century, the age of automobile dawned. The entire British maritime capabilities were dependent on regular and reliable supply of oil. There was nothing suitable in UK and Winston Churchill knew they would have to look elsewhere. Both US and UK looked for unchartered land for oil. The oil was already discovered in Middle East Asia but for strategic reasons, it made sense not to rely exclusively on this continent alone. For centuries, nomadic tribes crossing the Sahara desert have found curious rainbow sheen on the surface of oasis water. Portuguese sailors had observed dribbles of hot tar seeping through the rocks in Africa. Something curious was definitely lying underneath. During the mid-19th century, however oil reserves were being discovered at various places in Africa. However, the colossal oil reserve was unlocked more recently. On the narrow belt of land ten degrees on either side of the equator, there are shades of jungle canopy, regular rain and absence of hot winds. These are rare climatic conditions which are offered by just few regions of the world. The west Africa is among them. These rare conditions allow cocoa bushes to thrive. The region became most sought after for major chocolate manufacturers of the world including Cadbury. Most of the chocolate bars consumed today are coming from cocoa bushes of Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire (also known to many as Ivory Coast). The cocoa has been driving the economies for these two regions for the last 4-5 decades. The book is not exactly about which minerals was unearth at which location. Now why then these are needed at all to be mentioned? It’s the lure of these minerals and plants that tethered western nations to the continent for long, even after their colonies gained independence. It’s the wealth that generated power post-independence. The Western nations were compelled to retreat because after World War-II, the international opinion on imperialism was changing. It was even more difficult to hold on to their colonies due to rise in nationalist movements in the 1950’s and ‘60s. Suddenly local rulers were in control of the vast minerals that were in the hand of England, France, Portugal and Belgium. The local rulers were underprepared for governance. The centuries old tribal rivalries again were exacerbated. Hostile people were thrown together to sort out their differences at the ballot box. A lot of hope and optimism was pinned on the newly elected rulers but they were seeking aggrandizement and choose to advance their own interests. These minerals either directly or indirectly were used to reward the loyal and silence their foes. The leaders clung to power with chicanery for fear of their safety. They became paranoid. A single clan or families brazenly began to dominate by dirty means. Democracy was procrastinated for indefinite period. Unfortunately, the embryonic nation never saw the dawn. The book is all about how the continent was looted on a broad daylight and how it still going on. In Congo, idealist Patrice Lumumba was in the forefront during nationalist movement for independence from Belgium rule. He was a national hero. He became the first Prime Minister. Soon secessionist movement supported by Belgium began to gain steam. He appealed to USA and UN but in vain. He then turned to USSR for support. This led to his differences with the President Joseph Kasa-Vubu and Lumumba staunch supporter Mobutu Sese Seko. Ultimately he was imprisoned by State authorities under Mobutu and was executed. It was alleged to be USA and Belgium conspiracy. They also supported Mobutu in a coup and he was installed in power for next three decades. The Parliament was reduced to naught. He took control of the press. He formed a political party which was hurriedly joined by all politicians for their own safety. Dissidents were caught, tortured and treated mercilessly. He and his family looted the country of billions of dollars. The money resulted from national treasure was siphoned off to his Swiss, Belgian and US account. The Zimbabwe was a British colony. One of the major contributor was white farmers who used to make significant contribution in agricultural production. The local black population passively tolerated white dominance for years till Robert Mugabe came and mobilized his people against the injustice. Robert Mugabe became the first head of the government. He also declared that white farmers were integral part of the nation. There was a new hope but in years to come, it turned into a despair. His rule is now remembered more for murder, torture, bloodshed, intimidation and persecution of political opponents. White farmers land was forcibly taken and handed over to war veterans as a compensation. The new black farm owner had no skill to manage a farm. They ended up tearing irrigation pipes to sell the lead and abandoned farm machineries. The fields reverted to wilderness. Newly unproductive farms and economic mismanagement led to spiraling of food prices. The country experienced mind blogging hyperinflation. Few became billionaires and most were at the brink of starvation. The Nigeria was a British colony which gained its independence from the British. After independence, it’s political landscape was dominated by perpetual rise and fall of dictators. It has legacy of violent dictators. Their north, east and south factions were dominated by powerful leaders. Still they managed to elect their first president and turn themselves into a federal republic. However, there was division in army too and the nation followed the path of civil war. After each coup, a dictator was overthrown and murdered. Though the elections were held in 1993 but it was annulled and an interim government was set up. This too was overthrown by Sani Abacha. He banned all political parties and controlled the press too. He brutally suppressed all kind of dissents at home. His most brutal act was execution for treason of a writer Ken Saro-Wiwa and other activists who protested against the environmental exploitation. Despite the oil wealth, the life in Nigeria was all about starvation, poverty and murder. His family enriched themselves with huge wealth which was parked in European bank. In Equatorial Guinea, Macias Nguema eliminated his perceived enemies in a more gruesome manner. There have been hurried mass executions. Entire village was torched to eliminate a single suspected subversive. His militias were cut loose and they would drunkenly kill people or bury them up to their neck in sand to be eaten by ants. He had killed intellectuals, government officials, members of assembly and some of his closest ministerial colleagues and supporter. He was overthrown by his nephew Obiang Nguema in a bloodless coup. Macias was later killed. Obiang ruled for more than 3 decades. As had been the case with other African nations, wealth due to huge oil reserves is concentrated in the hands of the few. Most Equatorial Guinean are living in abject poverty. There is no access to healthcare or education. Opposition is non-existent. Torture and intimidation is common in places. It’s similar storylines in other countries too. The leader who lead the cause for independence became head of the state. The nation founding father was chosen to lead their nation towards democracy, prosperity and development. The newly acquired wealth was a big booster. However, the outcome turned something else. Though Colonel Gaddafi and Felix Houphouet-Boigny, head of Libya and Ivory Coast respectively had spend huge amount for welfare activities but nevertheless their rule was an authoritarian, one marked by gross human right violation. They ruled for decades and never allowed democracy to flourish. Gaddafi was known more for his outlandish behavior, staying with harem of women soldiers in tent and promoting global terrorism. Felix Houphouet-Boigny became so rich on his country’s cocoa crop that he built a thirty-five-storey high basilica in the jungles of the Ivory Coast Do the Western nations have any role to play in the abysmal condition of Africa? On the surface it seems no. They are no way responsible. Drill down to the bottom and do the analysis. Behind the facade, their double standard come to the fore. Even though they relinquished controls but still some lingered on to keep a hand on Africa’s mineral wealth. During the cold war era, the ex-colonial powers stayed on citing perceived communist threat. They shamelessly channeled the profits to their nation. The multinational companies from western nations cut deal with authoritarian African rulers. These companies continue to prosper by securing mineral rights. The West ignored and tolerated continent’s most brutal dictators and the human right violations perpetuated by them, for their own vested interest. Actually, the West is directly responsible for endemic corruption and authoritarianism. Though the slave trade came to an end in the 19th century but at the back of this trade, Europeans and North Americans developed wealthy, militarily powerful and technologically advanced society. The irony is that they were treated shabbily and lakhs of people were decimated. If you have seen the movie Apocalypto, directed by Mel Gibson then recall the scene where a tribal village was raided by a group and how they were taken to a city. The reel life event was a reality. This is how slaves were treated by Western nations. Due to slavery and colonialism, the West developed at Africa’s expense. In the present scenario, the exploitation still continues in the name of development. Conditional loans are given to these African countries. Public services such as transport, water supply, sewage and health were privatized. The wealth still flows from Africa to the West in the name of debt repayments. Western corporations are still buying privatized infrastructure and the exploitation of African slaves still continues. Colonization, nationalism, independence, mineral wealth and dictatorship are the common points that you would find in the narratives. Had the book been simply on dictatorship in Africa then other countries like Rwanda, Togo, Somalia, Liberia, Chad, Cameroon and Uganda too would have found mentions. Such is the sorry state of the continent. Sordid and shoddy deals have become the norm. The widespread shenanigans have ruined the continent. The Machiavellian and diabolic rulers are obsessed with power. Slowly and steadily the countries are falling into China’s debt trap. The most recent example is Djibouti and Zambia is expected to follow suit. The continent itself seems to have been cursed to be a slave state. That’s their predisposition and febrile symptoms refuse to leave. However, the book has been well researched and presented. The manner in which the author had collected information for his book is commendable. He has devoted few pages on his source of information. If you are reading this book, then please don’t skip this part. The wealth of the nation has been linked to dictatorship. The Eritrea conflict with Ethiopians is the only quibble. Otherwise It has been a riveting and engrossing read.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jeremy Randall

    The end of this book made me so sad because it is still happening. This incredibly written look at power hungry men isn't about some long forgotten past. I asked my father about Libyas influence on oil prices worldwide. And Mum chimed in and spoke about having to fill up according to their license plates. But they didn't know why. These crazy powerful men begin with a simple ideology. - Overthrowing the oppressor. And then next minute, they are the oppressor. They are the mass murderers, the thi The end of this book made me so sad because it is still happening. This incredibly written look at power hungry men isn't about some long forgotten past. I asked my father about Libyas influence on oil prices worldwide. And Mum chimed in and spoke about having to fill up according to their license plates. But they didn't know why. These crazy powerful men begin with a simple ideology. - Overthrowing the oppressor. And then next minute, they are the oppressor. They are the mass murderers, the thieves, the manipulators. And no longer for the end game of liberating their people. But now, they just want more and more. and when one is dealing with billions of dollars in oil, or diamonds, or most of the worlds supply of chocolate... The last chapter is about the current leader of Eritrea. One who seems to live quite a lowly life. He doesn't have multiple properties in France like others in this book. He hasn't filled up bank accounts in other places in the world, he hasn't financed liberation movements elsewhere. he simply imprisoned much of his countrymen and women, and all of his opponents to keep power. So many smart, service-minded people dead. Because of an insecure, quiet man who thought being in power was more important than his initial hopes of independence and rebuilding after being oppressed by the Italians, the Ethiopians, the British, the Muslims..... Rewind to the early 1900s. How different would it be if the colonies trained and handed back countries without the sneaky sneak. And without the cold war. and without the need to rap and pillage. Or how different it would have been if now border lines were drawn on the maps by anyone that wasn't born in these lands. instead of 52 nations, what if there had been 300. That continued cultures and traditions and languages further into the future. history is a freakbag of stories that are uncomfortable but understandable. I loved this book. And apparently my Dad is going to read it too :D Skype dates are about to get even better for us and even worse for mum :D

  12. 5 out of 5

    Wouter

    Dictatorland does what any good history book should do. It tells highly engaging and detailed stories, from which the reader can easily extract an overarching theme. It's in the storytelling that Peter Kenyon excels. Personal memories and historic events alike are being retold with such vividness, that you cannot be helped to be transported to that particular time and place in your mind's eye. All the while, it's impossible to escape the similarities in the different stories of the rising strong Dictatorland does what any good history book should do. It tells highly engaging and detailed stories, from which the reader can easily extract an overarching theme. It's in the storytelling that Peter Kenyon excels. Personal memories and historic events alike are being retold with such vividness, that you cannot be helped to be transported to that particular time and place in your mind's eye. All the while, it's impossible to escape the similarities in the different stories of the rising strongman and how they all slide into dictatorship and clientalism. For whom is baffled how these strongman can give in to rent-seeking beheaviour on a countrywide scale, I recommend watching the video The Rules for Rulers by CGP Grey on Youtube. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rStL7...), itself adapted from the Dictator's Handbook (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Dic...).

  13. 5 out of 5

    Chris Fowler

    The tragedy of Africa has always been placed at the feet of those who imposed colonial rule, then deserted its countries, leaving tribal factions to fill the void with kleptocratic thuggery. But nothing can prepare you for Mr Kenyon's lucid and frightening analysis of a phenomenon repeated throughout the continent. Taking six nations and looking at them from their commodities, gold and diamonds, oil and chocolate, he shows how the fickleness and greed of the controlling colonists opened the way f The tragedy of Africa has always been placed at the feet of those who imposed colonial rule, then deserted its countries, leaving tribal factions to fill the void with kleptocratic thuggery. But nothing can prepare you for Mr Kenyon's lucid and frightening analysis of a phenomenon repeated throughout the continent. Taking six nations and looking at them from their commodities, gold and diamonds, oil and chocolate, he shows how the fickleness and greed of the controlling colonists opened the way for horrific dictatorships. The pattern for each country is the same. A young idealistic student leaves a European (usually British) university and returns to Africa promising democratic free elections, shared wealth and land rights. America and Europe panic about the possibility of communist infiltration. Soon the idealists realise their hands are tied by local parties and international corporations, leaving them no room to manoeuvre. They fall prey to corruption, stealing from their treasuries to build mausoleum-style houses while their people sift dirt for food. Some brave souls manage to negotiate these political minefields, but in Equatorial Guinea they have to deal with a ruler who is clinically insane. This is a humane, urgent and heartbreaking book - timely too, as China looks to repeat past history in Africa.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Hilary Parsons

    Incredible read. Would recommend it to everyone. The writer, previously a BBC journalist covering the African continent for most of his career, eloquently arranges the juiciest bits of history and tale around the indigenous revolution of many of the African nations. Slowly some trends of totalitarianism vs democracy emerge, that seem to define the human struggle for freedom and management of collective existence across all cultures.

  15. 4 out of 5

    AJ Payne

    I became obsessed with this book almost from page one. It’s most definitely going on my list of ‘books people should read who want to know about africa’. And I’ve already recommended it to everyone I know. Anyway, this book outlines the dictatorial histories of Congo, Zimbabwe, nigeria, Libya, Equatorial Guinea, Côte d’Ivoire, and Eritrea based on their leaders’ exploitation of resources - gold, diamonds, oil, cocoa, or humans. Each chapter is a thorough history of the primary dictator that brou I became obsessed with this book almost from page one. It’s most definitely going on my list of ‘books people should read who want to know about africa’. And I’ve already recommended it to everyone I know. Anyway, this book outlines the dictatorial histories of Congo, Zimbabwe, nigeria, Libya, Equatorial Guinea, Côte d’Ivoire, and Eritrea based on their leaders’ exploitation of resources - gold, diamonds, oil, cocoa, or humans. Each chapter is a thorough history of the primary dictator that brought ruin to his specific country - a bit of background, how he came to power, and what he did once he got there. And it’s amazing, and depressing, and in some cases terrifying. What I loved about it was that each history was accessible, and readable. And brings the people, places, and events to life. It’s a history book, but it reads like a dramatic thriller or movie. It keeps you turning the pages. It’s well arranged and brings tidbits from so many corners to paint a picture of a man’s ruin. There isn’t any new ground here - all of this stuff is available in other books, but this one just brings it together so perfectly. My minor complaints - there were many typos in my edition (and it was from a book store, so not a prepublished edition). Minor, but annoying. Especially when the typos involved regular misspellings of someone’s name. Next, there were many events glossed over which led to a few mischaracterizations in the timeline of events, or what affected what. No one who hasn’t read a million books on these topics would probably notice though. Finally, I know it was a history book, but having even a little analysis about the legacy of each of these men (other than for Equatorial Guinea and Eritrea whose dictators are still in power) and how it affects the country today would have been nice. I know that would have made it longer and brought it a bit out of the history realm, but I think those things are important. At the end of the day though, I loved it, and I’ll continue to recommend it to everyone. Even understanding that 99.9 percent of people will never take me up on that recommendation :)

  16. 4 out of 5

    Simona Kulakauskaite

    I really enjoyed reading this fascinating book on African history focused on late colonial and post colonial years. Too often similar books are either too detailed requiring good background knowledge of the events described or fairly superficial barely scratching the surface of the problems explored. This book is nothing like that. It provides sufficient background information and then dwells deep into analysing the regimes of nine African countries. The writing itself is great making this book I really enjoyed reading this fascinating book on African history focused on late colonial and post colonial years. Too often similar books are either too detailed requiring good background knowledge of the events described or fairly superficial barely scratching the surface of the problems explored. This book is nothing like that. It provides sufficient background information and then dwells deep into analysing the regimes of nine African countries. The writing itself is great making this book really difficult to put down.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jonny

    I wasn’t sure how good this would be or whether it would be a quasi-pornographic look at some of the world’s most unfortunate countries. Although Kenyon doesn’t sugarcoat how vile these regimes are, he draws out both the unique characteristics of each country, as well as what they have in common - it’s probably the clearest overview I’ve read of how catastrophic the Cold War was for many African countries. I won’t pretend to be an expert in African politics, but I’d highly recommend this for any I wasn’t sure how good this would be or whether it would be a quasi-pornographic look at some of the world’s most unfortunate countries. Although Kenyon doesn’t sugarcoat how vile these regimes are, he draws out both the unique characteristics of each country, as well as what they have in common - it’s probably the clearest overview I’ve read of how catastrophic the Cold War was for many African countries. I won’t pretend to be an expert in African politics, but I’d highly recommend this for anyone keen to start understanding more about the 20th century history of some of its countries.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Adrian Fingleton

    Great book - a primer into the fundamental problems behind a handful of key African countries. Depressing, obviously, but good to understand the fundamental problems that plague many countries and where the wealth came from that triggered so much corruption. And written in a very engaging and non preachy way. It's an essential book to understand modern African history. Great book - a primer into the fundamental problems behind a handful of key African countries. Depressing, obviously, but good to understand the fundamental problems that plague many countries and where the wealth came from that triggered so much corruption. And written in a very engaging and non preachy way. It's an essential book to understand modern African history.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Koit

    The scope and detail in this book already give it the highest rating. However, Mr Kenyon’s way with the detail he uncovered in his investigations add so much to what might otherwise be a bland narrative along the lines of ‘Dictator X was bad’. Indeed, I am slightly astounded by the specifics the author managed to include across such a diverse geographical area. The book is divided into chapters per country, with the structure formed by the main commodity the strongmen are supported by: diamonds, The scope and detail in this book already give it the highest rating. However, Mr Kenyon’s way with the detail he uncovered in his investigations add so much to what might otherwise be a bland narrative along the lines of ‘Dictator X was bad’. Indeed, I am slightly astounded by the specifics the author managed to include across such a diverse geographical area. The book is divided into chapters per country, with the structure formed by the main commodity the strongmen are supported by: diamonds, oil, and cocoa. The diamonds story starts with Cecil Rhodes and continues into post-independence Congo. The classic Congolese incident where Lumumba and Kasa-Vubu ordered each others arrest, the President and Prime Minister that is, and Mobutu fulfilled both orders perfectly, thereby gaining his own power is only one of the many incidents that are described in the Congo story. The book continues with Zimbabwe and Robert Mugabe. Mugabe’s rule, and the incidents which led there, really deserve their own treatment for the full story of Smith’s and Wilson’s negotiations to be described—along with Zimbabwe’s effective civil war that took place after that failure. Nevertheless, Mr Kenyon gives a very good overview, and his attempts to focus in on the Rhodesian white population’s views were quite useful for someone unfamiliar with the time and the period. I was also intrigued by the consideration Nigeria and Libya got. Oil is something I know a very little about, so it was interesting to see how Shell & BP played a major role in the original attempts to find some in Africa. Of course, these came with plenty of corruption, and in many cases the facts behind the deals the oil majors made are very grim (grim enough for there to be plenty of material for more works to be written on those). Mr Kenyon was, however, very keen to dispel any descriptions of Idris having been a benevolent king. The discussions that follow on Ivory Coast, Equatorial Guinea, and Eritrea are in the same boat. The Eritrean discussions brought into focus something I was very unaware of, namely the Eritrean–Ethiopian wars, though in some ways it felt as if actual detail was missing, perhaps because the dictator in this case, Isaias, is not interested in personal enrichment. Most compelling, however, was the story of Houphouet-Boigny who comes through as a thrilling character (and, again, one I’d definitely focus more on in the future). His life, including his work in France as a cabinet minister, must have been extraordinary, and the author relishes in bringing out the relatively progressive French stance against the contemporary British and American points of view. Overall, a strong recommend! This review was originally posted on my blog.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Vinay Badri

    Dictatorland is a wonderfully researched book that plays homage to 2 great adages of our time 1. Power Corrupts. Absolute Power corrupts absolutely 2. You die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain Each chapter in the book picks up on particular dictator in a resource rich African country. It starts with their journey as a liberator, men of vision who want to lead their country to great things, move away from colonial powers and use their resources for their own country. and Dictatorland is a wonderfully researched book that plays homage to 2 great adages of our time 1. Power Corrupts. Absolute Power corrupts absolutely 2. You die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain Each chapter in the book picks up on particular dictator in a resource rich African country. It starts with their journey as a liberator, men of vision who want to lead their country to great things, move away from colonial powers and use their resources for their own country. and then slowly and inevitably, the exploitation begins. The corruption starts seeding in and infiltrating across levels of government. Fundamental rights and liberties begin to get squashed. The government becomes an extension of the leader and the leader is always right and supreme. This book is an indictment of the human race in itself. It doesnt matter if we are white or black, human beings are fundamentally incapable of wielding power without getting corrupted. It really makes for a sad and depressing read. For instance, the recollection one has of Gaddafi of Libya for instance is that of a crazy dictator but his early history and the reason for taking power is so inspiring and no wonder he was viewed as the savior of his country when he become his country's leader The disquieting feeling as I finish the book is on how fragile democracy actually is. India also got independence along the same time and I must say we have been lucky that we have not gone down this path (despite the best efforts of a few people). Yes, corruption is rampant and public institutions fallible but our democracy still exists and leaders have to bow down to democratic mandates despite their authoritarian tendencies. But its also not too much of a stretch to consider how easy it is for a charismatic leader to become a charismatic despot and ultimately a dictator if there is no one to hold them accountable

  21. 4 out of 5

    Andrew Galbreath

    Paul Kenyon gives a detailed look at African dictatorships in this brutal yet illuminating book. What sets it apart from others is how he gives the entire dirty history of colonialism behind these dictatorships, as well as the modern-day diamond, oil, cocoa, and gold-driven financial interests that allow them to stay in power and even flourish at the expense of the majority of their own population. The dictatorships covered are the Congo (then Zaire)’s Mobutu Sese Seko, Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe, Paul Kenyon gives a detailed look at African dictatorships in this brutal yet illuminating book. What sets it apart from others is how he gives the entire dirty history of colonialism behind these dictatorships, as well as the modern-day diamond, oil, cocoa, and gold-driven financial interests that allow them to stay in power and even flourish at the expense of the majority of their own population. The dictatorships covered are the Congo (then Zaire)’s Mobutu Sese Seko, Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe, Libya’s Moammar Gaddafi, Nigeria’s Sani Abacha, Equatorial Guinea’s Francisco Macias Nguema and subsequently Obiang Nguema, Ivory Coast’s Felix Houphuet-Boingy, and Eritrea’s Isaias Afwerki. How I wish Kenyon could write a whole encyclopedia of African kleptocracies! I enjoyed the historical context, followed by heart-rendering accounts of the dictatorship’s atrocities, then frequent indictments of the corrupt officials and the complicity of the international community and multinational corporations overlooking their abuses and keeping them in power. The personal profiles of many who suffered, especially Nigeria’s Ken Saro-Wiwa, strike a deep chord with the reader and the author recounts their stories flawlessly. The western world’s imperialistic greed and willingness to overlook human rights abuses by dictators to exploit and get rich off their home country’s vast mineral wealth, petroleum deposits, diamond and gold mines, or cocoa plants is a theme throughout the book, which indicates that Kenyon is interested in justice and not just another white author out to make Africa look like a cesspool since independence. For those who want to learn more about the problems facing modern Africa but find themselves bewildered by the centuries of history, this is a solid start.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Tobias

    This is a remarkable book. I had a limited understanding of African history prior to reading, and I won't pretend that this has now given me a detailed knowledge of the continent, but it has opened my eyes to a remarkable amount of things about which I knew either very little or nothing at all. Covering a wide span of various dictators, from Zaire, through Zimbabwe, and ending at Eritrea, it offers a fascinating insight into the dictatorships that have plagued those countries. Importantly, this This is a remarkable book. I had a limited understanding of African history prior to reading, and I won't pretend that this has now given me a detailed knowledge of the continent, but it has opened my eyes to a remarkable amount of things about which I knew either very little or nothing at all. Covering a wide span of various dictators, from Zaire, through Zimbabwe, and ending at Eritrea, it offers a fascinating insight into the dictatorships that have plagued those countries. Importantly, this covers not only the dictatorships, but the how and why those dictatorships came into being. It would be too easy in the current political climate to use this book as a step up onto the current bandwagon railing against colonialism and all its evils, but this book doesn't pretend or try to be an anti-colonial rant; it doesn't need to, as it simply presents fact after fact, wrapped with careful and detailed analysis. For most dictatorships, the upshot is that their genesis was the appalling and egregious treatment of the country by its former colonial masters, through literal and metaphorical rape of the populace and their resources. The subsequent and inevitable uprisings and civil wars that followed are directly attributable to the colonialism that they succeeded. There is much more that this book offers, and its detail is superb, with horrifying interviews detailing first-hand accounts of the terrors that lead to such awful abuses. The analysis is good and comprehensive, and (to my uneducated eye) seemingly balanced, without making judgements. Well written, consistently clear in its telling, this is a great 'primer' if you want to know more about this subject.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Anusha Jayaram

    5 glowing, admiring stars This is one of the toughest books I've read. Not because the writing was bad; it was beautiful. Paul Kenyon manages to describe the landscape of Africa in such vivid detail, you feel transported there. This was a tough read because it was all non-fiction. It's tough to stomach so much brutality, blatant plunder, at once systematic and indiscriminate - knowing all the while that it's real. Kenyon chooses to zoom in on certain countries to tell their stories. The book is 5 glowing, admiring stars This is one of the toughest books I've read. Not because the writing was bad; it was beautiful. Paul Kenyon manages to describe the landscape of Africa in such vivid detail, you feel transported there. This was a tough read because it was all non-fiction. It's tough to stomach so much brutality, blatant plunder, at once systematic and indiscriminate - knowing all the while that it's real. Kenyon chooses to zoom in on certain countries to tell their stories. The book is partitioned into topics, each delving into one natural resource: diamonds, gold, oil, chocolate, and finally, human labour (the final chapter is titled "A modern slave trade"). The book manages to capture the story for each country, from the atrocities committed by colonial powers, to the way the country's own dictators continued this plunder - some cases being a literal illustration of going from the frying pan into the fire. The scope of this book is so expansive that it was always going to be a very ambitious undertaking. In that, it has certainly succeeded (minor editorial oversights like spelling Gandhi as Ghandi, and expanding GDP to read Gross Domestic Profit instead of Product can be overlooked since the overall picture is so impressive). The amount of research and field work is phenomenal, and it shows. I can conclude with the highest compliment I know of: I need to get this book in hard copy format. It is one for keeps.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Anatolikon

    A solid and well-researched tale through some of post-colonial Africa's nastiest leaders. The core strength of this book is that Kenyon has access to an excellent range of sources, including some well-place in both colonial actors and both those close to the dictators and others who were victims. Kenyon does not attempt to be exhaustive, but rather focuses his attention around the resources that made these regimes rich: oil, chocolate, diamonds, and gold, and then throws in Eritrea in addition, A solid and well-researched tale through some of post-colonial Africa's nastiest leaders. The core strength of this book is that Kenyon has access to an excellent range of sources, including some well-place in both colonial actors and both those close to the dictators and others who were victims. Kenyon does not attempt to be exhaustive, but rather focuses his attention around the resources that made these regimes rich: oil, chocolate, diamonds, and gold, and then throws in Eritrea in addition, presumably because he happens to have some great sources. The result is a complex book that doesn't point fingers: people in difficult situations can do bad things, colonial governments are rarely good but what came after some of them was worse, and rarely are the dictators themselves clearly bad people. That they became so is not in doubt, but Kenyon gives a lot of attention to how most of them came to power and their early backgrounds, which goes a long way towards bringing some complexity to the tale. This focus on the phase of gaining power is also the book's main weakness, as it tends to be almost the entire story: we hear quite a bit about how the dictators came to power but then the detail evaporates when it comes down to what they did in power.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Christopher McKeon

    One might think “the men who stole Africa” referred to in the subtitle are the dictators - men like Mobutu, Gaddafi and Mugabe who used their positions to steal billions while having thousands of their citizens murdered. But it is hard to escape the feeling that the men Paul Kenyon is talking about are also the western companies that facilitated this theft. Companies like Shell, who refused to acknowledge the ecological disaster caused by their oil operations in Nigeria. It is more complex than so One might think “the men who stole Africa” referred to in the subtitle are the dictators - men like Mobutu, Gaddafi and Mugabe who used their positions to steal billions while having thousands of their citizens murdered. But it is hard to escape the feeling that the men Paul Kenyon is talking about are also the western companies that facilitated this theft. Companies like Shell, who refused to acknowledge the ecological disaster caused by their oil operations in Nigeria. It is more complex than some say - we need oil for our economies to run, and that will involve dealing with some pretty unpleasant people. But the cavalier attitude these companies have displayed towards corruption and the impact of their work on African communities is disgraceful. There is little new here for anyone who has already read about these countries, and there appears to be no overriding point. They are stories about the men who stole Africa, and the violence some of these regimes engaged in.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Anzig

    The long read is finally over. Yeah! Thanks Paul for enlighten me about Africa. In short, Africa is supposed not to be poor right? But pretty much like Asian countries, the wealth and power are always belong to very limited people. I like how Paul shown us the idealism of each dictator, their true cause, their pride/nationality in the beginning - only to let it decayed and corrupted by richness. The conflicts were told in detail, sometimes I found it dragging for too long. I hope Paul will write The long read is finally over. Yeah! Thanks Paul for enlighten me about Africa. In short, Africa is supposed not to be poor right? But pretty much like Asian countries, the wealth and power are always belong to very limited people. I like how Paul shown us the idealism of each dictator, their true cause, their pride/nationality in the beginning - only to let it decayed and corrupted by richness. The conflicts were told in detail, sometimes I found it dragging for too long. I hope Paul will write another sequel about African leader such as Idi Amin and CAF dictator - or maybe Military Junta in Myanmar.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Wessel

    This book showed me again how little I know about the history and current affairs of a lot of countries in Africa. The struggles for power, the corruption, the role of western oil companies, the chocolate slavery. Most interesting to me is how a lot of these dictators have a humble start and just slowly get corrupted by power and money. Furthermore I am amazed that some of the dictators, described in the book, are still in power and doing pretty well for themselves.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Tom

    Highly recommend this book... fascinating account of 6-7 dictators in post-colonial africa in 20th century that amassed incomprehensible wealth and influence. Also a sobering account of the awful things Europe, US & other foreign power did to exploit various parts of africa for oil, diamonds, cocoa, and other resources. Very informative book to read 📚👍

  29. 5 out of 5

    Duncan

    It is just so much worse than you think... This well written and well researched book goes through the lives of some of the worst kleptocrats the continent had to endure (and in once case still does) and the enablers who hid their thievery and did little to curtail their violence.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Gearóid O'Connor

    A really excellent book. (Warning don't read it before you go to bed...........) A really excellent book. (Warning don't read it before you go to bed...........)

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