Maintaining up-to-date information and deep knowledge about Africa is critical to the team at the U.S. Africa Command. To that end, a reading list was compiled to provide suggestions. Here are some top picks. Check the blog next week for the full list.
Thanks to the AFRICOM Research Library for providing us with this list. Look for an upcoming story on the library, new to Kelley Barracks.
1. “The Fate of Africa or The State of Africa: A History of Fifty Years of Independence,” Martin Meredith (2005). A narrative history of Africa over the last fifty years, with a focus on people and key events. This is a great start point for those becoming acquainted with the African continent.
2. “Things Fall Apart,” Chinua Achebe (1958). An African literary classic that captures the cultural intrusions represented by colonialism. This book is one of the most well-known African novels, and as such should be required reading for individuals interacting in Africa.
3. “The Road to Hell,” Michael Maren (1989). An overview of the unintended consequences of U.S. humanitarian aid. This book provides good insight into events that led to the violent end of U.S. involvement in Somalia.
4. “This Child Will Be Great: Memoir of a Remarkable Life by Africa’s First Woman President,” Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (2009). This is a compelling tale of the President of Liberia’s early childhood, rise to power, and experiences with abuse, imprisonment, exile, and fight for democracy and social justice.
5. “Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust,” Immaculée Ilibagiza (2006). This is an inspiring story about a young Rwandan woman’s genocide survival. Her story gives us hope in overcoming the divisions deliberately created by those with self-serving agendas and no thought for humanity.
6. “Understanding Contemporary Africa,” April Gordon (2007). An academic overview of the issues and challenges surrounding contemporary Africa. Topics include African cultures, politics, religion, economies, gender relations, and literature.
7. “Long Walk to Freedom,” Nelson Mandela (1995). This book should be required reading if for no other reason than it recognizes and provides insight into one of Africa’s greatest Statesmen.
8. “The State in Africa: Politics of the Belly,” Jean-Francois Bayart (1989). A translation of the book: L’etat en Afrique: Politique du Ventre, the term “politics of the belly” is a metaphor for a nepotistic, corrupt African State in which government and business elite use their influence to enrich themselves, their families or ethnic kinsmen. Similar in concept to neopatrimonialism, in which private sector support is bought by the state, this book addresses the form of governance that arose across much of Africa following independence. Nigeria’s postcolonial experience is perhaps the most apt example of the “politics of the belly”.
9. “More Than Humanitarianism: A Strategic U.S. Approach Toward Africa,” Anthony Lake (2007). This Council on Foreign Relations-sponsored Independent Task Force Report argues that Africa is becoming steadily more central to the United States and to the rest of the world in ways that transcend humanitarian interests. Africa now plays an increasingly significant role in supplying energy, preventing the spread of terrorism, and halting the devastation of HIV/AIDS. Africa’s growing importance is reflected in the intensifying competition with China and other countries for both access to African resources and influence in this region. A more comprehensive U.S. policy toward Africa is needed, the report states, and it lays out recommendations for policymakers to craft that policy.
10. “World War: Congo, the Rwandan Genocide and the Making of a Continental Catastrophe,” Gerard Prunier (2009). The Rwandan genocide sparked a horrific bloodbath that swept across sub-Saharan Africa, ultimately leading to the deaths of some four million people. This book offers a gripping account of how one grisly episode laid the groundwork for a sweeping and disastrous upheaval. The heart of the book documents how the whole core of the African continent became engulfed in an intractable and bloody conflict after 1998, a devastating war that only wound down following the assassination of Kabila in 2001. The author indicts the international community for its lack of interest in what was then the largest conflict in the world.
11. “The African Union: Challenges of Globalization, Security, and Governance,” Samuel Makinda (2007). This book is a comprehensive examination of the work of the African Union (AU), with special emphasis on its capacity to meet the challenges of building and sustaining governance institutions and security mechanisms. It articulates how Africa and, in particular, the AU can effectively address the challenges of building and sustaining governance institutions and security mechanisms only if they have strategic leadership. Current debates on, and criticisms of, leadership in Africa are also analyzed as well as key options for overcoming the constraints that African leaders face.
12. “African Security Governance,” Gavin Cawthra (2010). A result of research carried out over several years by the Southern African Defence and Security Management Network (SADSEM), in co-operation with the Danish Institute for International Studies and the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, this book covers many of Africa’s new and emerging security issu
es. The broad focus is on security governance – the role of state and a wide range of social actors in the areas of both human and state security. It deals with a range of sectors, themes and national case studies and makes an important contribution to debates on security sector reform. The topics covered include policing transformation, intelligence governance, regulation of private security actors, challenges of nuclear proliferation, regional security, peace diplomacy and peace missions, the relationship between development and security, and new challenges in governance of the military.
Have you read one of these books? Let us know what you’d recommend in the comments below.