Government and Politics in Northern Africa

Government and Politics in Northern Africa

Government and Politics in Northern Africa

Government and Politics in Northern Africa

Excerpt

This book came into being because of a need. Northern Africa is one of the world's least studied areas, at least in terms of English- language writings. Tunisia, long the West's staunchest friend, at the top of the continent; Libya, an oil-rich country that may soon rival Algeria; and Somalia, a growing trouble spot for Western policy: All are barren areas in American scholarship. Other countries -- Morocco, Algeria, Sudan, and Ethiopia -- have been accorded more attention, but hardly in a measure comparable to their importance. Only the United Arab Republic (Egypt) has been the subject of a large number of political analyses. The reason, to a great extent, is probably the uncertain position of these countries. They are part of both the Arab and the African worlds, and as a result have been treated as part of neither. All of them, except Somalia and Algeria, attained their independence before the wave of liberation swept the continent in 1960 and, more significant, before some of the modern analytical tools for understanding emerging nations were developed. North Africa (the Maghreb) -- Tunisia, Morocco, and Algeria -- has always been the domain of France, in scholarship as well as politics; Egypt has been the domain of the Arabists; the rest have been ignored. Yet these countries are profoundly part of Africa. The large number of contemporary treatises on government and politics both in the Middle East and in Africa south of the Sahara therefore need to be supplemented by a study covering the in-between area.

There is also an ideological need. If some of these countries have gained recent attention, it has been primarily on the level of emotion and polemics. Colonialism and dictatorship have been the usual lenses for examinations of Algeria and the United Arab Republic. The result has been to becloud rather than to clarify issues. In fact, the poles of colonialism and independence, of dictatorship and democracy, do not provide adequate perspectives for judging . . .

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