Political Africa: A Who's Who of Personalities and Parties

Political Africa: A Who's Who of Personalities and Parties

Political Africa: A Who's Who of Personalities and Parties

Political Africa: A Who's Who of Personalities and Parties

Excerpt

Preparing a political dictionary on Africa today is like travelling in that part of Alice's looking-glass land where it takes all one's running to stay in precisely the same place. We had hardly handed our initial copy into the publishers when a palace revolution broke out in Addis Ababa and we found that half our Ethiopian entries had been shot either by the insurgents or by troops loyal to the Emperor. I have no doubt that much will happen while the book is being printed to change the position of many of the personalities we have included and some of the political parties. Africa is alive, and the best that such a book as this can do is to freeze the continent in mid-motion at a chosen point in time. The book accordingly presents Africa at the end of March 1961, though we have attached whatever essential extra information has come to hand since then at the page proof stage.

It has been a far more difficult book to produce than we ever imagined. Had we known how few were the sources of information and how meagre we would find many of these, we would have chosen to keep running for several years. More probably, we would not have begun running at all. We have had the greatest difficulty in getting adequate information on what was formerly French Africa, and we are very conscious that what we offer on some of these territories does not measure up to what we have prepared on countries like the Union of South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria, where our contacts have been much less scanty. Even in covering these last, however, difficulties have arisen. Mail from the Union of South Africa, for example, has been somewhat convulsive.

This is not -- as which book of this sort can be? -- a dictionary of politics drained dry of all opinion. We believe that the domination of one race over another is wrong and stupid; that a society, the citizens of which govern their own affairs, is a better and ultimately more stable one than a society controlled by a small portion of its population; that a continent fused by a democratic determination is to be preferred to one frustrated by internal despotisms and outside intervention. No doubt these beliefs are somehow reflected in the looking-glass. We can only claim to have done what we consciously could to ensure the accuracy of the information we present.

We have an endless list of people to thank. We hope that we will be forgiven by most of them if we mention only a few, whose assistance has been of immeasurable value. Dennis Austin, Sonia Bunting, Mainza Chona, Basil Davidson, Ruth First, Judy Green, Thomas Hodgkin, Mohamed Kellou, Peter Kilner, Colin Legum . . .

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