Martin Meredith‘s excellent book The State of Africa1 gives a concise, thorough, generally impartial and often exhilarating run-through the rollercoaster ride of African politics since the beginnings of independence in the 1950’s. A tale of tyrants, cruel conflicts and broken promises, it’s often scary but never morbid. Its conclusion, though, is striking: “Fifty years after the beginning of the independence era, Africa’s prospects are bleaker than ever before.”

Even I’m not sufficiently presumptuous to try to summarise fifty years of a continent’s history in a blog post. But I can provide a sort of reference guide, for quickly knowing a country’s basic political history. (more…)