But if the Africa optimists are clueless, the pessimists are flat wrong. Africa is not unchanging; a dynamic process of development and transition is indeed taking place across the continent. Tens of millions of people are flocking to the cities; population is booming; more people are becoming educated; investment is changing the nature of African economies from the Sahara to the Cape of Good Hope. Technologies like cell phones are changing African lives; emigration and remittances are pumping money into economies all over the continent; the triumph of Christianity across sub-Saharan Africa is having progressively deeper cultural and psychological impact; hundreds of millions of people are living in a world their parents and grandparents never knew.
Something is happening, but neither the optimists nor the pessimists get it—less because they don’t understand Africa than because they don’t understand history and modernization very well. . . .
National leaders in tough neighborhoods generally don’t fit well in neat moral categories. They mix serious accomplishments with staggering crimes. They combine a statesmanlike ability to manage a complicated foreign relations portfolio with hard and unwavering action where they think their vital interests are at stake.
The agony in the Congo has a long future ahead of it, we fear. The ethnic conflicts driving it are urgent and real. The failed Congo state and the shambolic UN presence in the region cannot provide enough order and stability for the artificial, colonial boundaries to work and for “Eastern Congo” to emerge as a viable political entity within the DRC. More than five million people are believed to have died in the last round of international fighting in this region in a series of wars some observers compared to Africa’s version of World War One. Europe’s first great war ended in a twenty year truce before an even worse conflict broke out; Africa, convulsed by the same forces that sent Europe spinning into war after war, is vulnerable to the same kind of fate.
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