Two decades of carnage followed bloody but successful nationalist wars of independence in Mozambique and Angola. What caused these tragic and destructive postindependence conflicts, and, once they were underway, what sustained them for so long? No previous attempts, either by academics or journalists, to answer these questions come near Minter's treatment in its exhaustive consideration of the complex evidence. Not only does he sift through practically everything that is publicly known plus the best informed speculation, but he also takes his readers through a series of counterfactuals in order to test some prevailing, but too simple, theories about the causes of the wars. Important gaps might someday be filled by the still-secret (or, more likely, already shredded) files of Pretoria's pre-1994 security forces, or from diplomatic memoirs yet to be written (which might cast more light, for example, on the Soviet and Cuban roles or offset the self-serving version of events put forward by former Assistant Secretary of State for Africa Chester Crocker). But there will not be as comprehensive or meticulous a book on this ghastly chapter of Africa's history for a long time to come.
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