In This Review

The Graves Are Not Yet Full: Race, Tribe, and Power in the Heart of Africa
The Graves Are Not Yet Full: Race, Tribe, and Power in the Heart of Africa
By Bill Berkeley
Basic Books, 2001, 309 pp

First-rate reporting informed by good social science makes Berkeley's analysis of post-Cold War conflicts in Africa a clarifying introduction for readers trying to understand the continent's apparent chaos. Drawing out fundamental similarities in the conflicts that have wracked Liberia, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Africa, and Rwanda, the author builds an argument that blames despotic leaders for large-scale violence. Without the ruthless machinations of tyrants in pursuit of power and loot, Africa's ethnic pluralism alone would not make its societies combustible. But as despots struggle to outflank their opponents or keep their regimes afloat without Cold War patronage, they find it expedient to stoke ethnic rivalries and spawn anarchic conditions. That way, they absolve themselves of responsibility for the dying and plundering that facilitates their political survival. "Tribalism" is thus no less orchestrated in Africa than in Serbia or other places where dictators have played the ethnic card. In a persuasive chapter on U.S. complicity in African conflicts, Berkeley targets former assistant Secretary of State Chester Crocker as someone who most "personified the arrogance of unaccountable power." He was less a war criminal than "the kind of figure many war criminals depend on: an articulate front man, capable of putting an intellectual gloss on otherwise crude power politics."