In This Review

Robert Mugabe: A Life of Power and Violence
Robert Mugabe: A Life of Power and Violence
By Stephen Chan
University of Michigan Press, 2003, 243 pp

Chan, a veteran observer of African international relations, sets himself the difficult task of judging the political record of Zimbabwe's controversial president. He lowers expectations by eschewing analysis of psychological motives and instead stresses an evaluation of actions. He looks at Mugabe's diplomatic moves to end Mozambique's civil war (bold and successful), his maneuvers to defeat rival leaders and movements over two decades (savage and successful), and his confrontations with foreign opinion regarding land seizures (risky, ruthless, but partly successful). Apart from the land-ownership issue, Chan says little about Mugabe's domestic record of corruption and economic decline. Many readers will wish for a more probing conclusion than his final judgment that, after a complex political life, Mugabe is "complexly bad." Nevertheless, in spite of a colorful but rather tangled writing style, there is much here that is interesting and insightful, including a discussion of Zimbabwe's frustrated intellectuals.