This sweeping survey of politics in French West Africa starts with the premise that the juxtaposition of French and African political cultures has created a distinctive politics in the 14 formerly French colonies of West Africa. Following a brief overview of the region's colonial experience, Le Vine provides a well-informed review of its politics during four decades of independence. He discusses ethnic dynamics, the personal nature of political power, the weakness of formal institutions, and the mostly dismal record of democracy in the region. A final chapter describes the relationship with France. Le Vine should perhaps have devoted more space to the collapse of several of the region's states in the 1990s, and he ignores some of the region's major changes: significant urbanization, the rise of debt, economic crises, and the growing deterioration of the environment. Nonetheless, the book abounds with telling anecdotes and interesting examples and will be enjoyed by nonspecialists seeking a historical review of an often overlooked set of countries.
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