Famine and Foreigners: Ethiopia Since Live Aid

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Famine and Foreigners: Ethiopia since Live Aid
By Peter Gill
Oxford University Press, USA, 2010
304 pp. $27.95
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Ethiopia's economy is one of the fastest growing in the world, even though Ethiopia remains one of the poorest countries in the world. Its strongman prime minister, Meles Zenawi, is a darling of the West, and his country is now one of the world's largest recipients of aid, taking in some $3 billion a year. Gill, in his sympathetic account of Ethiopia's last three decades, largely ignores broad economic trends and rarely mentions statistics, instead structuring his narrative around the country's recurrent droughts and famines and the international community's efforts to help avert future catastrophes. He has crisscrossed the country since the mid-1980s, and his book includes compelling vignettes of Ethiopians doing their best to improve desperate conditions and of donor organizations grappling with the country's complexities. Gill's account of the Meles government is generally positive, although his tone is never explicitly judgmental. A thoughtful chapter on the failed elections of 2005 makes clear the repressive nature of the regime, but it also seems to take seriously the government's view of greater democratization as a dangerous frivolity.