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Angola: Promises and Lies Karl Maier

Angola: Promises and Lies


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Angola's civil war was the longest in Africa. Once the battleground for a proxy war between the Cold War superpowers, the country was supposed to become a model for a smooth transition from armed conflict to democracy. The government, earlier backed by the Soviet Union and Cuba, and the UNITA rebels, supported by the Americans and South Africans, would exchange bullets for ballots but it all went wrong UNITA's Jonas Savimbi rejected his defeat in the elections and plunged Angola back into war. The United Nations could only wring its hands, eventually negotiating a fragile new peace agreement. For most Angolans, however, the effects of a quarter of a century of violence have proved to be more enduring than the taste of peace.

Karl Maier was the Angola correspondent for The Independent and Washington Post for 10 years, and provides a fascinating analysis of the realities behind the conflict as well as a vivid eye-witness account of the devastation it brought. Whether speaking to soldiers, nurses, black-market traders or aid workers, he views Angola's strife with a rare sympathy for the ordinary people caught in the crossfire. Sceptical of both sides' promises and lies, his is a classic account of one of the civil wars that continue to plague Africa.

This updated new edition covers the massive corruption and other problems that have arisen since the ending of the war with Savimbi's death. Armed conflict has been replaced by an oil boom that has benefited only the country's elite as Maier observes, the vast majority of Angolans now face 'a war of neglect by their rulers'.

'An accessible, balanced account'
Sousa Jamba, Times Literary Supplement

'A rare, unsentimental book - compelling'
Weekly Mail (Johannesburg)

'Maier's narrative is energetic ... his portrayals of Angola, its people and its political players are vivid and immediate.'
The Scotsman

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'A vivid eye-witness account of the devastation caused by war in Angola. Maier travelled widely in Angola in this period and was one of the very few journalists to write objective copy about what was happening. Through this book, Maier has become the natural successor of Polish journalist Ryszard Kapuscinski ... His sympathy is with the person in the street trying to survive despite all the promises and lies of Angola's elite. This could never have been captured so eloquently through dry academic analysis.'
Alex Vines, Studies in Conflict and Terrorism

'The most distinguished reporter and storyteller to cover wars in both Angola and Mozambique. Maier's book is a luminously accurate gem. He's wary of all the politicians and tender with ordinary people helpless against the guns of both sides.'
Peta Thornycroft, Mail & Guardian (Johannesburg)

'It makes a rivetting read and deserves to reach a wide public. With passionate eloquence Maier depicts the horrendous sufferings of ordinary Angolans, who have known nothing but war for over thirty years - enduring constant bombardments from one side or the other, families divided and uprooted, many thousands mutilated for live by anti-personnel mines, many thousands more, mainly women, children and old people, dying of hunger and malnutrition. The author's moving account of his encounters with individual Angolans of all ethnic and political persuasions brings out the indomitable tenacity and courage of ordinary Angolans, especially the women, as well as the senseless stupidity of the conflict. Maier describes it as a 'civil war fought primarily against innocent civilians, the povo (people), by armies of conscripted youngster on behalf of power-mad politicians ... Both Karl Maier and I know how hard it is to persuade anyone to publish a book about Angola. The argument is that there is no public interest - and apparently no desire to awaken it either. This book is therefore all the more welcome, and Serif are to be congratulated for making it possible.'
Margaret Anstee, International Relations


'No other book has attempted to explain the Angolan civil war as dispassionately as this one. Few journalists have got so near the long-suffering people on the roadside. Few have been able to observe the machinations of the politicians and their puppet-masters at such close quarters. The author knows Angola intimately and loves its people, but his book, subtitled "promises and lies", brooks no deviation from the truth as he perceives it. The result is elegant, compelling, tragic. It is a tour de force ...'
David Birmingham, Journal of Southern African Studies

'An energetic partisan for the povo, Karl Maier infuses his fast-moving account of the war and peace process in Angola with a large dose of humanity and a reporter's eye for telling detail. The last five years of war in Angola have killed more than 500,000 people and blown off more limbs than any other since the Second World War; it should have generated several books and dozens of television documentaries. It hasn't. Maier's account is one of the few and certainly the best. His book takes in ten years of reporting the war,getting to know the leaders, the combatants, and many of the ten million caught in the crossfire.'
Patrick Smith, International Affairs

'Angola: Promises and Lies is not about political analysis, it is about people and the unlimited endurance of the human spirit. The precision and detail of his interviews and observations, his compassion and insights combine to create a sense of truth.'
Sunday Times (Johannesburg)

'The author's compassion and sympathy are reserved for the victims on both sides of the conflict, who make up the overwhelming majority of the Angolan people.'
Publico (Lisbon)

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