The dictators who ruined Africa

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He never changed his spots

Dictatorland: The Men Who Stole Africa. By Paul Kenyon. Head of Zeus; 480 pages; £25. To be published in America in autumn 2018.

IF THERE is one thing Westerners remember about the Zaire of Mobutu Sese Seko, its longtime former dictator, it is the “Rumble in the Jungle”, a heavyweight boxing match between George Foreman and Muhammad Ali which took place in Kinshasa in 1974. This pugilistic encounter feels not just as if it happened in a very different country from the one subsequently renamed the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), but almost in a different age.

The Zaire of the 1970s had already started a long, steady descent under Mobutu’s misrule that led to its economic collapse and civil war two decades later. But viewed from the dictator’s “Versailles of the jungle”, an ornate palace he built in his ancestral village, nothing seemed impossible. Propped up by aid from America, which…Continue reading

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Personal pronouns are changing fast

NOT so long ago a man could be jailed in Texas for sex with another man. In 2015 a county clerk in Kentucky was jailed for refusing to certify the marriage of two men. Gay rights in America proceeded at an extraordinary rate between Lawrence v Texas (2003), in which …

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Esther Kinsky muses on a river in England

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Giorgio Vasari, the man who created art history

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