Introduction: African Politics since Independence
Africa is a vast and diverse continent, comprising 53 independent states (see Table, p. xx); this number increases to 55 if the Saharan Arab Democratic Republic and the Republic of Somaliland secure international recognition. With only a few exceptions, such as Egypt, Ethiopia and Liberia, these are ‘new’ states: most of them achieved independence in 1960, the annus mirabilis of African independence, or within a few years of that date. To lump these states together and talk about ‘African politics’ is somewhat misleading because there are important differences between them. There is, for example, a wide cultural gap between the North African states and the Black African states south of the Sahara. The geographic and demographic differences are often striking, as witnessed by the huge Sudan and Zaire on the one hand and the tiny Rwanda, Burundi and Swaziland on the other; within West Africa, oil-rich Nigeria — four times the size of Britain and with a population exceeding 100 million — contrasts sharply with the Gambia which, with an area of just over 4000 square miles and a population of approximately one million, was once (in pre-independence days) described as ‘an eel wriggling its way through a slab of French territory’.
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