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Publisher's Summary

A vivid, heartbreaking portrait of the fate that so many African countries suffered after independence.

The dictator who grew so rich on his country's cocoa crop that he built a 35-storey-high basilica in the jungles of the Ivory Coast. The austere, incorruptible leader who has shut Eritrea off from the world in a permanent state of war and conscripted every adult into the armed forces. In Equatorial Guinea, the paranoid despot who thought Hitler was the saviour of Africa and waged a relentless campaign of terror against his own people. The Libyan army officer who authored a new work of political philosophy, The Green Book, and lived in a tent with a harem of female soldiers, running his country like a mafia family business. 

And behind these almost incredible stories of fantastic violence and excess lie the dark secrets of Western greed and complicity, the insatiable taste for chocolate, oil, diamonds and gold that has encouraged dictators to rule with an iron hand, siphoning off their share of the action into mansions in Paris and banks in Zurich and keeping their people in dire poverty.

©2020 Paul Kenyon (P)2020 Booktrack

Critic Reviews

"A breathtaking account...Paul Kenyon is a brilliant writer who's been there and tells a story of unparalleled greed and western complicity in vivid detail." (Michael Buerk)

“It is [the] minute observations that make Mr Kenyon's book so hard to put down." (Economist)

“Highly readable.... A chapter on the rise of Félix Houphouët-Boigny is especially vivid." (The Times)

What listeners say about Dictatorland

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    4 out of 5 stars

Compelling stories of despotism, narrowly focused

The book is quite engrossing in telling the stories of primarily post-colonial dictatorships in Africa. And it focuses mainly on the quest for oil, diamonds and cocoa. That may be the reason some prominent figures of recent African history may not feature in this book. There are several of the familiar suspects, however, and the stories of the rise, reign and fall (of most) of these authoritarian regimes succeeds in holding the listener's attention. The author seems to have put a great deal of effort into several precise countries and individuals. I would definitely be interested in another volume covering those who were passed by this time.

What this book is not, thankfully, is a kind of rationalization for European colonialism, genocide and opportunism. I had feared that may have been the case when I started, and judging by some Amazon reviews, a few people have mistakenly taken that from the book. To be clear, the focus of the book is on dictators of African descent, but it in no way ignores or mitigates European transgressions. A decent amount of time is devoted to those backstories. In any case, there are many other books that chronicle that immense topic, King Leopold's Ghost being one of the best. Similarly, the book is not myopic on ideology as cause for despotism. Each case has its own genesis, whether it be rooted in European subjugation of indigenous people, American capitalist opportunism, or Marxist revolt, or possibly all of the above. Overall a very good effort. However, some odd pronunciations and unnecessary, generic accents distracted slightly.

7 people found this helpful

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Brilliant

Great listen. I live in Africa and learnt so much. I throughly enjoyed chaptor on ivory coast

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Very interesting

very interesting and we'll researched book! I would definitely recommend this book to anyone interested in this subject.

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Fascinating but unfinished

The reader learns alot about young nations and the disasters that await as brigands take advantage of the power vacuums and destroy millions of lives. It is a cautionary tale of how one local tribe simply steps into the blood stained shoes of the exiting white tribe and behaves no different. It is the sad truth of human nature. But the story feels unfinished. There are many other African nations that have had a similar or better fate. It would have been interesting to visit them all to gain a broader perspective on the nature of transition, tribes, and the curse of power. I hope the author is busy on the missing chapters.

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  • Wilhelm Snyman
  • 08-20-20

Some embarrassing lapses in research

While most of the book is insightful and informative, when it comes to his analysis of the Rhodesian impasse and UDI he makes some assumptions which are reductive at best. There was racial segregation in Rhodesia, but nothing like what was happening in South africa at the time. The author erroneously says tat cinemas and buses were segreagated in RHodesia - this is not true;, private schools were non-racial as was the university. One is not defending segrgation but Mr Kenyon should have informed himself better rather than go on a white-bashing spree.
The Jameson raid he says was in 1896, when in fact it was in 1895; He mentions the discovery of diamonds in South Africa and asserts that the Transvaal was trumped by British colonial interests. The president of the Orange Free State, president J.H. Brand tried to oppose the annexation of Kimberley to the Cape Colony; the Transvaal or Zuid Afrikaansche Republiek did not. If such a lack of attention to detail is missing in just these two areas, Rhodesia and South Africa, one wonders how much else can be taken seriously in the book. As regards the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, Kenyon asserts that the British government favoured it in order to control the recalcitrant white-settler government. He does not mention that the idea of Federation was already mooted before WWII and that after the Afrikaner Nationalist victory in SA in 1948, the British, government, according to some sources, wanted the Federation to to be a bulwark against Afrikaner Nationalism and the apartheid system. Rhodesia was not perfect, of course not, but more thorough research would have avoided some embarrassing porkies...

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  • Anonymous User
  • 11-20-20

Pictures!

This is a book full of beautiful pictures. You do not get the whole book here. I can’t believe it’s difficult to include a PDF file with pictures from the book.

4 people found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 03-02-21

Wow! What a listen!

This book should be read by everyone & anyone who considers themselves worldly. Kenyon’s research is extensive - the stories are unreal and the performance by McLeod only enhances them. A must read and well worth the money!

3 people found this helpful

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  • Angus
  • 12-18-20

A revelation for Africans..of all colour and creed

A non fictional thriller in understanding African dictators and how the world made some serious errors in not getting natural Africans into public office earlier by more widespread gradual educational efforts.
We could have I feel worked together (black and white) far better in making Africa a safer better place.

The covert arms help given by China North Korea and Russia added fuel to the fire and the Cold War was the excuse for that.....but as my father always used to remind me...The human race has an ugly face and if so we can't all accept different creeds and ethnicity and stamp out racism then wars for shrinking resources will continue forever

As a start though can we please start getting rid of violent dictators quicker.... or does the old saying go...Better the devil you know than the six waiting in the wings!

The reader isn't perfect with his accents but otherwise is brilliant and if the accents upset you so much submit your own reading and stop missing the whole point of the story

Shame we can't have a vote for worst dictator of all but certainly not Cecil surely?!

2 people found this helpful

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  • Ragne
  • 04-03-21

Comprehensive history, excellently narrated

It's embarrassing how little I know of non-western history, but I'm trying to remedy this. This book is a great introduction to understand modern politics in several African countries by beginning with their history.
I love how it's built up, by natural resources and by country. It gives the reader a good overview and understanding of the complexities.
The heavy material is made easier to follow by great narration.

I wish the people who say Africans have only themselves to blame, and therefore shouldn't get asylum in Europe would read this. Maybe they'd understand just how badly we imperialists have messed up much of the entire continent, and still do.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 11-10-20

Terrible narration

Let down by poor narration. Is there a producer on these recordings who can pull the narrator up when he constantly mispronounce words? His generic "African" accent sounded like one of the Germans on Hogan's Heroes and was borderline offensive.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Lloyd Gunton
  • 11-03-20

incredibly interesting

A hugely interesting book delving into elements of African history that are not necessarily well known. I really enjoyed the construct of going dictator by dictator.

What was interesting was that the author gives little opinion and conclusion on the actions of those in power. It is not a condemnation of Africa nor an absolution of white colonialism. I found it overall quite a balanced approach.

The narrator was good although at times his accent varied wildly and there was some strange an inexplicable mispronounciations or normal English words that rather grated.

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  • Tomas
  • 07-16-20

Wonderful book about a very sad topic

This book puts lots of different events in a wider context.

I don’t know what to take away from this book.

I’d say the most shocking revelation would be how quickly people are willing to turn to oppression of others.

1 person found this helpful

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  • John Hodgson
  • 06-21-21

Absolutely superb

Riveting, harrowing, and superbly narrated. Possibly one of the best audio books I've read. Highly recommended.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 05-17-21

Excellent content, distracting performance

The content of the book is remarkable, well worth reading. The performance does let the content down somewhat. The narrator frequently attempts half-hearted accents for many of the personalities in the book, which are often downright insensitive and usually just poor, and it does distract you from the book itself. He also regularly mispronounces the most common words, as if he’s never come across the word before, which again only serves to remove one from the text. Somewhat distracting performance aside, this book is a fantastic account of the dreadful events of recent African history and should be read by all with an interest.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 06-28-21

Overlooked but not forgotten

The authors’ recollection of stories and key moments in African recent history pay a tribute to all those who fell victim of these ‘men’ without taking away the role of Europe’s colonial powers for the continent to reach its current status as the runner up of capitalism. Entertaining and confronting from the beginning to the end.

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  • N. Stafford
  • 05-30-20

One of my favourite books of all time

One of my favourite books of all time. Entertaining and education. Will be looking for more books from this author.