The Best Books About Rulers Behaving Badly In Africa

Bruce Bueno de Mesquita And Alastair Smith Author Of The Dictator's Handbook: Why Bad Behavior Is Almost Always Good Politics
By Bruce Bueno de Mesquita And Alastair Smith

The Books I Picked & Why

The Emperor: Downfall of an Autocrat

By Ryszard Kapuscinski

The Emperor: Downfall of an Autocrat

Why this book?

All of Kapuscinski’s books are gems. He traveled Africa and other parts of the developing world as a Soviet journalist. The Emperor describes the rule and decline of the Ethiopian Emperor, Haile Selassie. The dry day-to-dry accounts of the emperor’s benign neglect for his people is chilling. Haile Selassie knew to keep those around him happy and not to worry about the people: “A man starved all his life will never rebel…. No one raised his voice or hand there. But just let the subject start to eat his fill and then try to take the bowl away, and immediately he rises in rebellion. The usefulness of hunger is that a hungry man thinks only of bread.”.


When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

I Didn't Do It for You: How the World Betrayed a Small African Nation

By Michela Wrong

I Didn't Do It for You: How the World Betrayed a Small African Nation

Why this book?

Wrong’s account of Eritrea’s bid for independence from Ethiopia highlights the conflict between the needs of the people and the wants of leaders. The title of her book is taken from what a soldier liberating Ethiopia from Italian rule told a local and sets the tone of the book. Time and again Wrong describes how leaders will starve their own people or bomb their own soldiers provide it help keep them in power.


When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

The Fate of Africa: A History of the Continent Since Independence

By Martin Meredith

The Fate of Africa: A History of the Continent Since Independence

Why this book?

The breadth of Meredith’s book makes it a true masterpiece. He covers the political history of virtually every African state from independence through the end of the century. Each chapter is as compelling as it is brutal.


When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Congo: The Epic History of a People

By David Van Reybrouck

Congo: The Epic History of a People

Why this book?

Rarely has a nation been subject to such brutal leaders and the history of the Congo is not for the faint-hearted. Van Reybrouck describes the policies of leaders who never took their eyes of the goal: ruling and exploiting the wealth of a nation. Belgium King Leopold II acquired the Congo territory as his private fiefdom at the Berlin Conference in 1885. He ruled it with the sole aim of extracting its mineral wealth and if his colonial army, the Force Publique, had to maim and kill swaths of the population to do so, then so be it. He set a precedence that post-colonial rulers did little to change.


When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Multi-party Politics in Kenya

By David Throup, Charles Hornsby

Multi-party Politics in Kenya

Why this book?

By far the most academic of our recommendations, Throup and Hornsby describe the constraints that having to hold an election imposes on leaders and, most tellingly, how easy leaders find it to flaunt these binds.


When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Closely Related Book Lists

Random Book Lists