A magazine for Africans and friends of Africa...Our Voices, Our Vision, Our Culture

"Mandela, Mobutu and Me"
By Frankie Edozien
In the years Lynne Duke, an African-American journalist spent in southern Africa as a correspondent for the Washington Post, she got a chance to experience the Africa that is often times not written about.

True, her riveting memoirs, which at several points become part history and part analysis, deal with the stories that were often in the news. From the dismantling of apartheid to the pogrom in Rwanda, Africans come to life in these pages.

Duke does not objectify, nor does she hero-worship, she merely tells it as it as and paints a picture of Southern Africa in the early 1990s in its unvarnished glory.

Whether flying into the storied Kisangani in Zaire, as the region was mired in conflict, to look for Rwandan refugees that the United Nations could not find; or lying awake at night in a tent in a Hupula village in Namibia afraid of the roaming lions, Dukes adventures are gripping.

Her chronicling of the fall from grace of Winnie Mandela is touching, and her taking to task the looking the other way of the United States government, while a genocide that resulted in 800,000 slaughtered erupted is enough to make the any idle reader snap to attention. Finally, former President Clinton's revision of history is exposed.

Some of it is just plain African, like when she escapes from a tense situation by boat on the Congo River and bullets begin flying. Not too long later after everyone is accounted, some young men begin drumming. The African drums signal life and Duke has no choice but to tape the sounds to capture the moment forever. The sounds she said that brought her from a moment of confusion to clarity.

Or her fascination with the Luandan mansion of Ana Joaquina dos Santos Silva, a mixed race woman who became a wealthy slave trader. Legend has it the house had a tunnel were slave were taken down to the Sea to head to America and Brazil. Duke just had to search for that tunnel. The search and what she found turn out to be quite incredible.

"I do not need for history to be rewritten to make Africa more palatable, more worthy of my embrace," she writes.

"In all of its splendor, it's struggle, it's horror, Africa is in me. I could say the ties that once bound black people in Africa and the Americas have been severed by time and mean nothing new now. Others have made that case. That is not where I stand. I claim Africa as a political act, as an act of affirmation."

So much has been written about Africa, but whether you agree with Duke's assessments or not, at least she can indeed write. Indeed it is an excellent tome.