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Robert Mugabe (Ohio Short Histories of Africa)

Sue Onslow, Martin Plaut


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Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe sharply divides opinion and embodies the contradictions of his country’s history and political culture. As a symbol of African liberation and a stalwart opponent of white rule, he was respected and revered by many. This heroic status contrasted sharply, in the eyes of his rivals and victims, with repeated cycles of gross human rights violations. Mugabe presided over the destruction of a vibrant society, capital flight, and mass emigration precipitated by the policies of his government, resulting in his demonic image in Western media.

This timely biography addresses the coup, led by some of Mugabe’s closest associates, that forced his resignation after thirty-seven years in power. Sue Onslow and Martin Plaut explain Mugabe’s formative experiences as a child and young man; his role as an admired Afro-nationalist leader in the struggle against white settler rule; and his evolution into a political manipulator and survivalist. They also address the emergence of political opposition to his leadership and the uneasy period of coalition government. Ultimately, they reveal the complexity of the man who stamped his personality on Zimbabwe’s first four decades of independence.

Praise For Robert Mugabe (Ohio Short Histories of Africa)

“In this sober biography of one of Africa’s longest-serving presidents, Onslow and Plaut provide a brief but comprehensive overview of a controversial leader who’s largely reviled in the West but often revered in Africa.…Written in lucid prose, the informative book is commendable for its balanced assessment of 37 years’ worth of very tumultuous events.”—Publishers Weekly

“An excellent, accessible book on the opaque life and legacy of Robert Mugabe.”—Sabelo J. Ndlovu-Gatsheni, author of The Decolonial Mandela

“Using paradoxes and ironies, [Onslow and Plaut] skillfully portray the dilemma Mugabe weaved Zimbabwe into: ‘support for democracy, good governance, human rights, and rule of law,’ the authors write, yet brutal repression of political opponents; the dispossession of land from former colonial white farmers, and land redistribution creating a new class of a few top official landowners.…Summing Up: Highly recommended.”—CHOICE Reviews

Praise for the Ohio Short Histories of Africa series:
“I am a huge fan of Ohio University Press’s Ohio Short Histories of Africa series. I use them to teach my introductory-level African politics students about oppression, resistance, liberation, and corruption, and I recommend the books to anyone who asks as an affordable and accessible introduction to a wide range of topics in African studies.”—Laura Seay, The Washington Post

Ohio University Press, 9780821423240, 208pp.

Publication Date: March 5, 2018

About the Author

Sue Onslow is deputy director of the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, School of Advanced Study at the University of London. She has written widely on British foreign policy and decolonization, and southern Africa in the Cold War era.

Martin Plaut is senior research fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, School of Advanced Study at the University of London. He was Africa editor, BBC World Service News, until 2013. He has since published three books on South Africa and Eritrea, including Promise and Despair: The First Struggle for a Non-Racial South Africa. He has advised the UK Foreign Office and the US State Department on African affairs.