Decolonisation was a geopolitical fashion that brought with it a gaudy array of horrors. Once the lid was off, a gamut of wholly predictable consequences ensued: the reprise of centuries-old tribal and national conflicts; sectarian wars and genocide; struggles for linguistic supremacy; serial power seizures and consequent shows of triumphalism; coup after coup; bent elections; and standoffs between free-range militias, mercenaries trained at Sandhurst and Saint-Cyr and guerrillas who knew every inch of le bled.
More pacifically, there were protracted arguments about the shape of transition. These varied from one country to the next. Common to all, however, was the anticipation of the imminent void that would be created by the change from one form of governance to another, from one dominant culture to another. When that change was actually made, the race to fill the void was all elbows.
In some instances the race was rigged. Officials of the former colonial power simply divested themselves of their titles, slipped into civvies and styled themselves ‘contractors’. Others clung on like the nurse who believes the child her own. The colonial ‘oppressor’ was often reluctant to check out. And the