First-person Africa: gazing into the future of the homeland with fresh eyes and informed vision.

Author:Burroughs, Todd Steven
Position:New News Out of Africa: Uncovering Africa's Renaissance - An Ordinary Man: An Autobiography - Book review

* New News Out of Africa: Uncovering Africa's Renaissance by Charlayne Hunter-Gault Oxford University Press June 2006 $23, ISBN 0-195-17747-9

* An Ordinary Man: An Autobiography by Paul Rusesabagina with Tom Zoellner Viking, April 2006 $23.95, ISBN 0-670-03752-4

The capture and arrest of former Liberian President Charles Taylor this spring illustrates the sociopolitical crossroads between the not-too-old Africa seen by Paul Rosesabagina, the man whose story of heroism inspired the 2004 Oscar-nominated film Hotel Rwanda, and the "new news" brought forth by highly experienced print-and-broadcast journalist Charlayne Hunter-Gault.

Taylor, one of Africa's so-called "big men," represented the chaos and corruption of Africa's recent past and of its present; and his capture in Nigeria and subsequent appearance in front of an international tribunal in Sierra Leone represents that Africa will govern itself, if Hunter-Gault's argument is not misinterpreted. But Africa is in as much denial as Taylor (who pleaded not guilty to war crimes) if Rusesabagina's argument about his beloved Rwanda, now a nation of dried blood, can be extended to other parts of the continent

Hunter-Gault tells the recent history of a much-maligned continent through the prism of her decades of reporting in South Africa. She takes the reader deep into the post-apartheid era, warts and all. Her listing of the successes of the African Union under its most prominent leader, South African President Thabo Mbeki, would make any old head who ever wore a dashiki or had an Afro fill with pride. She shows evidence that Africa, despite its many problems, is taking serious baby steps toward self-governance--using peer pressure, for example, to uphold universal human-rights standards. Making inevitable comparisons between Pan-Africanism and the Civil Rights/Black Power Era, the women who bravely desegregated the University of Georgia in 1961 declares with some authority that "there is growing support among ordinary citizens for democracy on the continent, with people willing to put their bodies on the line to achieve it."

While Hunter-Gault is determined to provide a platform for the "new" (good) news of present-day South Africa and other places, Rusesabagina, with help from journalist Too Zoellner, tries, in the way a survivor of a massacre must, not to fixate on his nation's (horrible) history, old and recent. "We are obsessed with the past," he writes. "And everyone here tries to make it...

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