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Bill Sutherland and Matt Meyer

[pound]13.99 Africa World Press

ISBN 0-86543-751-3

The themes of the book are explored through summaries of dialogues and discussions - over many years - with a broad spectrum of African leaders, including Walter Sisulu, Ela Gandhi, Kenneth Kaunda, Graca Machel, Sam Nujoma, Julius Nyerere, Jerry John Rawlings and Salim Ahmed Salim. Bill Sutherland does not reveal his age, but notes that in 1935 a high school teacher gave him a copy of W.E.B. DuBois' book, Black Reconstruction.

Jailed for resisting war

Seven years later he would be incarcerated in the Lewisburg Federal Penitentiary, facing a four year sentence as a war resister. He got out of prison in 1945 and helped found the Congress of Racial Equality.

Five years later he joined the Peacemakers Organisation, a group of radical war-resisters, and with them embarked on a cycle ride across Europe to Moscow, calling for the laying down of arms on both sides of the Iron Curtain.

Along the way he had his first encounters with Africans, mainly students who were enthusing the possibilities of a post-liberation Africa. The message proved contagious. As Bill puts it "I had a vision of Africa so idealistic that it almost prevented me from getting there!"

Bill Sutherland's co-author is Mart Meyer, well known in anti-war circles for his decision to publicly resist US President Jimmy Carter's Selective Service Registration Programme. He has worked with Bill Sutherland for two decades, and together they have had long hours of conversations with African leaders, visiting over a dozen countries and mapping the changes and transitions since independence.

Following a stint as a correspondent covering the Lancaster House Conference on Nigerian Independence, Bill Sutherland first visit to Africa was always intended to be to Nigeria - but he found his visa application blocked by the British colonial office who still controlled such matters.

So he changed plans and in 1953, took a boat for Accra, capital of Ghana then known as the Gold Coast. There he met and married Efua Theodora Morgue, a Ghanaian teacher and poet, and began a teaching project in the eastern region.

Through a friend from the US, Bill Sutherland was put in touch with the late Komla Agbeli Gbedema, then a building contractor and lay preacher, but who was to become Ghana's first post-independence Finance Minister.

Martin Luther King

It was through his role as Private Secretary to Gbedema that Bill Sutherland suggested that a young African American preacher be invited to Independence celebration - Dr Martin Luther King.

Alongside Gbedema, he played a pivotal role in protesting against the French nuclear bomb tests in Upper Volta, now Burkina Faso, joining in a caravan that organised protest rallies throughout northern Ghana and twice being arrested by the French after crossing the border illegally attempting to reach the test site itself.

Bill Sutherland's next African home was to be Dat es Salaam where his home became a refuge for fellow African-American exiles and activists, and he begun working for the Tanganyikan government in the office of Prime Minister Rashidi Kawawa.

Dar es Salaam was, post-independence, a haven for almost all African liberation movements, and many African-American radicals. His recollections of this period, along with conversations with Mwalimu Nycrere, provides much of the book's more revealing aspects, for example Mwalimu's describing the Union with Zanzibar being originally envisaged as a model for the East Africa Community project as a whole. This explains the current tension on the islands - in effect the Union is unfinished business.
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Copyright 2001 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Review
Author:Williams, Stephen
Publication:African Business
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jan 1, 2001
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