Democracy, prosperity and self-rule: this was the vision of African independence. The founding father of Ghana, Kwame Nkrumah, claimed: "with self government, we'll transform Africa into a paradise in ten years." A mere 50 years later, Nkrumah's assurance seems no more than a distant dream. Across the continent, the "optimism" that characterized the immediate post-independence period has largely faded. Meanwhile, ordinary Africans lurch between undemocratic, unaccountable and unresponsive governments and a decaying traditional African past. How did things go so wrong? Why has the continent lagged behind others in economic development despite its potential natural resources? Why are so many African states prone to conflict? And why has democracy been slow to take root in a majority of the countries? The answers to these questions lie in complex interconnections between politics and society, between domestic and external forces. Politics in Africa offers a fresh perspective that makes the continent's problems more understandable, less wretched and even intensely hopeful. In doing so, it shows how many facets of traditional African values endure and that, despite unimaginable hardship, the continent is not a hopeless or even a sad place.