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But more than two thousand years later the poems of Homer were still being circulated in the Greek city-states by word of mouth. , while the pharaohs were building the first pyramids, Europeans were creating nothing more distinguished than huge garbage heaps . . , caused the laws of a complex society to be carved on stone, the most advanced Europeans were peoples like the Swiss Lake Dwellers, simple agriculturists who lived in shelters built over the water to protect themselves from beasts and men.

Thanks to civil society’s resilience, but most importantly to the military’s cooperation, one-party regimes had to relax their grip on power. Unfortunately, early hope has been tempered, not only by the military’s quick return or obstinate refusal to cede power in such countries as Togo, the Gambia, Guinea Republic, the Congo, and Mauritania, but also by 36 AFRICA’S ELUSIVE QUEST FOR DEVELOPMENT the stagnant or even regressing economic conditions of Africans. Africans took to the street to demand a more peaceful and accountable political setting that they believed would trigger a fundamental change in their living conditions.

Ethnicity became an outward symptom of a deeper malaise, deriving its salience from the willingness of African politicians to play the tribal card. As Diamond suggests the “political class” in each region fought so hard to establish a monopoly of political power precisely because exclusion from public office simultaneously implied the loss of a class base: Because state office or patronage was virtually the only means to attain a position in the emergent dominant class, and yet state resources were too limited to satisfy all comers, competition for state control was inevitable—and inevitably tense.

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