January 13, 2002 - Roanoke Times: RPCV Peter Schwab writes book about Africa

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Liberia: Peace Corps Liberia : The Peace Corps in Liberia: January 13, 2002 - Roanoke Times: RPCV Peter Schwab writes book about Africa

By Admin1 (admin) on Friday, January 18, 2002 - 10:18 am: Edit Post

RPCV Peter Schwab writes book about Africa

Read and comment on this excerpt from the Roanoke Times on the latest book by Liberia RPCV Peter Schwab on Africa at:

AFRICA: A Continent Self-Destructs. By Peter Schwab. *

* This link was active on the date it was posted. PCOL is not responsible for broken links which may have changed.

AFRICA: A Continent Self-Destructs. By Peter Schwab.

Palgrave for St. Martin's Press. 223 pages. $26.95.

Jan 13, 2002 - Roanoke Times Reviewed by BARTON MORRIS

Peter Schwab went to Africa for the first time in 1962 as a Peace Corps volunteer. Five years earlier I had gone on a travel fellowship to the same continent to study the independence movement sweeping the land. It was a time, says Schwab in this frightening book, of "great exuberance and expectation." In 1957 I felt those same emotions but worried that Africa was poorly prepared to govern itself and wondered if the United States was ready to play the role required of it.

Much has gone wrong since those heady days. Schwab, who teaches at Purchase College, State University of New York, believes that the very survival of Africa is highly doubtful. "Violence and death," he writes, "have replaced the expectations of four decades ago ... Tens of millions of people have died as a result of civil war, war, and their apprentices -famine, hunger, and disease."

Consider these assertions by Schwab: more than 21 million Africans have died of AIDS and over the next decade another 25 million are expected to die of the disease; child slavery is rampant, affecting some 200,000 African children; the Democratic Republic of the Congo alone has overdue debts to international agencies of almost $800 million; nearly three fourths of Africans living south of the Sahara have no access to clean drinking water.

Schwab sets out in detail how the African slave trade, colonialism and intrusion by the superpowers robbed the newly independent nations of the chances they had to succeed as self-governing states.

Over the last decade many African states have ceased to exist as viable entities and remain little more than a place on a map with a name. There are exceptions, Schwab notes, such as Nigeria and South Africa, which made democratic progress in the 1990s, but these exceptions are few. Much more dramatic have been ethnic wars, which brought catastrophe to such nations as Liberia, Somalia, Sierra Leone and the Ivory Coast, to name several of many.

Schwab finds plenty of blame to pass around for today's situation. Fundamental change, he says, must come at the United Nations and in U.S. foreign policy. The latter, he argues, has been timorous and negligent.

"Rhetoric, lip service and periodic trips to Africa where a president speaks of democracy and 'feels your pain' do not make a viable and coherent foreign policy," Schwab writes.

Still it is the great majority of African leaders for whom he reserves his harshest criticism. Schwab quotes Robert I. Rotberg of Harvard's Kennedy School of Government as writing: "Kleptocratic, patrimonial leaders ... give Africa a bad name, plunge its people into poverty and incite civil wars and bitter ethnic conflict." Schwab agrees wholeheartedly.

This is a disturbing book about a continent to which we pay too little attention.

Peter Schwab, Ph.D.

Professor of Political Science Division of Social Sciences

Office: 1033 SS Building Tel: (914) 251-6625 Fax: (914) 251-6603 Email: peter.schwab@purchase.edu

Dr. Peter Schwab is a professor of political science in the Division of Social Sciences and a member of the interdisciplinary black studies faculty. His interests include human rights, especially from a non-Western perspective, the horn of Africa, Ethiopian politics and culture, and the relationship between Cuba and the United States. He is the recipient of grants and awards from the New School for Social Research, Fulbright-Hays, and the U.N. Commission on Human Rights.


B.S., 1962, Fairleigh Dickinson University

M.A., 1966, New School for Social Research

Ph.D., 1969, New School for Social Research


Peace Corps, 1962-64, Liberia

Instructor, 1964-66, Fairleigh Dickinson University

Instructor, Assistant Professor, 1966-71, Adelphi University

Assistant Professor, 1971-73, Purchase College, SUNY

Associate Professor, 1973-80, Purchase College, SUNY

Professor, 1980-present, Purchase College, SUNY

Areas of Expertise Human rights; Ethiopian politics; politics and the horn of Africa; Cuba and the United States.

Honors and Awards Edith Henry Johnson Memorial Award for Outstanding Ph.D. Dissertation, 1969, New School for Social Research; Fulbright-Hays Awards for travel to Africa, 1967; Award for primary reference work on human rights, 1986, U.N. Commission on Human Rights.

Courses Taught The Middle East; Human Rights; U.S. Foreign Policy Since 1945; Introduction to U.S. Politics; African Literature and Politics.

Research Interests The effect of the embargo on life in Cuba; human rights from a non-Western perspective; Ethiopian politics and culture.



Schwab, P., 1972. Decision making in Ethiopia. C. Hurst, London.

Schwab, P., and A. Pollis. 1979, 1980. Human Rights; Cultural and Ideological Perspectives. Praeger, New York.

Schwab, P., and A. Pollis. 1982. Toward a Human Rights Framework. Praeger, New York.

Schwab, P., 1985. Ethiopia: Politics, Economics and Society. Frances Pinter, London (distributed by Cassell PLC, London)

Schwab, P., 1999. Cuba: Confronting the US Embargo. St. Martin's Press

Schwab, P., 2001. Africa: A Continent Self-Destructs. Palgrave/ St. Martin's Press

Reviews, Articles, Analyses

Schwab, P. 1978. Cold war on the horn of Africa. African Affairs, 77: 306.

Schwab, P. 1981. Socialist Ethiopia. In: B. Szajkowski (ed.). Marxist Governments, Vol. 2. Macmillan, London.

Schwab, P. 1997. Shabbat in Havana. Jewish Currents.

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