Africa’s World War: Congo, The Rwandan Genocide, And The Making Of A Continental Catastrophe, by Gérard Prunier
If you are looking for a book that helps explain the complicated and convoluted nature of the Congo War, this book does a great job at setting the context as well as describing the complex motivations of the parties involved and the failures of Congo that allowed it to be pushed around by much smaller nations who had their own very particular goals when it came to involvement in Congo. The author also has some very intelligent comments to make about the crazy-quilt division that made Congo a less holy and Roman equivalent of the Holy Roman Empire in terms of its lack of overall sovereignty and state power. As would surprise no one, a weak state with a lot of natural resources tends to attract a great deal of greedy and acquisitive actions from its neighbors. We may frown upon bullies, but few nations are restrained enough to keep from bullying a neighbor whose resources make it a target and which lacks the ability to defend its own interests. And Congo had plenty of nations that were willing to help it out for its own reasons, at least for a little while, even if it has not really been able to improve its statehood during the last few years after this book ends.
This book is between 350 and 400 pages of reading material and is divided into ten generally large chapters. The book begins with abbreviations, a glossary, maps, and a somewhat large introduction to the contents of the book. After that the author discusses Rwanda’s mixed season of hope in the aftermath of the genocide that saw the restoration of a Tutsi government there (1). After that the author discusses the time from April 1995 to October 1996 that saw conflict in the Kivu and the impact of the Rwandan refugees on Eastern Congo (2). After this the author discusses the broader context of observers and interlopers into Congo’s affairs, including the role of the Sudanese and Ugandans, the importance of the Angolan war, and a few nations like Burundi, Zambia, and Central African Republic that were trying to stay out of the conflict (3). After this the author turns to the virtual war from September 1996 and May 1997 that was won by Kabila and his rebels over a dying Mobuto (4) as well as the discussion of how the peace was lost in the fallout of diplomacy and economic troubles (5). This leads to a discussion of the Second War in its massive continental phase (6) and the quagmire between August 1999 and January 2001 in the breakdown of the alliance between Uganda and Rwanda as well as the efforts of Angola and Zimbabwe to deal with their own concerns (7). After that the author talks about the whimper of the war’s confused ending to December 2002 (8) as well as the transition from war to peace from January 2003 to 2007 (9) and closes with the author’s attempt to grope for meaning in the conflict (10) as well as an appendix on Seth Sendashonga’s Murder as well as notes, a bibliography, and index.
When reading a book like this, it is important to figure out what the agenda of the author is. In this case, the author has a lot of agendas. One of them is to write a book that goes into great detail about the various parties involved in the failure of the Congo, which the author does very well. But not all of the agendas are likely to be as welcome to the reader, including the way that the author seeks to promote himself as being some sort of prophet, seeks to bash the French response and lambast Americans for being clueless and inattentive, to give praise to the South Africans for their savvy, and to compare the Congo Wars with the Thirty Years War in terms of the anarchical way that they were fought and the complexity of the coalitions involved over time. Again, these agendas are not always going to be unwelcome to the reader, who certainly has some notable insights on the Congo Wars, but these agendas are at least worth noting insofar as they affect the way that the book’s contents are framed.