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Africa's World War: Congo, the Rwandan Genocide, and the Making of a Continental Catastrophe

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The Rwandan genocide sparked a horrific bloodbath that swept across sub-Saharan Africa, ultimately leading to the deaths of some four million people. In this extraordinary history of the recent wars in Central Africa, Gerard Prunier offers a gripping account of how one grisly episode laid the groundwork for a sweeping and disastrous upheaval. Prunier vividly describes the The Rwandan genocide sparked a horrific bloodbath that swept across sub-Saharan Africa, ultimately leading to the deaths of some four million people. In this extraordinary history of the recent wars in Central Africa, Gerard Prunier offers a gripping account of how one grisly episode laid the groundwork for a sweeping and disastrous upheaval. Prunier vividly describes the grisly aftermath of the Rwandan genocide, when some two million refugees--a third of Rwanda's population--fled to exile in Zaire in 1996. The new Rwandan regime then crossed into Zaire and attacked the refugees, slaughtering upwards of 400,000 people. The Rwandan forces then turned on Zaire's despotic President Mobutu and, with the help of a number of allied African countries, overthrew him. But as Prunier shows, the collapse of the Mobutu regime and the ascension of the corrupt and erratic Laurent-D�sir� Kabila created a power vacuum that drew Rwanda, Uganda, Angola, Zimbabwe, Sudan, and other African nations into an extended and chaotic war. The heart of the book documents how the whole core of the African continent became engulfed in an intractible and bloody conflict after 1998, a devastating war that only wound down following the assassination of Kabila in 2001. Prunier not only captures all this in his riveting narrative, but he also indicts the international community for its utter lack of interest in what was then the largest conflict in the world. Praise for the hardcover: "The most ambitious of several remarkable new books that reexamine the extraordinary tragedy of Congo and Central Africa since the Rwandan genocide of 1994." --New York Review of Books "One of the first books to lay bare the complex dynamic between Rwanda and Congo that has been driving this disaster." --Jeffrey Gettleman, New York Times Book Review "Lucid, meticulously researched and incisive, Prunier's will likely become the standard account of this under-reported tragedy." --Publishers Weekly


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The Rwandan genocide sparked a horrific bloodbath that swept across sub-Saharan Africa, ultimately leading to the deaths of some four million people. In this extraordinary history of the recent wars in Central Africa, Gerard Prunier offers a gripping account of how one grisly episode laid the groundwork for a sweeping and disastrous upheaval. Prunier vividly describes the The Rwandan genocide sparked a horrific bloodbath that swept across sub-Saharan Africa, ultimately leading to the deaths of some four million people. In this extraordinary history of the recent wars in Central Africa, Gerard Prunier offers a gripping account of how one grisly episode laid the groundwork for a sweeping and disastrous upheaval. Prunier vividly describes the grisly aftermath of the Rwandan genocide, when some two million refugees--a third of Rwanda's population--fled to exile in Zaire in 1996. The new Rwandan regime then crossed into Zaire and attacked the refugees, slaughtering upwards of 400,000 people. The Rwandan forces then turned on Zaire's despotic President Mobutu and, with the help of a number of allied African countries, overthrew him. But as Prunier shows, the collapse of the Mobutu regime and the ascension of the corrupt and erratic Laurent-D�sir� Kabila created a power vacuum that drew Rwanda, Uganda, Angola, Zimbabwe, Sudan, and other African nations into an extended and chaotic war. The heart of the book documents how the whole core of the African continent became engulfed in an intractible and bloody conflict after 1998, a devastating war that only wound down following the assassination of Kabila in 2001. Prunier not only captures all this in his riveting narrative, but he also indicts the international community for its utter lack of interest in what was then the largest conflict in the world. Praise for the hardcover: "The most ambitious of several remarkable new books that reexamine the extraordinary tragedy of Congo and Central Africa since the Rwandan genocide of 1994." --New York Review of Books "One of the first books to lay bare the complex dynamic between Rwanda and Congo that has been driving this disaster." --Jeffrey Gettleman, New York Times Book Review "Lucid, meticulously researched and incisive, Prunier's will likely become the standard account of this under-reported tragedy." --Publishers Weekly

30 review for Africa's World War: Congo, the Rwandan Genocide, and the Making of a Continental Catastrophe

  1. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    I'm not sure who I am madder at, the librarian who recommended this book or the author for making his life's work, his magnum opus, so darn hard to read. Unless you have a working knowledge of Africa, you are starting out behind the mark- Quick- name the capital of Angola! If you cannot do that, his reference to Luanda, as if I know what he is talking about, leave me wondering, is that Angola's capital or Namibia's- but the whole reference to Luanda, is not just a reference to a location, it is I'm not sure who I am madder at, the librarian who recommended this book or the author for making his life's work, his magnum opus, so darn hard to read. Unless you have a working knowledge of Africa, you are starting out behind the mark- Quick- name the capital of Angola! If you cannot do that, his reference to Luanda, as if I know what he is talking about, leave me wondering, is that Angola's capital or Namibia's- but the whole reference to Luanda, is not just a reference to a location, it is to the nuance of what Luanda means in the whole scheme of African politics- which I do not know- I felt through most of this book that I had no idea what he was talking about or what was going on. But beyond that, it gets even worse. The book starts with a glossary of abbreviations that he uses throughout the book to identify different parties, starting in the A's with things like "ADF" Allied democratic forces, a multi-ethnic Ugandan Guerrilla force created in 1996 in Zaire fusing together elements of ADM, NALU, and UMLA. He constantly referenced these abbreviations throughout the book, leaving me bewildered because, get this, the glossary has 159 groups he is referencing. Groups I have never heard of before this book. Groups that when they are introduced I have no clue as to whether they are gong to be important players in the end, or they are just passing references. And none of the relationships between is fixed. Two groups might be allies in one year, and enemies the next. Or might be allies in one front and enemies on another simultaneous front. or elements or sub-factions of one group might be allied with one group on one front and .... you get the picture- but multiply it by 159 factorial to get how confused I was. On top of all that, each group is made of of varying players- again, people I have no clue who they are- or whether they are going to end up being bit players I have just struggled to figure out how they fit in, only to find they are marginal, and really were just impeding my understanding of what the heck was going on. In the end, I am sure that this guy knows his shit, but this book I guess is for people who know a lot more about what went down. I was disappointed, because I felt that he had the ability to explain a decade long war and I was standing on the sideline going "what just happened." Probably, this just was not the right book for the casual observer. more of a wonk's book

  2. 4 out of 5

    Dave

    As a more-than-interested observer of events in the Democratic Republic of Congo, I found Gerard Prunier's Africa's World War a worthwhile if dense expression of one man's opinions about an incredibly complex chapter in the continent's history. Is it rife with supposition, self-serving sources, and subjective interpretation of events? Certainly. But that's the nature of the conflict, so readers expecting a black-hat-white-hat cast of good guys and bad guys are going to be dismissive of the work As a more-than-interested observer of events in the Democratic Republic of Congo, I found Gerard Prunier's Africa's World War a worthwhile if dense expression of one man's opinions about an incredibly complex chapter in the continent's history. Is it rife with supposition, self-serving sources, and subjective interpretation of events? Certainly. But that's the nature of the conflict, so readers expecting a black-hat-white-hat cast of good guys and bad guys are going to be dismissive of the work if not outraged at the author's audacity to present it as history. I suspect this is as close to an actual history of this period as we're ever going to see. What I found particularly useful was Prunier's run down of the multitude of nations involved in the two wars. The roles played by everyone from Libya to South Africa are examined in sometimes mind-numbing detail. The whys and wherefores of each player's participation are by necessity speculative; the Angolan military doesn't have much in the way of neat regimental histories posted on the Web to use as sources and neither Yoweri Museveni or Paul Kagame are known for giving lengthy confessional interviews. Still, if you approach the material with patience and several grains of salt, you can come away with a better understanding of how the conflict in Congo was shaped by numerous outside forces. It should be noted that this isn't light, recreational reading. I studied the DRC for five years as I was researching my novel Heart of Diamonds and I still found it essential to refer to Prunier's list of abbreviations and glossary time and time again. The sheer number of acronyms is enough to slow comprehension to a crawl, but again, this is no more than an accurate portrait of a 15-year conflict where six men with an RPG can declare themselves a rebel militia, take over a village, and eventually sit down at the negotiating table with representatives from several sovereign countries and the United Nations before splitting up to join opposing armies where they start the process all over again. Any account of alliances in Congo reads like alphabet soup in a blender. Prunier could have provided a little more specficity and clarity about two big topics. One was the role the United States played (and plays) in the Congo wars. With his somewhat fragmented organizational approach, it was difficult to piece together what we did to whom and who did what to us. America's hands have come away soiled every time we lay them on Congo (dating to our rush to be the first country in the world to endorse King Leopold's bold claim to own the nation), and I would have liked a more detailed account of what happened and when we did it during the period covered by the book. The other is Rwanda's major involvement in the game. Prunier certainly provides an exhaustive account of the genocide's aftermath and how it played out in the eastern provinces of the DRC, but the big picture seemed to have been obscured by the details. Maybe my mind was dulled by slogging through account after account of what was happening to the refugees and which ones were the good Tutsis and which ones where the bad Tutsis, but I have to say I didn't come away from the book with a clear understanding of what Prunier thinks Kagame really hopes to accomplish. Those looking for a simple definitive account of war in Congo had best look elsewhere, but readers who are sophisticated enough to take one man's observations and opinions and weigh them accordingly will find Africa's World War a useful addition to the shelf.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Brian Griffith

    Prunier gives central Africa's horrible 1996-2002 war the attention it deserves. He treats each ethnic group, nation, business interest, or foreign power involved to the same scathingly critical examination. Where each party claims itself a victim seeking justice, Prunier judges all actors by their own deeds: the genocidal Hutu refugees, the avenging Tutsi army, the old U.S.-backed defenders of private enrichment (as opposed to socialism) such as Mobutu or Savimbi, the manipulating French govern Prunier gives central Africa's horrible 1996-2002 war the attention it deserves. He treats each ethnic group, nation, business interest, or foreign power involved to the same scathingly critical examination. Where each party claims itself a victim seeking justice, Prunier judges all actors by their own deeds: the genocidal Hutu refugees, the avenging Tutsi army, the old U.S.-backed defenders of private enrichment (as opposed to socialism) such as Mobutu or Savimbi, the manipulating French government, or the rebel militias of unemployed kids taking pay to undercut neighboring states. Prunier's account moves at an observant pace -- through the aftermath of Rwanda's genocide, the implosion of Mobutu's Zaire, the quagmire of conflicting security interests, and the morphing of war into vampire-like private enterprise. Each effort to simply eliminate rivals generates greater blowback, till the chaos resembles central Europe in the Thirty Years War (of 1618 to 1648). Then, with the perspective of several years' hindsight, Prunier examines the slowly growing factors which brought the war to a formal close, leaving "illegitimate" non-state groups to be somehow included in a mutually-accountable future.

  4. 5 out of 5

    David M

    The word "Rwanda" has become synonymous with mass slaughter, and yet the actual ramifications of the genocide do not seem to be very well understood. To see this, compare how the catastrophic war in the Congo - which followed as a consequence - remains virtually unknown. In the west, or at least America, Africa is still largely seen as the land of generic mass misery. If the Middle East provokes fear and chauvinism, Africa provokes pity and condescension. The ideology of humanitarianism, so wide The word "Rwanda" has become synonymous with mass slaughter, and yet the actual ramifications of the genocide do not seem to be very well understood. To see this, compare how the catastrophic war in the Congo - which followed as a consequence - remains virtually unknown. In the west, or at least America, Africa is still largely seen as the land of generic mass misery. If the Middle East provokes fear and chauvinism, Africa provokes pity and condescension. The ideology of humanitarianism, so widespread in the west, erases politics and can be used to justify virtually any course of action; so that the lesson from Rwanda often turns out to be that the US can use it as a rational to bomb almost any country in the world. This stunning book provides an anecdote. The author seeks real lessons from Rwanda through painstaking analysis rather than sloppy moralizing. * As other reviews here have noted, the book is rather dense and difficult. Prunier brings in an enormous amount of African history and geography. The book does include a couple glossaries and a few maps, but even so I frequently had to resort to google to makes sense of what was going on. Moreover, while the subject is one of the bloodiest conflicts of the past 100 years, Prunier actually pays scant attention to the human impact of the war, focusing instead on convoluted political intrigue. Reading the book, you don't get much of a sense of what it was like to live through or die in this conflict. Even so, I strongly recommend reading it. At the risk of making excuses for myself, I think my ignorance coming in was fairly typical. Every semi-aware western citizen has some baseline familiarity with the wars that have plagued the Middle East since the end of the Cold War. The same just is not true in the case of Africa. There's a sense in which suffering in Africa is marginal to great power politics. Despite the book's title, world imperial powers actually do not seem to have been all that directly involved in the war in the Congo. At one point Prunier describes it instead as the first instance of one African country trying to colonize another - with Rwanda here as the aggressor and the Congo the victim. Prunier explicitly disavows and tries to distance himself from the idea of a "double genocide" in Rwanda. Even so, nearly everything in the book about the post-genocide Tutsi government is extremely unflattering. Kagame is shown playing on the guilt of Europe and invoking the specter of genocide to justify military incursions into another country; all this inevitably brings Israel to mind. I found all this incredibly fascinating. Europe's first world war is a point of comparison, but not a terribly convincing one. Prunier grants that, aside from perhaps Rwanda, the actors involved did not having a terribly developed sense of nationalism. Rather than ww1, then, the more relevant historical comparison may be the 30 years war; this was the late premodern catastrophe from whose ashes the modern state system emerged. It's notable that Prunier brings this up. Syria today is constantly compared to the 30 year war. What is it it that makes this such a salient point of reference for wars in the late 2oth and early 21st century? Is it just a loose analogy, or does it point to an epochal shift in the nature of warfare and the state? It at least seems possible that the era of clearly defined nation-states going to war with each other is over (with the Iran-Iraq as the last great example?); war today has become something altogether more baroque and incoherent.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Barry Sierer

    Gerard’s Prunier’s book does not just portray the anxieties that created the war in Congo, but delves into the anxieties about how the war is portrayed. This war was so multifaceted and complex, that keeping track of the various factions is more demanding than trying to follow the Lebanese civil war of the 1970’s and 80’s. Towards the end of the book, Prunier explains his own metamorphosis from being an admirer of the RPF (Rwandan Patriotic Front-the Tutsi rebel group that overthrew the Hutu gove Gerard’s Prunier’s book does not just portray the anxieties that created the war in Congo, but delves into the anxieties about how the war is portrayed. This war was so multifaceted and complex, that keeping track of the various factions is more demanding than trying to follow the Lebanese civil war of the 1970’s and 80’s. Towards the end of the book, Prunier explains his own metamorphosis from being an admirer of the RPF (Rwandan Patriotic Front-the Tutsi rebel group that overthrew the Hutu government that carried out the 1994 genocide), to a man who comes to see Paul Kagame and the RPF in the same light as the Hutu government that it overthrew, after it becomes clear that Rwandan forces are using the same tactics in their intervention in Congo. Prunier spends a lot of his book knocking down western stereotypes of Africa and explaining the region’s unique context to outsiders. This can be laborious for the reader, yet still vital to understanding the complexities and contradictions of this war. Prunier’s account is in depth and jaded (by experience) but still worth the effort to understand the many players in “Africa’s World War”.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Yngve Skogstad

    An incredibly well-researched and detailed work of history on the Congolese wars, but perhaps not something I would recommend to a lay person. Getting anything out of this book requires a significant amount of pre-knowledge of the region. An extensive list of acronyms, a few maps and a list of local words/phrases does help a lot, but either way, keep a map at hand and don’t rush ahead when reading. If you’re looking for easy, convenient narratives of the Congo wars, this is not the place to look An incredibly well-researched and detailed work of history on the Congolese wars, but perhaps not something I would recommend to a lay person. Getting anything out of this book requires a significant amount of pre-knowledge of the region. An extensive list of acronyms, a few maps and a list of local words/phrases does help a lot, but either way, keep a map at hand and don’t rush ahead when reading. If you’re looking for easy, convenient narratives of the Congo wars, this is not the place to look. Prunier attempts to debunk some of the popular misconceptions here. In my opinion, the strongest aspect of the book is his minute account of each of the actors’ regional/local interests and motives, a narrative which I found convincing. Admittedly, due to the chaos of the conflict, the practical inaccessibility of much of DRC, and the complete intransparency of the governments and groups concerned, good sources are hard to find. Thus, much of what is presented here as analysis should rather be treated as the author’s (well-informed) opinions.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

    Africa's World War: Congo, the Rwandan Genocide, and the Making of a Continental Catastrophe, is a fascinating book on the chaos of Africa's "First World War", written by Gerard Prunier. This book is no walk in the park, and for various reasons. The subject matter is extremely disturbing, as the collapse of Zaire is attributed to the aftermath of the Rwandan Genocide in the early '90's, which was itself responsible for the deaths of up to a million people. This is just the start of the conflict. Africa's World War: Congo, the Rwandan Genocide, and the Making of a Continental Catastrophe, is a fascinating book on the chaos of Africa's "First World War", written by Gerard Prunier. This book is no walk in the park, and for various reasons. The subject matter is extremely disturbing, as the collapse of Zaire is attributed to the aftermath of the Rwandan Genocide in the early '90's, which was itself responsible for the deaths of up to a million people. This is just the start of the conflict. The competing interests of various state and parastatal actors can range from disturbing to absurd. Competing factions include, on one side, Angola, looking to curb its own internal civil war, Zimbabwe, looking to compete with South Africa for mineral riches in the DRC, Libya and Chad, pan-Africanists with their own agendas, and Sudan, with a rivalry and proxy-war with Uganda. On the other, Burundi, looking to protect its borders with the DRC, Rwanda, looking for revenge and territorial expansion, and Uganda, looking to fight Sudan in any way possible. This confusing jumble of state actors becomes more complex when one looks at the various rebel groups operating with impunity inside the DRC. Abbreviations such as RCD-G. LRA, FDLR. and so on are common throughout the country. These groups fight, ally, disband and regroup constantly, and the abbreviations list in this book chalks up to 12 pages or so. This confusing list of rebel groups, commando forces and so on is a good look at a conflict which involves multiple states, multiple internal actors, and multiple foreign parties. Another review of this book on Goodreads laments the confusing number of actors in this conflict. It also decries Prunier's use of city and ethnic and tribal names with little context. The user states "Quick, what's the capital of Angola?" (it's Luanda). This criticism captures the fatigue in which the international community (ie. the West) viewed this conflict. Millions of people were killed during this war, for reasons such as, cooking food for rebels of differing ideologies, for being part of certain ethnic groups, for being perceived as friendly toward a certain state or actor, or just for wanton rape, murder and slaughter. The fact that people are fatigued by this horror is frightening and disturbing. This is one of the worst wars fought in the past 60 years. It is comparable to WWII in some ways. And yet nobody knows about it, or cares. The fact that many companies from France, Belgium, Canada and the USA were directly involved in funding rebel groups, dealing with instigators of genocide, and rampant and belligerent corruption, falls on deaf ears. No one group in this conflict, whether it be the genocidal Interhambwe, the completely useless and toothless UN forces, or the counter-genocidal Rwandan Tutsi, are innocent. All have the blood of millions on their hands, whether they wield the machete themselves, or whether they stood by complacently and watched it unfold. Prunier's book is bewildering, confusing, and oh-so important to read. It is a fantastic look at a genocidal war, comparable, in his own words, to Europe's 30-years war in Germany. Actors were out for territorial gain, or absolute greed, or revenge. The blood of millions was spilled. And this conflict has not even concluded. Paul Kagame, the leader of Rwanda, is still in power in Rwanda. Musevini still rules in Uganda. the Dos Santos are still in Angola. The ANC still presides in South Africa. Mugabe still rules in Zimbabwe. Ethnic conflict has flared in Burundi as recently as the last year. The M23 rebellion in North and South Kivu has direct links to the conflict of the '90's. This is far from over. Prunier's books is a fascinating look at Africa's very own WWI. It is a recommended read before the outbreak of Africa's WWII. A wonderful, coldly-clinical look at the most genocidal conflict the world has experienced since the horrors of WWII. Not to be missed.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Bryan--Pumpkin Connoisseur

    You'll need to hit the ground running with this one. I suspect the vast majority of Americans are going to have approximately the same amount of knowledge as I did concerning the two Congolese wars fought in the 90s and early 2000s, which is practically nothing. Embarrassingly little, especially for someone who considers himself at least somewhat informed about the world, as I do--and this lack of attention from the rest of the world is something author Gérard Prunier sadly laments but seems resi You'll need to hit the ground running with this one. I suspect the vast majority of Americans are going to have approximately the same amount of knowledge as I did concerning the two Congolese wars fought in the 90s and early 2000s, which is practically nothing. Embarrassingly little, especially for someone who considers himself at least somewhat informed about the world, as I do--and this lack of attention from the rest of the world is something author Gérard Prunier sadly laments but seems resigned to as well. The reality is, as he says, that in our image driven world, some atrocities just aren't sexy enough to get air time. Chances are, though, that at some point or another, you may have heard of the Rwandan genocide, though you may not know much more than that--those slightly better informed may also know that it took place between groups designated as Hutu and Tutsi, but, like me, may not have been able at any given point to pick out who were the victims and who were the perpetrators (which is sad, but evidently common, as Prunier even quotes a South African diplomat who couldn't keep it straight) With that as my starting point, I had a steep learning curve ahead of me--and Prunier demands that the reader undertake it. This book is going to demand your attention, as there are absolutely no easy and convenient shortcuts toward understanding what happened after the genocide and why, even though the world generally demands simple cause and effect storylines, whether any exist or not. When they don't, there are always people who will rush to invent them, though after reading Africa's World War, I don't believe Prunier is one of them. To recapitulate Prunier's account of the Congolese wars would force me to write a review nearly as long as his book, so instead I'm going to try to list some of the preparation one might need to read this book (or that one might have to absorb on the fly), and a few other meta-comments about the book, as there's nothing I can say about his narrative; as ignorant as I was (am) about the state of affairs in the Congo, I can hardly quibble with his account. The first thing I noticed when opening the book (and it's impossible to miss), were the eight pages of acronyms listed that were used throughout the text. I had a sinking feeling right then; any other time I'd read about African history, the effort of keeping the acronyms of different groups straight was always a struggle--and those often only included three or four different groups. Here there were more than a hundred. The next thing that became abundantly clear was that I was starting in the middle of the story. Prunier had written a book before this one (The Rwanda Crisis: History of a Genocide) which dealt with the events prior to the summer of 1994; the first sentence of Africa's World War could easily have been "And after those things happened..." So don't let the subtitle lure you into thinking that Prunier is going to encapsulate all the horrible events of the spring of 1994 in a tidy introduction for those of us who haven't been paying too close attention--as he says, the Genocide provided a catalyst for the wars in the Congo, but this book is solely about what came after. It would be similar to reading a book about WWI where the assassination of the Arch-Duke is alluded to as the springboard of events, but never discussed in depth. Here's a couple of questions you might want to ask yourself before starting this book: Do you know the capital of Rwanda? The Democratic Republic of the Congo? What was the D.R.C before it was the D.R.C? Who's the leader in Uganda? If I threw out the words Kabila and Kigali, would you know which one was a person and which was a place? And if I had the metonymic habit of using place names to refer to the government (like saying Washington DC to mean the government of the US), how long would it take you to get confused knowing that Kabila is the president of one country and Kigali the capital of another? (Kigali threatens Kabila with troop positioning, for example. Who? What? Where?) Most of this kind of information is in the book, somewhere, though the overall layout seems to suggest that Prunier already expects you to be familiar with the names and places he tosses out. There are some maps included in the front, which did help some, but like most efforts at maps, they could be better. And there are footnotes. My goodness, are there footnotes. You might think you were reading David Foster Wallace with all the footnotes. At first I ignored them--many of them are simply indications of source material. But about a third of the way into it, I discovered that there were many footnotes that indeed helped further explain some of the situations for those of us not quite up to speed on the complexity of the African political situation, and as much a PITA as flipping to the end of the book every other sentence, I thought it was worth it in the end. These things might suggest I didn't like the book, or that it was lacking in certain ways: Not at all--thus the five stars. To anyone who has any interest at all in this time or place (or in the nature of conflict itself), I would highly recommend it. It's no fault of the book that it's written in a way that asks the reader to do some work (for some of us, we might need to draw up some flow charts and Venn diagrams), or even to do some extra research, even if it's only on Wikipedia. In fact, I applaud Prunier for writing the book the way he did--retention is one of my biggest problems with historical accounts such as this, and requiring effort on my part seems to be one of the best ways to help me remember the storyline months and years later. And I can't emphasize enough: there is no easy storyline here. If the root causes of the war had been simplistic, it wouldn't have been so intractable. And anyone determined to find the 'good guys' for whom to root might as well stop now. There are plenty of villains, but no heroes. About the closest you are going to get is those who were 'stupidly naïve', or 'x was not as bad as y'. So, five stars for this incredibly dense and informative book. I sensed little partisanship in the part of Prunier, though I have to add in again that I am so woefully uninformed about this area of the world that I would have a hard time picking it out. But since no one really comes out as someone to champion, I have to feel like the author remained even-handed. As with any book like this that deals with recent events, it's probably best not to rely on one account of it. But for me, I deeply appreciate the way Prunier presented his information, and I feel better aware (by orders of magnitude) than when I began.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Robert Jere

    This has been the most educational book in my venture into African history so far. This book gives a very detailed account of the events that followed from the Rwandan genocide. A war that took place primarily in Congo and took the lives of millions of people over several years. The conflict involved a number of African countries who had different motives for their involvement. The author does a brilliant job of explaining the complicated groups of fighters that took part in the war. The role of This has been the most educational book in my venture into African history so far. This book gives a very detailed account of the events that followed from the Rwandan genocide. A war that took place primarily in Congo and took the lives of millions of people over several years. The conflict involved a number of African countries who had different motives for their involvement. The author does a brilliant job of explaining the complicated groups of fighters that took part in the war. The role of NGO's and western governments is also explained in detail. This is a rather sad read and it was hard to understand why i had never heard of this tragedy. The people of Congo have been through hell, it is so heartbreaking. Some of the motives in this book are so base considering the amount of human suffering that they led to. This book tells a story that i believe most Africans should know about. It is not easy to read because of the density of the information. But i found my persistence was rewarded.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Ed

    This book has taken on a "ripped from the headlines" timeliness since the very recent leak of a UN investigation into the war in the Congo between 1996 and 1998 which concluded that the Rwandan military was guilty of war crimes and possible genocide against Hutu refugees. Since the genocide perpetrated by the Hutu against the Tutsi people in Rwanda in 1994 Paul Kagame has used the pusillanimous behavior of the UN, the United States and Western Europe to demand that they support Rwanda economical This book has taken on a "ripped from the headlines" timeliness since the very recent leak of a UN investigation into the war in the Congo between 1996 and 1998 which concluded that the Rwandan military was guilty of war crimes and possible genocide against Hutu refugees. Since the genocide perpetrated by the Hutu against the Tutsi people in Rwanda in 1994 Paul Kagame has used the pusillanimous behavior of the UN, the United States and Western Europe to demand that they support Rwanda economically and turn a blind eye to the way they treat ethnic minorities. Gerald Prunier says that Kagame has used his "genocide guilt credit" to force the West to allow him a free hand in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, particularly in the mineral rich North and South Kivu provinces. Prunier, a well thought of analyst of Central and East Africa who has spent years studying the area, lays much of the blame for the continuing murderous conflict in the DRC on Kagame with Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni, grasping kleptocrat Sese Seko Mobutu, the foreign office of France and many others also condemned as part of the problem. Much of the war was about looting of the Congo for personal gain and to fund the war itself. Prunier says that sending his troops into the Congo was one way that Museveni kept from having to pay them while the Rwandan ministry of defense had a "Congo Desk" to make sure the proper cut of the loot went to the top. Uganda was most transparent in their theft, declaring gold and diamonds taken from the Congo and then sold as official export income. Rwanda had large increases in diamond exports with no additional domestic production to account for it. According to Prunier there were no real good guys--just about everyone involved in the Congo Wars was a scoundrel, some worse than others. The war wasn't a civil war as such--for example one battle in December of 2000 for control of Lubumbashi in Katanga the "rebel" forces were made up of regular army forces of Rwanda and Uganda plus the irregular armed bands they supported while the "DRC" army opposing them was largely troops from Angola, Zambia and Namibia. Some were there for loot; some to settle long standing grievances against the DRC; some for both. But none of the combatants--which at one point also included soldiers from Chad airlifted by the Libyan air force and troops from Sudan operating on DRC territory against Ugandan irregulars--were interested in the a peaceful solution of the Congo War. This was ethnic, political and economic warfare carried out with constant savagery against civilian populations and refugees, the slaughter of women and children with almost unparalleled brutality. Prunier is an elegant writer. He makes his case very well even if his biases occasionally show through. There are some documentation lapses--some important references are to private conversations with unnamed officials--but with 99 pages of footnotes, largely in English and French, he has obviously read very deeply into his subject. This occasionally leads to overly detailed discussions--for example if one wants to know about the four different Hutu political factions in Burundi in 1995, each with its own militia, how and why each group split, its internal politics and its relationship with the Burundian army you will find it here. Whatever its minor faults, though, "Africa's World War" is an extraordinary and necessary reexamination of the past decade of African history.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Sam H

    Africa's World war is an excellent, in-depth and well researched study of the war in the Congo. The book begins with the immediate aftermath of the rwandan genocide of 1994 and explains the events which led to the conflagration. This conflict was labelled as africa's first world war and was the biggest conflict on the continent since WWII, claiming 4 million lives. This is an impressive book. With about 100 pages of footnotes, and a 45 page bibliography, this is a very thorough study of a very co Africa's World war is an excellent, in-depth and well researched study of the war in the Congo. The book begins with the immediate aftermath of the rwandan genocide of 1994 and explains the events which led to the conflagration. This conflict was labelled as africa's first world war and was the biggest conflict on the continent since WWII, claiming 4 million lives. This is an impressive book. With about 100 pages of footnotes, and a 45 page bibliography, this is a very thorough study of a very complex conflict. The author manages to avoid taking sides, exposing the motives of the actors involved. This is not an easy book, as the multitude of players, names, rebel groups, armies is a little intimidating at first. This is the first book I read on the subject and it might have been a little easier to have a little more knowledge on the region before diving into this book. The author does a great job of explaining the backround of the countries involved in the war, with an overview of the Angolan civil war, the Central African Republic, the propping up of Mobutu as a western ally in the cold war, the situation in the Sudan, Uganda, Burundi, Zimbabwe, the Kivus and in Rwanda in the post-genocide period. Even though the author goes into the intricate details of the conflit, he manages to weave a narrative that is compelling and enlightening. I highly recommend this book. My only advice to the neophyte on the subject, as I am, is to relax and not get overwhelmed by the avalanche of information and groups.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Sara

    Wow! What a mess! This book is a very detailed account of the (most probably) biggest African conflict; a war fought among foreigners on the Congolese land for often unrelated interests and reasons. Starting with the aftermaths of the Rwandan genocide, Prunier covers the events ‘till the 2008. Although the situation is extremely intricate (during your reading you can probably get lost in a war bush somewhere in the Congo basin or drown in the river of words of a western diplomat), the author man Wow! What a mess! This book is a very detailed account of the (most probably) biggest African conflict; a war fought among foreigners on the Congolese land for often unrelated interests and reasons. Starting with the aftermaths of the Rwandan genocide, Prunier covers the events ‘till the 2008. Although the situation is extremely intricate (during your reading you can probably get lost in a war bush somewhere in the Congo basin or drown in the river of words of a western diplomat), the author manages to guide a careful reader in the complexity of what he calls the “continental war”. I have learnt so much from this book! The mineral wealth of the Congolese region has been often used as a kind of catch-all explanatory device; well, through this work you are able to see much more about this catastrophe (which hasn’t been very “media-sexy”).

  13. 4 out of 5

    Nathan Albright

    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 le 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.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Aaron

    3.5/5. A fabulously well-written and incredibly well-researched book that gets bogged down with too many details. Not for the casual reader.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Andy

    This book covers the war that can be roughly marked from the end of the 1994 Rwandan Genocide (the genocide is not covered much, as for sure it would require another book) that eventually led into a wild multinational war in the DRC. On Wikipedia they are listed as two wars, the First and Second Congo Wars, with the former covering Mobutu's deposition and the second covering the subsequent conflict between Rwanda/Uganda against their once-allies in the DRC and their foreign supporters, mainly An This book covers the war that can be roughly marked from the end of the 1994 Rwandan Genocide (the genocide is not covered much, as for sure it would require another book) that eventually led into a wild multinational war in the DRC. On Wikipedia they are listed as two wars, the First and Second Congo Wars, with the former covering Mobutu's deposition and the second covering the subsequent conflict between Rwanda/Uganda against their once-allies in the DRC and their foreign supporters, mainly Angola and Zimbabwe. I consider this an important topic for Westerners to learn about. Even the well-educated among us know quite little about exactly what goes on there, seeing terrible images and hearing terrible stories when humanitarian issues flare up but learning little about exactly who is fighting whom and why. Consequently the violence loses its human face -in our minds we chalk it up to "it always happens there." Unfortunately, this book is very challenging to follow for someone who isn't already familiar with the geopolitics of Africa. Though certainly impassioned, the structure of the book is too much of a recitation of events, like a very long and more emotionally charged encyclopedia, and with what I consider to be too much effort to give every faction its mention. Of course the subject itself is immensely complicated, but I think if you are to attempt an ambitious survey of a challenging topic, one of your major responsibilities as an author is in fact to strategically select historical narratives rather than making sure every last thing gets a mention. If that's an unacceptable level of simplification then perhaps this subject would be better served through separate volumes covering specific subtopics (maybe this book's bibliography has some helpful ideas). Its wide range of material covered makes it a good book to have on your shelf and refer to when something comes up in the news. But it has some shortcomings in its ability to teach the reader about what is happening.

  16. 5 out of 5

    DoctorM

    A wide-scope introduction to the aftermath of the Rwanda genocide and the near-decade of war in its aftermath. Let's remember--- the Congo Wars involved a shifting cast of international players (Congo/Zaire, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Angola, Sudan, Tanzania, and Namibia, plus the UN, the US, France, and a host of NGOs) plus a bewildering array of militias, political parties, ethnic/tribal movements, and governments-in-exile. The cost of the Congo Wars in the decade after 1996 may have been as man A wide-scope introduction to the aftermath of the Rwanda genocide and the near-decade of war in its aftermath. Let's remember--- the Congo Wars involved a shifting cast of international players (Congo/Zaire, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Angola, Sudan, Tanzania, and Namibia, plus the UN, the US, France, and a host of NGOs) plus a bewildering array of militias, political parties, ethnic/tribal movements, and governments-in-exile. The cost of the Congo Wars in the decade after 1996 may have been as many as five or six million dead from war, ethnocide, starvation, and disease. Prunier's account of war and politics here is dense, filled with an alphabet soup of parties and agencies and movements, and the reader has to struggle to keep track of the players and their backers. And Prunier is opinionated, cynical, and too open to rumours and self-serving, often unverifiable sources. Though...as another review pointed out, that's the nature of both war and the Congo. There are no good guys here, even among the humanitarian NGOs, whom Prunier sees as too fixated on being where the Next Big Thing is and refusing to see the political context of refugee work. The victims of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda become the ethnic cleansers of 1996. The Ugandans who fought against Obote's dictatorship in the 1980s become the pillagers of northeast Congo. Alliances and loyalties shift, coalesce, evaporate. But this is an indispensable book for anyone interested in what happened in the Congo after 1996--- a continent-wide war obscured by events in the Balkans in the late 1990s and totally brushed aside by the world's press after 2001. Very much recommended for anyone trying to assess modern Africa and its fate.

  17. 5 out of 5

    J.M. Hushour

    An immense, complex, and mind-bogglingly comprehensive history of the "Great Lakes" wars in Africa during the 1990s. Prunier, probably the world's expert on the subject, picks up in the wake of the Hutu genocide in Rwanda, details the internal political turmoil of Rwanda and Burundi, the effects of this in the Congo/Zaire, especially in the Kivus, and discusses the toppling of Mobutu, Kabila's reign, the resultant continental wars embroiling the above states, Uganda, the Sudan, Angola, South Afr An immense, complex, and mind-bogglingly comprehensive history of the "Great Lakes" wars in Africa during the 1990s. Prunier, probably the world's expert on the subject, picks up in the wake of the Hutu genocide in Rwanda, details the internal political turmoil of Rwanda and Burundi, the effects of this in the Congo/Zaire, especially in the Kivus, and discusses the toppling of Mobutu, Kabila's reign, the resultant continental wars embroiling the above states, Uganda, the Sudan, Angola, South Africa, etc., etc., etc. Let me stress that this work is not for the layperson: the events and history of this region is incredibly complex and a more general history might be suitable for the amateur Afrophile.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Ajay

    Look, this book is absurdly difficult to read, especially for people who aren't Africanists. It's brilliantly researched (The ENs could be their own book), and you'll learn a lot from it from just a casual read (which is what I ended up giving it once I realized (for the 12th time) how incredibly dense it is), but this book is better suited for studying than it is reading. I think this should have been two separate volumes, the extra space wouldn't have required Prunier to condense everything, w Look, this book is absurdly difficult to read, especially for people who aren't Africanists. It's brilliantly researched (The ENs could be their own book), and you'll learn a lot from it from just a casual read (which is what I ended up giving it once I realized (for the 12th time) how incredibly dense it is), but this book is better suited for studying than it is reading. I think this should have been two separate volumes, the extra space wouldn't have required Prunier to condense everything, which results in the generalist reader (i.e. Me) getting lost a time or two.

  19. 5 out of 5

    David Forsythe

    This book is about a war that is taking place primarily in the DRC. however to tell it's story it has to tell the story of a number of Sub-Saharan African countries. Prunier has great stories about the personalities and events that span most of the continent. Very dense. This book is about a war that is taking place primarily in the DRC. however to tell it's story it has to tell the story of a number of Sub-Saharan African countries. Prunier has great stories about the personalities and events that span most of the continent. Very dense.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Nick

    This started interesting, but then it got so dificult to follow all the different players involved that I just couldn't continue. This started interesting, but then it got so dificult to follow all the different players involved that I just couldn't continue.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Lgordo

    If, like me, you picked up this book because you wanted to learn more about the conflict that has wracked Africa for the decades of your youth, well, put it back down. This book starts after the end of the Rwandan Genocide and assumes you already know everything about it. References are made to past occurances as if you know what they mean and all their implications: eg - this DP camp reminded people of Operation Turquoise so they didn't feel motivated to take care of it. There are also about te If, like me, you picked up this book because you wanted to learn more about the conflict that has wracked Africa for the decades of your youth, well, put it back down. This book starts after the end of the Rwandan Genocide and assumes you already know everything about it. References are made to past occurances as if you know what they mean and all their implications: eg - this DP camp reminded people of Operation Turquoise so they didn't feel motivated to take care of it. There are also about ten bajillion acronyms for ten bajillion organizations ranging from NGOs to terrorist and/or government organizations, and somehow you're supposed to know the difference between them all (sometimes it's subtle). Leaders are also introduced by name with the assumption that you are familiar with their track records of corruption and murder in a particular country. While I struggled to make sense of the history, I found it easier to focus on the author's interpretation, which could arguably be described by "the soft bigotry of low expectations." Whenever he focuses his analysis on the actions of Europe, the US, and Western nations, he is highly critical of whatever action they take, although he doesn't seem to have suggestions for alternatives. When he briefly touches on China, his attitude is a shrug and an eyeroll. When he talks about the Africans themselves, he stays objective and factual, with a palms-up "well what can you expect?" attitude. I can sympathize with the "well they made this mess, let them clean it up" attitude toward colonial Europe, but even Prunier could admit that nobody understood the mess or had the faintest idea what to do about it (including his highly critical self). And ultimately, if you go next door and shoot your neighbor to get his house, you do hold some responsibility for it, even if Belgium somehow set you up. I gave up on this book because I could see I was not going to learn what I wanted from it. I'm still looking for a good higher-level overview of African conflict, because I'd like to move beyond the "well someone is always killing someone in Africa" understanding of my teens. But I can't really recommend this book for the purpose.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    My interest in the subject of African wars arose after I became acquainted & a friend with the Congolese refugee community in Ft Worth Texas (of all places!). This community is actually quite large & I wanted to learn more about how they came to be in Ft Worth. So I chose this book. A New York Times reviewer referred to Prunier’s book as “dense and overwhelming”. Admittedly this is an apt description & not an easy read but still a recommendation for those who want to have a deeper understanding o My interest in the subject of African wars arose after I became acquainted & a friend with the Congolese refugee community in Ft Worth Texas (of all places!). This community is actually quite large & I wanted to learn more about how they came to be in Ft Worth. So I chose this book. A New York Times reviewer referred to Prunier’s book as “dense and overwhelming”. Admittedly this is an apt description & not an easy read but still a recommendation for those who want to have a deeper understanding of a complex & devastating time period affecting multiple millions of people in central Africa. Prunier attempts & I believe succeeds in explaining the ineffectiveness of the international community in dealing with the Rwandan genocide (that we know about because of the movie “Hotel Rwanda “) both in the time leading up to the spiraling Rwandan genocide & its aftermath which was the catalyst for war engaging numerous other countries from South Africa to the Mediterranean. The Democratic Republic of the Congo was the battleground. The factor that makes the book a little bit difficult is the large number of individual actors & the array of countries represented by their involvement. Also there are so many non-state actors identified by their organizational acronym that keeping track of them almost requires a program! I have to admit that after working through the first 100 pages or so I skipped some sections as I searched for key bits of information. The final chapter is a good summation of the tragedy that is the subject of this book. I give this book a solid recommendation because for me it was worth the effort.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Håkan Torevik

    This is a very in-depth look at the wars in Congo and central Africa during the 1990's from an experienced scholar and field worker. Prunier draws a historical map of all the roots of the conflicts (plural since there were many concurrent) with a focus on the colonial inheritance and the effect that the genocide in Rwanda had on the entire region. This is not for the faint of heart, with a massive selection of notes and additional reading, but makes a good attempt at describing a conflict that m This is a very in-depth look at the wars in Congo and central Africa during the 1990's from an experienced scholar and field worker. Prunier draws a historical map of all the roots of the conflicts (plural since there were many concurrent) with a focus on the colonial inheritance and the effect that the genocide in Rwanda had on the entire region. This is not for the faint of heart, with a massive selection of notes and additional reading, but makes a good attempt at describing a conflict that may be too complex to be fully comprehended. There is a heavy focus on politics in Africa's World War, with attention to the humanitarian realities mainly in terms of numbers, opinions and political leverage. Prunier shows that he knows and understands the plight of the refugees and the victims but that is not the focus of this book. This is about the politics of war, not really about battles, misery and violence itself. The many factions and individuals involved in these conflicts are all influenced by a web of interdependent factors. Ethnicity and tribal loyalties, religion, economical matters, personal ambitions - all these and more have an impact on how different war bands, guerrillas, armies and politicians act. There are no good guys in this conflict. The main part of this book is a detailed chronological depiction of the wars in Congo and neighbouring countries. Very detailed and very heavy. You really need a decent knowledge of post-colonial Africa in order to make sense of it all. The amount of own analysis that the author makes is mainly quite discreet. What really shines is the final chapter where Prunier brings it all together. Here he elegantly outlines why outdated thought patterns made the western politicians and media unable to parse what happened and why our modern explanations regarding nations and motivations are inadequate for understanding the Congo wars. He also dares to be moral, pointing to the war crimes committed by all sides in the conflicts, in order to not put all the blame on "the west" that let it happen. The warlords and the local politicians are all very much to blame. He also puts in focus why a similar conflict is unlikely to happen, but also why a modern definition of peace is unlikely to work in the area. A powerful book about a part of modern history that still isn't resolved.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Qalandar

    Africa's World War, Gerard Prunier's fantastic exercise in a sort of double contextualization -- of both the Rwandan genocide and the ensuing trans-continental Congo conflict, involving at least half a dozen countries and yet more non-state militias and organizations -- is essential reading. Prunier analyzes the causes and course of the conflict in significant detail, without losing sight of his non-specialist audience, and all the while going beyond the glib explanations (of the "ancient ethnic Africa's World War, Gerard Prunier's fantastic exercise in a sort of double contextualization -- of both the Rwandan genocide and the ensuing trans-continental Congo conflict, involving at least half a dozen countries and yet more non-state militias and organizations -- is essential reading. Prunier analyzes the causes and course of the conflict in significant detail, without losing sight of his non-specialist audience, and all the while going beyond the glib explanations (of the "ancient ethnic hatreds" variety) much loved by the international community when it comes to many conflict situations, especially African ones. Prunier is rightly skeptical of the "New World Order" that emerged in the wake of the Berlin Wall's fall, not to mention the neo-colonial "old" order championed in Africa by the likes of France; at the same time, he eschews the facile (and condescending) anti-imperialism of many on the left, tending to deprive African political actors of agency. But perhaps most notably, Prunier seeks to correct the record when it comes to Rwanda's President Paul Kagame, and the movement he leads (the Rwandan Patriotic Front ("RPF")), presenting a far more complicated and disturbing picture of the RPF's activities in the Great Lakes region than readers of Philip Gourevitch's one man pro-RPF lobby would be familiar with. This isn't simply an academic question for Prunier, as he strives to demonstrate how Rwanda's post-genocide government shrewdly (and cynically) exploited the Clinton Administration's guilt over its inaction in the face of the 1994 slaughter of 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus by Rwanda's (then Hutu-led) regime -- with disastrous consequences for the rest of the region, as Rwanda used the excuse of pursuing the genocidaires in the neighboring Congo (then called Zaire) to invade its gargantuan neighbor, fueling a conflict that has been estimated to have claimed four million lives over the last decade -- the deadliest conflict since World War II. Africa's World War is a lot more nuanced than the above has probably made it seem. For instance, Prunier's debunking of the myth of the virtuous RPF does not lead him to ignore the very real security threat that the Hutu refugees who fled Rwanda in the wake of the RPF's 1994 victory over the genocidaire regime, continued to pose to the new government; but he rightly questions the offensive conflation of the Hutu refugees in general with the genocidaires. Nor does he pull any punches when discussing the RPF's own gross violence and its own blatantly discriminatory attitude towards the Hutus. Finally, the international community's combination of moralistic posturing, cretinous imbecility, and hypocrisy comes in for its share of the flak too. This isn't a book with "good guys" (although this reader found himself wishing Prunier had spent more time fleshing out the character of Joseph Kabila, the seemingly callow successor (and son) of Laurent Kabila, whose prior career had been devoid of anything suggesting that he would turn out to be the shrewd and capable customer he has turned out to be in running a country that was in dire straits when his father took it over from the West's erstwhile Cold War ally (and kleptocrat supreme) Mobutu Sese Seko, and no less so when Mobutu's successor died), but one that highlights the shifting complexities of the region's politics. For instance, taking the "international" dimension of the Congolese wars as an example (one among many), the reader quickly learns that it is impossible to engage with the Congolese wars that brought down the Mobutu regime in 1996-97, and then continued to rage for years due to a variety of reasons, local, economic, and international, without engaging with the history of the Congo's neighbors, including (apart from Rwanda), Uganda (where Kagame and the RPF cut their teeth in the 1980s in that country's civil wars), Zimbabwe, the Republic of Congo-Brazzaville, Burundi, and Angola. The complexity of the situation chronicled in the book can sometimes feel overwhelming, especially given Prunier's habit of frequently using acronyms that aren't collected in a key to the various organizations; an appendix at book's end to that effect would be immensely helpful, and one hopes that future editions spare a thought to this effect for the lay reader. But no caviling can detract from the fact that Prunier's is the indispensable English-language book for understanding the Great Lakes wars of the last decade, combining empathy and engagement with cynicism regarding the motives of the players that borders on the ruthless. In the final analysis, and despite the book's title, Prunier sees his subject as more analogous to Europe's seventeenth century Thirty Years' War rather than to World War I, both in terms of the conflict's structure (with much of the momentum provided by private/princely interests and greed rather than reasons of state per se, and in terms of its wide-ranging impact. Prunier's thesis is that the conflict has gone a long way toward consigning the "old" African "system" -- a relic of the Cold War and half-hearted de-colonization -- to the dustbin of history, much as the Thirty Years' War paved the way for the Westphalian system that would dominate Europe in subsequent centuries. Especially in the Great Lakes region, the old world, born of imperialism, ethnic conflict, economic pressures, Cold War ripple effects, and the weakness of the nation-state (a weakness, nowhere greater than in the Congo, transforming just about every civil war into a conflict with trans-national ramifications, as everybody's enemy set up shop in the Congo, where the central government was too weak to keep anybody out). As to whether the new beast slouching towards Bethlehem is "better" or "worse" than the dying animal, there are no easy answers -- if the Thirty Years' War is any guide, the jury might remain out for a few centuries yet.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Daniel

    Gérald Prunier takes us through the recent history of the Congo war. He painstakingly sets the ground by describing, in detail, and objectively, the Rwandan Genocide and ties the resulting conflict as a precursor to the several years of war in the Congo. While Gérald's prose could use a bit of more consistent chronology, it's easy to get the big picture and to connect the story — answering the questions of why and how the war happened. Great historical text for whoever wishes to understand the u Gérald Prunier takes us through the recent history of the Congo war. He painstakingly sets the ground by describing, in detail, and objectively, the Rwandan Genocide and ties the resulting conflict as a precursor to the several years of war in the Congo. While Gérald's prose could use a bit of more consistent chronology, it's easy to get the big picture and to connect the story — answering the questions of why and how the war happened. Great historical text for whoever wishes to understand the upheavals of Africa's mineral-rich country.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Anne Mcarthur

    I felt like I was reading above my weight with this book, but I finished it and I'm glad I did. Intensely important and determinedly referenced, this book gives a very precise history and background to the on-going war in Eastern DRC. Colonialism, genocide, humanitarian politics and acronyms. This book was published in 2009 and sadly, a tome equally large could be written about what has happened since. I felt like I was reading above my weight with this book, but I finished it and I'm glad I did. Intensely important and determinedly referenced, this book gives a very precise history and background to the on-going war in Eastern DRC. Colonialism, genocide, humanitarian politics and acronyms. This book was published in 2009 and sadly, a tome equally large could be written about what has happened since.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Ashley

    So, this was a pretty dry read. Also, you might want to brush up on some African knowledge. I started this book to learn more about the Rwandan Genocide, and this book picks up at the end of the genocide. He spends a good part of the first half of the book speaking about a guy named Mobutu, and I spent lots of time wondering who this was, and on page 77 we finally get an explanation of who he is.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Sheri Fresonke Harper

    Murky view of a difficult to understand genocide period of war involving many African countries. It describes many actors in the war and the results of many documented conflicts. Definitely worth the time to read because it tries to dissect causes without keeping to typical rationales.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Alex

    A very very thorough book, full of information and one I really enjoyed. Having studied "Africa in the Cold War" at university, I had a slightly more in depth if hazy memory of the different African leaders from the 1950s onwards, the wars in Angola, Ethiopia, Uganda, Rwanda etc, knowledge which was to prove absolutely necessary to truly understand and appreciate this book. Although this book focuses on the 90s and early 2000s, knowledge of the forces that have driven African countries throughou A very very thorough book, full of information and one I really enjoyed. Having studied "Africa in the Cold War" at university, I had a slightly more in depth if hazy memory of the different African leaders from the 1950s onwards, the wars in Angola, Ethiopia, Uganda, Rwanda etc, knowledge which was to prove absolutely necessary to truly understand and appreciate this book. Although this book focuses on the 90s and early 2000s, knowledge of the forces that have driven African countries throughout the cold war are truly helpful to understand the intricate links and relationships between countries, communities and leaders. It helps.if you have a working understanding of Africa in terms of geography (have a good map next to you!). This is a fantastic book, but be ready to work through it and revisit previous passages, do some extra research on the side to really get it.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Nicholas Whyte

    "http://nwhyte.livejournal.com/1344506.html[return][return]It is a tremendously detailed account of how, in the aftermath of the 1994 genocide, the new Rwandan government invaded its neighbour Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo) kicking off a conflict that sucked in military interventions from Burundi, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Angola, Chad, Sudan and Namibia, and which also entangled Libya, the Central African Republic, Congo-Brazzaville, Zambia and South Africa before it ended in 2002. Roughl "http://nwhyte.livejournal.com/1344506.html[return][return]It is a tremendously detailed account of how, in the aftermath of the 1994 genocide, the new Rwandan government invaded its neighbour Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo) kicking off a conflict that sucked in military interventions from Burundi, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Angola, Chad, Sudan and Namibia, and which also entangled Libya, the Central African Republic, Congo-Brazzaville, Zambia and South Africa before it ended in 2002. Roughly four million people were killed. The conflict was complex and remote, and got almost no coverage in international media. The Rwandans essentially got a free pass from the rest of the world because of the genocide, and because nobody like the Zairean/DRC rulers. Prunier details the horror that resulted, and does not spare his criticism of the local and international actors who made it possible. He even criticises his own earlier book on Rwanda, where he admits having believed the government when he should not have. (Interesting to note that his Rwanda book is quoted several times by Jared Diamond in Collapse.) [return][return]An excellent final chapter reflects that probably there will not be another African conflict that is as far-reaching geographically, although the basic conditions for future smaller wars remain. Prunier also analyses the failure of international policy-makers to get to grips with the realities of African political life. I found this point particularly compelling (it should be read as if all in the present tense):[return][return]'These states were universally weak because they lacked both legitimacy and money. Legitimacy was the biggest problem because even those states that did or could have money, such as the mining states, were also weak. Loyalty to the state is not an internalised feeling in today's Africa... Internally states are seen as cows to be milked. But because there is little milk and the cow can go dry at any time, it would perhaps be better to say that the state is a cow to be bled quickly before it slips into somebody else's hands. The state is an asset for the group in power, but that asset is fragile, there are no commonly accepted rules for future devolution of power, and things have to be grabbed while they last... The state is always somebody's state, never the State in the legal abstract form beloved of Western constitutional law. It is the Museveni dictatorship for the Acholi [Uganda], the Arab state for th southern Sudanese, the mesti

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