- Paperback: 576 pages
- Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA; Reprint edition (6 April 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0199754209
- ISBN-13: 978-0199754205
- Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 4.1 x 15.5 cm
- Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 558,286 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Africa's World War: Congo, the Rwandan Genocide, and the Making of a Continental Catastrophe Paperback – 6 Apr 2011
Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your e-mail address or mobile phone number.
Africa's World War 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 ... Full description
Inside This Book(Learn More)
What Other Items Do Customers Buy After Viewing This Item?
Top Customer Reviews
Having worked in Rwanda for 7 years at the beginning of the Habyarimana regime, around 1970, I did not make a return visit until 2007 since when I have made three visits, most recently in January 2012. It is now a vibrant country, seemingly at ease with itself. What is also impressive is the number of 'Returnees' who are settling in Rwanda, some, such as one Anglican Bishop, from Mbarara in Uganda - to where his grandparents had emigrated 3 or 4 generations back - long before 1959. We met others returning from from Kenya whose exit also long predated the later Genocide.
That is one measure of the progress now being made in Rwanda.
Recently I have read both Gerard Pruinier's first book on the Rwanda Genocide and now this mammoth work on the Congo Crisis and its Pan-African implications. Like many of your reviewers I found it hard going but rewarding. My constant need to return to the meaning of all the abbreviations Prunier employs, even made me wonder if I was beginning to suffer from dementia, but I was reassured by being not the only one with the same experience! The maps are inadequate and Google Maps had to be constantly at hand to check just where places such as Ituri, are.
Part of the difficulty for me was to realise for the first time the full extent of Rwanda's involvement in the Congo Wars and how far, geographically, Rwanda went in pursuit.
So, a very difficult read but richly rewarding. Some observers have written that it is one sided and relies too heavily on personsal interviews which cannot be verified.Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
First, if you know nothing about the wars of central Africa over the past 15 years or so, in particular the Rwanda-related conflicts, this is an awful book to pick up and try to use as orientation. It assumes the reader already has a basic knowledge of the recent political events in about eight African nations and often launches directly into building cases against the conventionally-held wisdom, often without actually stating what the conventional wisdom is. I did my graduate thesis on the formation of an African Great Lakes rebel group, and I often had to stop reading to give my overworked brain time to process the flood of information or reread a section to make sure I understood Prunier's arguments. I can only imagine what readers who know nothing about the topic have to endure.
Second, one has to decide to what degree one trusts Prunier. If this book was written by someone besides Prunier, I would probably dismiss it largely or in whole. However, Prunier is the author of 'The Rwanda Crisis,' considered a seminal early book on the genocide, and the author of 'Darfur: The Ambiguous Genocide,' also considered one of the best books of that conflict. In this recent book, Prunier recants entire storylines of 'The Rwanda Crisis' and basically says, "Fourteen years ago, I discounted information that I now believe to be credible and this is the story as I now believe it to be." So one has to decide if this is a sign that (1) Prunier has suffered some sort of mental breakdown or has perhaps been subverted by some political agenda or (2) Prunier has reexamined his sources and arguments in the light of new information, as a good historian should, to compile a more accurate portrayal. I seriously considered both as options, but decided that Alternative 2 was the most likely. You will see other reviewers who have decided otherwise.
Moving on to the next roadblock for the reader, Prunier has some rather tenuous sourcing. For example, is a single news account quoting an aid worker describing how a frightened refugee identified a particular armed group credible? Probably not. Are dozens of such thin reports credible in identifying a pattern, or can it all be attributed to enemy propaganda and the chaos of war? Prunier, in light of some of the analysis he presents early in the book, believes he can identify patterns and reports these incidents without caveat. I'm in the strange position of willing to believe his general argument, while of the opinion that any one of the incidents he uses to make that argument might in fact be false. The choice that Prunier faced is either ignoring anything that cannot be 100% confirmed to organizations with proven credibility, which almost by definition excludes all sources present at the bleeding edge of a running war in the middle of a central African jungle, or using the many fleeting news reports and interviews with people pushing their own agenda that he in fact uses to create a narrative on which he builds his analysis. Readers craving the certainty of a Western style mediatized war, in which credentialed reporters interview the public affairs officials of organized combatants, will be appalled. Others will be heartened by the intimacy that Prunier brings to the work.
OK, so assuming the reader has enough background knowledge to orient themself and is willing to entertain the idea that Prunier might be presenting an accurate-ish account, what does the reader get? Pretty much the only attempt thus far to offer a comprehensive account of the Congo wars.
The parallel that springs to mind is Edward Gibbon's 'Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire,' which was heavily criticized for the many obvious mistakes, e.g. wrong dates, mis-spellings, etc. I once read a defense which, paraphrased, said only Gibbon had the breadth of knowledge to put together such a comprehensive work but, once he wrote it, people of lesser knowledge now had a stationary target against which to launch attacks.
I have no doubt that this book is going to be a foundation stone of scholarship on the Congo wars for at least the next decade, with people reassembling the data Prunier has dug up into new conclusions and others disproving content. I could point out several factual errors myself, but I know that I'm completely incapable of attempting a work of the scale Prunier has produced so I won't be a boor. You can count the number of people who are capable of a work of this scale on this topic on one hand, so I'll thank Prunier for putting his neck on the chopping block and give his book five stars.
P.S. I'm sure someone will come back and say I must be some genocidal Hutu supporter. This is the equivalent of saying that if you didn't blindly support Stalin, you must have been pro-Hitler.
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. Pruneir 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.
A Frenchman, Prunier wrote this history in perfect English, a remarkable feat. Even more remarkable is the incredible documentation -- dozens of pages of footnotes and references. He seems to have read everthing and is acquainted personally with many of the major players. His contacts allow him to move beyond standard analysis and description, as he is often personally informed of the real motives that forced events.
The book is a bit dense and the blizzard of different actors is difficult to track. Not an easy read. But anyone really interested in the ongoing conflict in the eastern Congo must read this book. I have read many other histories, and nothing else comes close.