The Great African War: Congo and Regional Geopolitics, 1996-2006

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This book examines a decade-long period of instability, violence and state decay in Central Africa from 1996, when the war started, to 2006, when elections formally ended the political transition in the Democratic Republic of Congo. A unique combination of circumstances explain the unravelling of the conflicts: the collapsed Zairian/Congolese state; the continuation of the Rwandan civil war across borders; the shifting alliances in the region; the politics of identity in Rwanda, Burundi and eastern DRC; the ineptitude of the international community; and the emergence of privatized and criminalized public spaces and economies, linked to the global economy, but largely disconnected from the state – on whose territory the “entrepreneurs of insecurity” function. As a complement to the existing literature, this book seeks to provide an in-depth analysis of concurrent developments in Zaire/DRC, Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda in African and international contexts. By adopting a non-chronological approach, it attempts to show the dynamics of the inter-relationships between these realms and offers a toolkit for understanding the past and future of Central Africa.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Reyntjens has written a perceptive account of a war whose origins lie in the advanced decay of the Congolese state at the end of Mobutu’s 32-year reign and in the ethnic conflict in neighboring Burundi and Rwanda. Reyntjens delineates the geopolitical motivations of the different players and the diplomatic and military relations between them.”
Nicolas van de Walle, Foreign Affairs

"This is a compellingly organized volume on central Africa...This excellent work holds lessons far beyond the continent for conflict-resolution experts. Highly recommended."
-CHOICE, M. D. Crosston, College of Arts and Sciences

"This superb history of the recent wars in Africa's Great Lakes region is essential reading for students of conflict in Africa. Reyntjens has tremendous perspective on this key African subregion, having ably conducted and presented research on the area for over thirty years. The author has a considerable gift for condensing extremely complex identities and relations into a highly readable text. For relative neophytes to the study of central Africa, a better introduction could not be had; for the old hands, this study provides an invaluable aide-memoire to some well known events, and a great deal of fresh analysis of events that we are only gradually coming to understand." - John Clark, Florida International University, International Journal of African Historical Studies

"Filip Reyntjens... has written an intelligent and well-structured book. The Great African War provides a very factual and dense account of the violent evolution of Zaire—the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) since 1997—in its regional setting, from the first war of 1996 to the general elections of 2006.... Reyntjens presents an orderly, in-depth analysis of a very complex and multifaceted episode in this region’s troubled history." - Steven Schouten, International Affairs

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521111287
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 8/31/2009
  • Pages: 340
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Filip Reyntjens is Professor of Law and Politics at the Institute of Development Policy and Management, University of Antwerp. He has worked in and on the Great Lakes region of Africa for more than thirty years. Professor Reyntjens's main research interests are contemporary history, legal anthropology, political transitions and human rights, and he has published several books and numerous articles on these subjects. He co-edits a yearbook on current affairs in Central Africa, L'Afrique des grands lacs, which is a major reference work on the region. In addition to his academic work, Reyntjens serves as a consultant for governments, international organizations and NGOs, and as an expert witness before courts in several countries, including the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and the International Criminal Court.

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Table of Contents

Introduction; 1. A region in turmoil; 2. 'The war of liberation'; 3. The massacre of the Rwandan refugees; 4. The fall of the Mobutist state; 5. The Congo, waiting for another war; 6. Impasse in Rwanda and Burundi; 7. 'The first African world war'; 8. Negotiating the transition; Conclusion.

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