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 (DRC). 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 privatised and criminalised 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: 9780521169059
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 8/23/2010
  • Pages: 340
  • Sales rank: 1,447,207
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.90 (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

Acknowledgements ix

List of Maps xi

Introduction 1

1 A Region in Turmoil 10

1.1 Kivu: Land of confrontation 10

National context 10

Crises of identity, of land and of politics 13

The new given: Influx of Hutu refugees 16

South Kivu: The Banyamulenge 21

1.2 Rwanda: From genocide to dictatorship 23

The power base 24

The drift 25

'Burundisation' of Rwanda 29

Militarisation of the political landscape 31

Continuity in managing the state 32

1.3 Burundi: From putsch to civil war 34

Creeping coup 34

Extension of the civil war 39

Coup of 25 July 1996 and its aftermath 41

1.4 Regional junctions 42

2 The 'War of Liberation' 45

2.1 The 'Banyamulenge Rebellion' and the Rwandan operation 45

2.2 The other eastern neighbours: Uganda and Burundi 58

2.3 Angola enters the fray: Kinshasa in 100 days 61

2.4 Other regional allies 65

2.5 U.S. involvement 66

Logistical and political support 66

Supply of material and personnel 70

Incoberence 74

Degree of involvement 77

3 Massacre of the Rwandan Refugees 80

3.1 Aborted international intervention 80

3.2 Crimes against humanity: Genocide? 87

Attacks against refugee camps and concentrations 93

Humanitarian assistance withheld or used as bait 96

Separation of men from women and children 97

Involvement of the RPA 98

Massacres of other groups 99

3.3 The force of manipulation 99

4 The Fall of the Mobutist State 102

4.1 The players 102

Laurent-Désiré Kabila and the Alliance des Forces Démocratiques pour la Libération du Congo-Zaïre (AFDL) 102

The Forces Armées Zaïroises (FAZ)and their allies 108

4.2 The diplomatic ballet 118

4.3 Meanwhile, in Kinshasa, the orchestra on the TITANIC 131

4.4 The new geopolitical situation 140

5 Congo: Waiting for Another War 144

5.1 The 'liberated territories' in the East 144

Two problems worse than before 144

Massive human rights violations 152

Practices of governance 153

5.2 The end of an alliance and the prelude to a new war 155

The regime adrift 155

The art of making enemies 164

Towards a new war 166

6 Impasse in Rwanda and Burundi 170

6.1 The civil wars 170

6.2 Political or military outcomes? 179

6.3 Justice in deadlock 181

6.4 Institutional developments and practice of governance 184

7 'The First African World War' 194

7.1 From Goma to Kitona, and to military stalemate 194

7.2 Shifting alliances 201

7.3 Wars within the war 207

The Kivus 207

Ituri 215

7.4 Privatisation and criminalisation 221

State collapse and the privatisation of public space 221

Criminalisation of states and economies 224

8 Negotiating the Transition 232

8.1 The political landscape 232

The regime in Kinshasa 232

The rebel movements 238

8.2 The false start of negotiations: From Victoria Falls to the death of Laurent Kabila 244

Many cooks in the same kitchen 244

The Lusaka process 247

From Lusaka to the assassination of Laurent Kabila 250

8.3 Towards an imposed settlement: From the accession of Joseph Kabila to Sun City 252

A dynastic succession 252

From Sun City to Pretoria, and back to Sun City 256

8.4 Political transition in conflict 261

The bumpy road towards elections 261

The 2006 elections 271

Conclusion 279

Appendix 1 Sources on the killings of Rwandan refugees in early 1997 287

Appendix 2 Chronology 291

Appendix 3 List of abbreviations 297

References 303

Index 319

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