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Africa's World War: Congo, the Rwandan Genocide, and the Making of a Continental Catastrophe Hardcover – December 31, 2008

ISBN-13: 978-0195374209 ISBN-10: 0195374207 Edition: 0th

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 576 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (December 31, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195374207
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195374209
  • Product Dimensions: 1.8 x 6.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #514,336 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The bloodiest modern conflict you've never heard of gets a searching appraisal in this exhaustive history. Africanist Prunier (The Rwanda Crisis) follows the 1996–2002 war in the Democratic Republic of Congo through many bewildering twists and turns. Sparked by a Rwandan army incursion to clear out Hutu-dominated refugee camps on the border between the two countries, the conflict dragged in the armies of eight surrounding countries and an alphabet soup of Congolese guerrilla movements and tribal militias; millions died in the fighting and attendant massacres, starvation and disease. Prunier discerns many layers to the upheaval; a conventional struggle for political control of what had been called Zaire, it was also a multisided act of piracy aimed at looting the country's mineral wealth, an outbreak of generations-long ethnic hatreds and a ghastly symptom of Africa's ongoing crisis of weak and illegitimate governments. The author carefully untangles these complexities while offering unsparing assessments of the participants, including a vigorous indictment of Rwanda's Tutsi leaders for using the 1994 genocide as an excuse for their own atrocities. Lucid, meticulously researched and incisive, Prunier's will likely become the standard account of this under-reported tragedy. (Dec.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review


"Mr. Prunier points out, the genocide in Rwanda acted as an incendiary bomb, setting fire to disputes that go back generations...Help(s) disentangle the fiendishly complicated histories of national and tribal identities, real and invented."--The Economist


"This unique and hugely ambitious book may turn out to be one of the most important to emerge on Africa for a long time."--Financial Times


"Lucid, meticulously researched and incisive, Prunier's will likely become the standard account of this under-reported tragedy."--Publishers Weekly


"Africa's World War is 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


"The book is remarkable not just because Gérard Prunier, who has spent his life studying African conflicts, is able to call on every academic discipline required to comprehend this gigantic disaster, but also because he was an eyewitness to much of it himself, and frequently has telling details to offer about the behaviour and motivation of key individuals. He writes, moreover, with a verve, sophistication and wit equalled, in my experience, only by fellow French intellectual Régis Debray."--The Sunday Times, UK


"Runier is immensely knowledgeable and passionate about his subject.... [He sorts] out some of the strands of an immenseley complicated and enormously devastating conflict, and for that we are surely in his debt."--Books & Culture


"Africa's World War is 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


"War correspondents also love Prunier's work: Howard French, who covered Congo during the 1990s for the New York Times, recently placed Africa's World War on a list of books he thought President Obama should be reading."--The Nation


"One of the most remarkable qualities of this remarkable book is Prunier's ability to combine cool analysis and scholarly dispassion without losing sight of its horror... This is a profound book, and, to use an old-fashioned word, a noble one."--David Rieff, author of Swimming in a Sea of Death: A Son's Memoir



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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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In his last book on Rwanda, he was very supportive of the RPF and Kagame.
Historylover
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.
Kirk Huff
You might also want to jot down who's who as that list is sadly missing in the book.
Brian Maitland

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

58 of 59 people found the following review helpful By Kirk Huff on May 29, 2009
Format: Hardcover
This is going to be a complicated review.

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.
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38 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Historylover on March 14, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I would not have bothered to review this except to counter the incredibly negative and unfair reviews already posted. First off, he is a wonderful writer, clear, concise with a great flow that clearly tells the story. To get the background for this book, you really should read his book on the Rwandan genocide. The negative reviewers stated that he created stories of evil U.S. conspiracies against poor Africans. This makes me wonder if they have even read the book as he does the exact opposite. He states how the French saw aspects of the war as a U.S. conspiracy and then refutes these charges over many pages. This brings me to the real problem. In his last book on Rwanda, he was very supportive of the RPF and Kagame. In this book after years of their rule and subsequent bad behavior, he has become disillusioned with them. This is obviously intolerable to their steadfast supporters, hence the bad reviews.
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.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By David Donelson on April 21, 2009
Format: Hardcover
As a more-than-interested observer of events in the Democratic Republic of Congo, I found 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.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By C. B. Gurney VINE VOICE on June 15, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Prunier has set new standard with this epic history of the war in the DRC. He dissects the motives of all of the DRC's neighbors to arrive at a compehensive picture of the worst humanitarian tragedy in the world today. Long known for his coverage of the Rwandan genocide, Prunier builds on that base to demonstrate how the mass killing in the small central African state led to enduring instability in its much larger neighbor. Prunier makes a rare admission for an academic scholar, stating frankly that he underestimated the scale of retribution against Hutus who perpetrated the genocide.

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.
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