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The Congo: From Leopold to Kabila: A People's History Paperback – May 3, 2002

ISBN-13: 978-1842770535 ISBN-10: 1842770535

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The Congo: From Leopold to Kabila: A People's History + King Leopold's Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Zed Books (May 3, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1842770535
  • ISBN-13: 978-1842770535
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 10.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #588,803 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"Authoritative books in English on the Congo are scarce, so this work by a leading Congolese academic is welcome."--Gail M. Gerhart, Foreign Affairs 3-4/01/03

"Georges Nzongola-Ntalaja is one among those very few intellectuals who possesses the background, the knowledge, the commitment and the vantage point from which to assess the historical possibilities for contemporary Congo." --Mahmood Mamdani, Herbert Lehman Professor of Government, Columbia University

"This book could not be more timely. It throws new light on the past struggle for democracy in the Congo while indicating possible directions for the future." --Mbaya Kankwenda, UNDP Resident Representative in Nigeria

About the Author

Georges Nzongola-Ntalaja is a renowned scholar of African politics and an international consultant specializing in public policy, governance, and conflict-related issues.

Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Robert E. Smith on April 11, 2010
Format: Paperback
For anyone interested in the history of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, this is the book to read. The author is a Congolese with solid academic credentials and a passionate concern for the people of Congo. It covers somewhat more than the last century, and the author has been personally involved in the last four decades of Congo's history, bringing penetrating insight and profound knowledge of the inner dynamics of the country's evolution. He has a keen feel for political currents in Kinshasa, even the acerbic humor of "Kinois" society, which for instance called the UDI political party in the 90s the "Union des détourneurs incorrigibles" (Union of incorrigible embezzlers). The Preface has a brief autobiography which positions the author in relation to the government there, one which he confronted boldly.

Nzongola-Ntalaja states that "This book is a study of the democracy movement in Congo, from the standpoint of popular resistance to exploitation and repression, for a better social and political order" (3), and the perspective molds the entire book. This should not be surprising from a person who spent most of his life in exile and in resistance to the powers governing his own nation. He emphasizes those groups and individuals in Congo's history who have resisted the government. This is not an official history!

Along with Democracy, another related theme running through the book is that of the tremendous weight of external influences in Congo's history over the last century. Beginning with King Leopold of the Belgians, through the colonial rulers which followed him, on to the Cold War superpowers, and finally invading neighboring African states like Uganda and Rwanda, Congo's vast riches and strategic location have attracted outsiders.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Hans Declercq on January 17, 2005
Format: Paperback
This book is great because it offers the best information you can find on the internal resistance against colonial rule, on the mobutu dictatorship and on the Conférence Nationale Souveraine (beginning of the 90s). The very extensive descriptions of the changing classes in the Congolese society are somewhat boring. And the book poorly describes what happens after 97.

Ntalaja's english is easy reading for non-native speakers like myself ;-)
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Format: Paperback
This is an excellent, step by step review of the Congo's modern history, a history that is complicated and very hard to otherwise obtain. So, it does a great service to the realm of African political history. It opened my eyes to the greatness of this country and how great it should have become. It should have become the economic powerhouse of Africa. If only it had not been colonized by the Belgians! My only annoyance with it, was the author's continued attempt to shoe horn Zairian political resistance into the format of the classical dialectics of socialism. I believe that Congolese popular resistance was *never* that organized. It was far more spontaneous and the result of unspeakable conditions. And the intellectuals of the movement didn't have enough self-discipline or a sufficiently large cadre of captains below them. So that authentic resistance energy was never sufficiently harnessed. But even if it had been, it would have failed because of Belgian, South-African and American countervailing power that wanted to prevent the establishment of a socialist state in the Belgian Congo. Foreign geo-political interest was obtained at the expense of the Zairian people. But congratulations to Nzongola-Ntalaja for naming the heroes of the struggle and not forgetting them. They struggled against incredible odds.

The book comes across like an academic assignment--a university thesis. It is as though it had an hypothesis that had been erased for publication but still accompanied by a text that seeks to substantiate that hypothesis with historical fact. That's where the shoe-horning comes in. At times it is stiff, mechanical reading. On the other hand, it contains that rigor of academic clarity so helpful to a reader trying to understand this history for the first time. It is also a compendium of the political/historical facts and is probably used as a source book by scholars.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Dwight L. Short on May 8, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
When you start to search for answers about why there is such confusion and frustration about the conditions in the DRC, you want to know how this situation has reached this point. The Congo by Geo Nzongola-Ntalaja fills in many blanks for all of us who have been asleep at the wheel when it comes to understanding and following the events of Congo. This book is best read after you read Adam Hochschild's book "King Leopold's Ghost" as it takes you from the events of colonization into the realm of "independence". In essence, the despotic nature of life in the DRC whether the country's name was Belgian Congo, Zaire, or Democratic Republic, had harrowing similarities when it came to freedom and democracy. The wasted talent of the human potential for this country cannot be measured by the billions and trillions of dollars that despots, large corporate interests, and yes even you and me in our cheap cell phones as the price that the Congolese have paid for other people's economic benefits will never balance out. I recommend anyone to read "The Congo" if you wish to see the story from someone who has lived the story from inside the country that has been so abused.
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