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Dancing in the Glory of Monsters: The Collapse of the Congo and the Great War of Africa Paperback – March 27, 2012
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Covering the devastating effects of these deadly contests on the Congolese infrastructure, Congolese institutions, and people's lives, Stearns informatively reports on affairs for students of African politics.”Booklist
He is a cracking writer, with a wry sense of understatement Mr. Stearns has spoken to everyonevillagers, child soldiers, Mobutu's commanders, Kabila's ministers, Rwandan intelligence officers. In these conversations he found gold, bringing clarityand humanityto a place that usually seems inexplicable and barbaric. Dancing in the Glory of Monsters' is riveting and certain to become essential reading for anyone looking to understand Central Africa.” -Wall Street Journal
Stearns is more concerned with the perceptions, motivations, an actions of an eclectic mix of actors in the conflictfrom a Tutsi warlord who engaged in massive human rights violations to a Hutu activist turned refugee living in the camps and forests of eastern Congo. He tells their stories with a judicious mix of empathy and distance, linking them to a broader narrative of a two-decade-long conflict that has involved a dozen countries and claimed six million victims.”-Foreign Affairs
[A] tour de force, though not for the squeamish.” Washington Post
This is a serious book about the social and political forces behind one of the most violent clashes of modern timesas well as a damn good read.” Economist
[P]erhaps the best account of the most recent conflict in the Congo.” Foreign Policy
A serious, admirably balanced account of the crisis and the political and social forces behind it perhaps the most accessible, meticulously researched, and comprehensive overview of the Congo crisis yet.” Financial Times
Impressively controlled account of the devastating Congo war The book's greatest strength is the eyewitness dialogue; Stearns discusses his encounters with everyone from major military figures to residents of remote villages (he was occasionally suspected of being a CIA spy) An important examination of a social disaster that seems both politically complex and cruelly senseless.”-Kirkus
Stearns is a leading authority on the region, having lived there for years working for the United Nations and the International Crisis Group. He has built up a superb knowledge of Congo and how it articulates with its neighbours, particularly Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi. He frequently imparts his understanding to journalists far less well-informed than he. And now he has produced a book where he makes the whole convoluted and confusing war in Congo a little more comprehensible, which is quite a feat. If you want to understand modern Congo then Stearns' book should be required reading.”-Global Post
A brave and accessible take on the leviathan at the heart of so many of Africa's problems Stearns's eye for detail, culled from countless interviews, brings this book alive I once wrote that the Congo suffers from a lack of institutional memory', meaning that its atrocities well so inexorably that nobody bothers to keep an account of them. Stearns's book goes a long way to putting that right.”Telegraph,
(t)his courageous book is a plea for more nuanced understanding and the silencing of the analysis-free the horror, the horror' exclamation that Congo still routinely wrings from Western lips.” -The Spectator,
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Also, books that give historical and socio-political backgrounds should not always bow to the pressure to come up with recommendations. That part of the book came across as a hurried simplistic section which could have been left out without compromising the rest of the book.
An important read nonetheless for anyone trying to unravel the complexities of the Great Lakes region and the role of African countries and the international players in this ongoing tragedy.
As one who has spent some time in this region and a few months within this specific country, I can vouch for his overall themes. The most enlightening of which is is parallel with 15th Century Europe and its Thirty years wars and the mentality of the multiplicity of fighting groups and ethnicities in which the dominant theme, was that of human beings having abandoned their humanity.
Tragically it seems that we we of Western descent, have learnt little from our past and deeply interwoven with indigenous aberrant behaviour of the most hideous kind, is that of outside nations, including France, Belgium and the USA in particular, either turning blind eyes to the carnage, or using it to their own commercial or geo political advantage.
But the main offendors now (2013) are without doubt the Congo's immediate neighbours with Rwanda taking the trophy for the most odious, followed by Zimbabwe, Uganda and Angola in this order.Rwanda's revenge for the Hutu genocide against its Tutsi when the RPF (Rwanda Patriotic Front) rebelled against the Hutu and took power, led by Kagame then introduced what became in effect a Tutsi led counter genocide through the Congo, where many Hutu had fled across the border.
Add into this mix, sheer audacity and banditry is mineral exploitation by political leaders and their top military,Zimbabwe being the worst offendor and the poor Congo civilians don't stand a chance, right up unto this day.
It's all gruesome stuff, but essential reading if somehow the international community, as well as the locals, are to be extricated from this squalid and sordid mess. The author Jack Stearn concludes with some workable and sensible suggestions, though I fear prejudice, ignorance and greed will likely continue to prevail.
For those who care and want to be informed, this book's a must.
Yes, there are portions of the book that could have been more lucid, but I found the overall product to be very informative and hopeful. IF ONLY more writers took on this important task, we would have more books to compare! As it stands, there are far too few, particularly for the interested layman and/or novice. Even for the "informed" student of the subject, Stearns provides plenty of new information and a range of ways for thinking through the ongoing crisis. Yes, he does provide detail that is disturbing/could even offend some. I, for one, find the media and literature filters much of what goes on in order not to offend; I say, let the reader be the filter... In discussions of bigotry, ignorance, murder, rape and torture, one is bound to risk offending some readers. In this case, it is worth that risk as largely untold masses continue to suffer and die. In short, his book is an important step forward towards helping the world better understand. 4 stars for the book (not quite perfect); 5 plus stars for the effort = 5 stars.
I would like to share Stearns' optimism that the Congo has the potential to recover and become a civilized country, but having worked and lived in
Africa for over two years, I am a skeptic. We had a saying at the large mine construction project where I worked; "AWA" - "Africa Wins Again". AWA was the only way to explain some of the absolutely insane things that happened where the locals seemed intent on self-destruction.
I still love Africa and will continue to visit as a tourist and Jason Stearns' incredible book has added to my understanding of the Congo.