Good books about the Congolese War?
August 3, 2013 11:04 AM   Subscribe

Can anyone recommend some decent general histories of the Congo War (1996-2003) and its related conflicts?

I understand that this covers a vast amount of material -- some have aruged that if the Congo War had happened in Europe we would be calling it World War III -- so if only one of those conflicts can be adequately covered, I'd prefer something that focuses on the main 1998-2003 conflict.

Other criteria:

*English language

*Fairly general audience. If a Wikipedia article is a 1 and an academic monograph is a 10, what I'm looking for is a 3.5-4 on that scale.

*Addresses the role of the French government in the conflict.

*Also addresses the role of the Hutu-Tutsi conflict in Rwanda but maintains a focus on the Congo theater.

*Decently written. I will, as a rule, forgive clunky and inelegant prose if the book is informative, but a recent read has put that tolerance to the test.
posted by jason's_planet to Society & Culture (6 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Jason Stearns' book looks like a good place to start. He also has a blog. You might also try Gerard Prunier's book.
posted by lukemeister at 11:39 AM on August 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Great question, and I hope some good answers surface. I very much enjoyed Jason Stearns' book, 'Dancing in the Glory of Monsters' - so seconding that - as well as his blog. It addresses each of your points, and I'd say the book falls exactly at a 4 on your difficulty scale. Really, that's your answer.

I tried to read Prunier's book, and found myself losing the forest for the wasn't intellectually difficult, exactly, just overloaded with acronyms and details that made it hard for me to trace out the main narrative. I came to it knowing absolutely nothing, though; if you started with Stearns and then moved on to Prunier, you would probably have a much easier time.

That said, I also have friends more knowledgeable than I in terms of African studies that consider Prunier's perspective deeply biased. I can't remember the details of the critiques (embarrassingly) but I imagine it had something to do with his involvement with the French government's support of the Habyarimana regime during the genocide.

Right now, I actually have Michele Wrong's "In the Footsteps of Mr. Kurtz" (2001) out from the library. I think the bulk of its focus is earlier than your target period, and from what I've read of her other work, it'll probably land slightly below your target difficulty level (a 2.5 or a 3) but she's an engaging writer and if you're still looking to learn more once you've read the Stearns, it might be worth a try.

I'm also wondering if there are some good longform journalism articles out there; I might do a quick search and get back to you. Let me know if you find anything.
posted by pretentious illiterate at 1:24 PM on August 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Jessica Hatcher writes about East Africa and has a number of stories about the Congo at her website.
posted by lukemeister at 3:28 PM on August 3, 2013

Maybe the novel "The Poisonwood Bible" by Barbara Kingsolver?
It's an excellent read "the novel ending at the time of Mobutu Sese Seko's death in the 1990s."
posted by lungtaworld at 4:59 PM on August 3, 2013

Best answer: Quoting my African historian and genocide studies sidekick.

"Prunier's book is probably the best thing out there on the topic. Prunier has carved out an important niche for himself in the post Rwandan Genocide scholarship on ethic conflict and Genocide in Africa. His works on Rwanda and Darfur are also great and in particular the Rwandan book shows some of the beginnings of the Congo conflict in a slightly different way than in Africa's World War."
posted by skittlekicks at 8:05 PM on August 3, 2013

Response by poster: I think I will start with the Stearns book for a basic grounding in the topic and move on to the Prunier book for more detail.

Thanks for all of your contributions!
posted by jason's_planet at 2:15 PM on August 5, 2013

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