In This Review

The Congo-Zaire Experience, 1960-98
The Congo-Zaire Experience, 1960-98
By Edgar O'Ballance
St. Martin's, 2000, 230 pp

Assembled almost entirely from media sources, this compact chronicle of the political history of the Democratic Republic of the Congo supplies quickly digestible background to today's chaotic conflict in central Africa. The story flows along swiftly, uninterrupted by footnotes or analysis, although the author does intrude an occasional quirky or cliched opinion (for example, that the United States never gave mercenary leader Mike Hoare the credit he deserved, or that the Congo is where "tribalism and nationalism clash on the battlefield."). The limitations of media sources and the author's occasionally faulty memory produce some inaccurate names and dates, as well as the odd omission of the long-confirmed responsibility of the CIA for the 1961 murder of Patrice Lumumba, the country's first prime minister. Despite these shortcomings, however, the book usefully demonstrates how so many of the cracks now tenuously papered over in the Congo long predate its present crisis.