The Dynamics of Violence in Central Africa

In This Review

The Dynamics of Violence in Central Africa
By René Lemarchand
University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008
344 pp. $59.95
Purchase

A longtime observer of the Great Lakes region of Africa, Lemarchand has conducted an incisive study of the Hutu-Tutsi violence in Rwanda and Burundi and the conflict it helped propagate in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in the mid-1990s. He emphasizes the evolution of the region's ethnic conflicts over long periods of time, revealing a dynamic in which episodes of violence force certain groups to migrate, which then puts them in conflict with other groups. That, in turn, eventually creates another cycle of violence and forced migration. Quite convincingly, Lemarchand argues that the Tutsi army's now-forgotten slaughter of Hutu civilians in Burundi in 1972, which resulted in between 150,000 and 300,000 casualties, was a watershed event that forever shaped Hutu-Tutsi relations. His analysis of the civil wars in the Democratic Republic of the Congo since 1996 skillfully untangles the web of shifting ethnic alliances and explains how the very real grievances of desperately poor communities are exploited by rapacious patrimonial warlords and their militias.