The Great African War: Congo and Regional Geopolitics, 1996-2006
By Filip Reyntjens
Cambridge University Press, 2009, 340 pp.
The collapse of Zairean President Mobutu Sese Seko's regime in 1997 began a decade of horrendous conflict involving the Congo and most of its neighbors, killing probably more than five million people. Reyntjens has written a perceptive account of a war whose origins lie in the advanced decay of the Congolese state at the end of Mobutu's 32-year reign and in the ethnic conflict in neighboring Burundi and Rwanda. Reyntjens delineates the geopolitical motivations of the different players and the diplomatic and military relations between them. He has also included an excellent chapter on the negotiations, brokered by South Africa, that eventually ended the conflict. Throughout, Reyntjens stresses how the decisions of Paul Kagame's regime in neighboring Rwanda shaped each successive chapter of the conflict. And he sheds light on the support that Kagame received from the U.S. administrations of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush for actions that may have been justifiable in terms of Rwandan security concerns but almost certainly worsened the bloodshed in the Congo.