Stearns' readable account of the ongoing war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo lacks the sweeping historical detail of Gérard Prunier's Africa's World War or the careful examination of the underlying ethnocultural sources of the conflict of René Lemarchand's The Dynamics of Violence in Central Africa. Stearns is more concerned with the perceptions, motivations, and actions of an eclectic mix of actors in the conflict -- from 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. Although everyone agrees that the war was initiated by Rwandan President Paul Kagame's regime in the wake of the 1994 Rwandan genocide, observers tend to disagree about how much blame should be placed on Rwanda for the crimes against humanity that have characterized the conflict that continues to fester in northeastern Congo. Stearns is among those who believe that violence against civilians has been a consistent policy on the part of the Rwandan regime and its agents.
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