Berwouts’ savvy history explores how the Democratic Republic of the Congo has changed since the official end of the war that devastated the country from the late 1990s to the early years of this century. Recent analyses of Congo have tended to discuss either the political dynamics in the capital or the persistent outbreaks of ethnic violence and human rights abuses in the country’s east, with its complex and ever-changing array of armed groups. Berwouts shows how the two are linked. Local ethnic conflicts over land and resources have been exacerbated by a combination of neglect and short-term political manipulation by the Congolese state. Other countries in the region, mostly notably Rwanda, have also stirred up trouble. The predatory, although largely incompetent, regime of President Joseph Kabila has survived for 17 years but failed to build a state capable of promoting development or stabilizing the eastern provinces. Berwouts ends with a pessimistic review of recent popular protests over Kabila’s attempts to grant himself a third term without holding elections. Today, Berwouts believes, Congo is once again facing a descent into violence.
Get the latest book reviews delivered to your inbox.