In This Review

East Africa After Liberation: Conflict, Security, and the State Since the 1980s
East Africa After Liberation: Conflict, Security, and the State Since the 1980s
By Jonathan Fisher
328 pp, Cambridge University Press, 2020
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Fisher’s excellent political history focuses on the countries in East Africa where the current regimes came to power through successful insurgencies decades ago. His book links the fates of Ethiopia, Eritrea, Rwanda, and Uganda and describes the impact of the many links that leaders in the four countries forged before their rises to power. Ethiopian insurgents had fought side by side with their Eritrean counterparts to oust the regime of Ethiopian President Mengistu Haile Mariam in 1991. The Rwandan rebels who attained power in 1994 had helped Ugandan fighters come to power a decade earlier. Fisher shows convincingly that all four regimes came to share similar concerns about regional security, and they all opposed conservative regimes in the region, most notably the government of Mobutu Sese Seko in Zaire. Still, the personal bonds that linked the leaderships in the four countries frayed considerably over time, as their respective countries’ national interests diverged and their ambitions led them to view one another with suspicion. Fisher concludes gloomily that these former insurgents have retained their propensity to use violence as a political instrument to deal with their foreign policy problems, with potentially destabilizing outcomes in the future for East Africa.