The Dynamics of Violence in Central Africa

The Dynamics of Violence in Central Africa

Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 344
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    The Dynamics of Violence in Central Africa
    Book Description:

    Endowed with natural resources, majestic bodies of fresh water, and a relatively mild climate, the Great Lakes region of Central Africa has also been the site of some of the world's bloodiest atrocities. In Rwanda, Burundi, and the Congo-Kinshasa, decades of colonial subjugation-most infamously under Belgium's Leopold II-were followed by decades of civil warfare that spilled into neighboring countries. When these conflicts lead to horrors such as the 1994 Rwandan genocide, ethnic difference and postcolonial legacies are commonly blamed, but, with so much at stake, such simple explanations cannot take the place of detailed, dispassionate analysis. The Dynamics of Violence in Central Africa provides a thorough exploration of the contemporary crises in the region. By focusing on the historical and social forces behind the cycles of bloodshed in Rwanda, Burundi, and the Congo-Kinshasa, René Lemarchand challenges much of the conventional wisdom about the roots of civil strife in former Belgian Africa. He offers telling insights into the appalling cycle of genocidal violence, ethnic strife, and civil war that has made the Great Lakes region of Central Africa the most violent on the continent, and he sheds new light on the dynamics of conflict in the region. Building on a full career of scholarship and fieldwork, Lemarchand's analysis breaks new ground in our understanding of the complex historical forces that continue to shape the destinies of one of Africa's most important regions.

    eISBN: 978-0-8122-0259-5
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xvi)
    • Chapter 1 The Geopolitics of the Great Lakes Region
      (pp. 3-29)

      In common usage the Great Lakes region refers to Central Africa’s Great Rift valley, stretching on a north-south axis along the Congo-Nile crest, from Lake Tanganyika in the south to Lake Edward and the legendary Mountains of the Moon in the north. But where exactly does it begin, and where does it end? Should it include western Tanzania and southwestern Sudan? Should the Maniema and north Katanga be factored in as well? The answers are anything but straightforward. There is general agreement, however, that a minimal definition should include Rwanda, Burundi, eastern Congo, and southwestern Uganda as the core area...

    • Chapter 2 The Road to Hell
      (pp. 30-46)

      If the fate of the African continent evokes hopelessness, nowhere is this sense of despair more evident than in former Belgian Africa. No other region has experienced a more deadly combination of external aggression, foreign-linked factionalism, interstate violence, factional strife, and ethnic rivalries. Nowhere else in Africa has genocide exacted a more horrendous price in human lives lost, economic and financial resources squandered, and developmental opportunities wasted. The scale of the disaster is in sharp contrast with the polite indifference of the international community in the face of this unprecedented human tragedy. What has been called Africa’s first world war...

    • Comparative Perspectives
      • Chapter 3 Ethnicity as Myth
        (pp. 49-68)

        Ethnicity is never what it seems. What some see as ancestral atavism, others see as a typically modern phenomenon, anchored in colonial rule. Where neo-Marxists detect class interests parading in traditional garb, mainstream scholars unveil imagined communities. And whereas many see ethnicity as the bane of the African continent, others think that it could provide the basis for a moral social contract and that it contains within itself the seeds of openness and accountability.

        So overwhelming is the evidence that points to the demonic face of ethnicity that it is tempting to forget its more benign traits. Yet not everything...

      • Chapter 4 Genocide in the Great Lakes: Which Genocide? Whose Genocide?
        (pp. 69-78)

        The title of this chapter is deliberately provocative. Can there be any doubt about the responsibility of the government of the late President Juvénal Habyarimana of Rwanda for what has been described as the biggest genocide of the end of the century? Can one seriously question the active involvement of high-ranking officials, the presidential guard, the local authorities, and the militias in the planning and execution of a carnage that took the lives of an estimated 800,000 people, three fourths of them Tutsi? Would anyone deny the critical role played by the Hutu-controlled media in providing incitements to genocide? The...

    • Rwanda
      • Chapter 5 The Rationality of Genocide
        (pp. 79-87)

        The image of Rwanda conveyed by the media is that of a society gone amok. How else to explain the collective insanity that led to the butchering of half a million civilians: men, women, and children? As much as the scale of the killings, the visual impact of the atrocities numbs the mind and makes the quest for rational motives singularly irrelevant. Tribal savagery suggests itself as the most plausible subtext for the scenes of apocalypse captured by television crews and photojournalists.

        Ironically, just as tribalism is being reaffirmed by the media as the bane of the continent, Rwanda’s descent...

      • Chapter 6 Hate Crimes
        (pp. 88-98)

        The tale hardly bears retelling: in Rwanda an estimated one million people died in a frenzy of genocidal killings that was one of the most appalling bloodbaths of the twentieth century. Most of the victims were members of the country’s Tutsi minority. Few were lucky enough to be shot; the majority were hacked to pieces, drowned, speared, or beaten to death with clubs, their bodies left unburied, at the mercy of stray dogs and vultures. Although the worst of the killings was the work of militias—the notorious interahamwe, “those who stand together”—the slaughter rapidly gained a momentum of...

      • Chapter 7 The Politics of Memory
        (pp. 99-108)

        “Never again! Plus jamais!” The message—so often heard, so seldom heeded—was delivered loud and clear to those present in the Amahoro stadium in Kigali on April 7, 2004, on the tenth anniversary of one of the most monstrous bloodbaths of the last century. Relayed through public speeches, survivors’ reminiscences, and multiple banderoles; even the name of the venue—“Peace”—gave symbolic significance to that defining moment.

        This was a time to remember the enormity of the crimes committed a decade ago while the international community looked the other way. This was a time for all Rwandans to commune...

      • Chapter 8 Rwanda and the Holocaust Reconsidered
        (pp. 109-128)

        The Holocaust and the Rwanda genocide are two of the most terrifying and complex catastrophes of the twentieth century. Whether measured by the scale of the atrocities committed against Jews and Tutsi, the distinctiveness of their collective identities, or the deliberate, purposeful manner of their annihilation, there are compelling reasons for seeing in the Rwanda carnage a tropical version of the Shoah. Little wonder that time and again the better known of the two has been used as the paradigmatic frame for analyzing the other.

        The aim of this discussion is to challenge—or at least problematize—this analogy by...

    • Burundi
      • Chapter 9 Burundi 1972: A Forgotten Genocide
        (pp. 129-140)

        Thirty-five years ago Burundi was the scene of a horrific bloodletting when from late April to September 1972 anywhere from 200,000 to 300,000 Hutu were massacred by a Tutsi-dominated army. When the slaughter stopped, most of the educated adult Hutu males were either dead or in exile. From this appalling surgery emerged a state entirely dominated by Tutsi elements from the south, the so-called Tutsi-Hima. For the next seventeen years, Tutsi hegemony remained unchallenged.¹

        Outside a small circle of Africanists and genocide scholars, who in the West remembers this tragedy? To speak of a forgotten genocide is hardly an exaggeration....

      • Chapter 10 Burundi at the Crossroads
        (pp. 141-157)

        Burundi has many claims to fame, none to be envied. Despite widespread assumptions to the contrary, it has the sad distinction of having experienced the first genocide recorded in Central Africa. Although overshadowed in public attention by the far more extensive carnage in Rwanda, to this day the killing of an estimated quarter of a million Hutu at the hands of a Tutsi-dominated army remains deeply etched in the collective memory of the Hutu people. If trust is in such dramatically short supply in Burundi society, this is largely the legacy of a mass crime that has never been officially...

      • Chapter 11 Burundi’s Endangered Transition
        (pp. 158-188)

        Few other states in the continent can claim to have emerged from a ten-year civil war under more promising circumstances than Burundi. The transition process, however long and painful, has been exemplary. Beginning with the Arusha agreement of 2000, a constitutional formula was finally worked out whereby the rights of the Tutsi minority could be reconciled with the demands of the Hutu majority.¹ The 2005 legislative and presidential elections went remarkably smoothly, giving birth to a consociational government² headed by a Hutu president, Pierre Nkurunziza, where Hutu and Tutsi held respectively 60 and 40 percent of the ministerial portfolios. A...

    • Chapter 12 A Blocked Transition: Zaire in 1993
      (pp. 191-204)

      Zaire is the only country in the world to claim two prime ministers, two governments, two parliaments, two constitutions, and two transitional constitutional acts. The phenomenon—euphemistically referred to in Zaire as dédoublement—bears testimony to the total impasse currently facing the country.

      At the root of the continuing deadlock lies a fundamental disagreement over the pace and manner of the transition. Against the claims of the opposition—a loosely knit coalition of parties known as the Union Sacrée (US)—that it has full authority to define the rules of the transition, Mobutu and his allies—the so-called Mouvance Présidentielle...

    • Chapter 13 Ethnic Violence, Public Policies, and Social Capital in North Kivu
      (pp. 205-215)

      Few works of political science have received a more universal acclaim than Robert Putnam’s trailblazing inquest into the roots of democracy in contemporary Italy, appropriately titled Making Democracy Work: Civic Traditions in Modern Italy. Judging from the theme of this conference, the impact of his contribution is not limited to the American academic community. Although one may not agree with all of his ideas, their boldness is undeniable: more than an elegantly crafted case study of modern-day Italy, Making Democracy Work holds profoundly important implications for anyone trying to elucidate the conditions of successful democracy.

      Incongruous though it may seem...

    • Chapter 14 The DRC: From Failure to Potential Reconstruction
      (pp. 216-248)

      The African continent is littered with the wreckage of imploded polities. From Guinea Bissau to Burundi, from Congo-Brazzaville to Congo-Kinshasa, and from Sierra Leone to Guinea and Côte d’Ivoire, failed or failing states confront us with an all too familiar litany of scourges—civil societies shot to bits by ethnoregional violence, massive flows of hapless refugees across national boundaries, widespread environmental disasters, rising rates of criminality, and the utter bankruptcy of national economies.

      In its most recent avatar—the DRC—the former Belgian colony is widely seen as the epitome of the failed state, whose descent into hell has set...

    • Chapter 15 The Tunnel at the End of the Light
      (pp. 249-259)

      For those of us old enough to remember what in the 1960s was known as “the Congo crisis”—soon to become the “endless crisis”—the tragic singularity of the present conjuncture is perhaps less apparent than some of the contributions to this volume might suggest. No one who lived through the agonies of the Congo’s improvised leap into independence—followed by the swift collapse of the successor state and the breakup of the country into warring fragments—can fail to note the analogy with the dismemberment of the Mobutist state in the wake of the 1998 civil war. Then as...

    • Chapter 16 From Kabila to Kabila: What Else Is New?
      (pp. 260-280)

      Reflecting on the merits of electoral democracy in the Congo, one of the least memorable characters in John Le Carré’s novel The Mission Song makes his point with characteristic bluntness: “Elections won’t bring democracy, they’ll bring chaos. The winners will scoop the pool and tell the losers to go fuck themselves. The losers will say the game was fixed and take to the bush. And since everyone voted on ethnic lines anyway, they’ll be back to where they started and worse.”¹ Expletive aside, Skipper’s assessment encapsulates many of the concerns of the international community in the aftermath of the Congo’s...

  7. Notes
    (pp. 281-312)
  8. Index
    (pp. 313-324)
  9. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 325-328)