From Genocide to Continental War

The 'Congolese' Conflict and the Crisis of Contemporary Africa

January 2009 9781850656654 576pp
Temporarily out of stock


Following the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, the largely Tutsi RPF government built a repressive regime after a short pretence at national reconciliation, while hundreds of thousands of Hutu, many of whom had perpetrated the genocide, fled to Zaire. The two parties clashed when the Rwandan government attacked the refugee camps in September 1996, forcing some of the refugees back home and killing others. Their military success led the victorious Rwandan forces to push their advantage and overthrow President Mobutu with the help of several African allies and the discreet support of the United States. The collapse of the Zairian regime marked the passing of an era and the implosion of the Cold War postcolonial order in Africa. As a result the heart of the African continent has been engulfed in a low intensity but high civilian casualty conflict involving seven countries directly and another seven indirectly. The international community has shown little interest, yet this massive conflict will probably play a key role in reshaping the continent’s future in terms of border definition, governance and economic change, all of which are addressed in this work.


‘If Gerard Prunier did not exist already, there would be an urgent need for him to be created. The maverick French historian is a genuine rarity, someone who has criss-crossed Africa for 37 years, who can deliver a historical sweep but masters the details. He has battled at times alone to clear the foggy lens through which the continent is viewed.’ — The Financial Times

‘Mr Prunier, elaborate, anecdotal and discursive, enjoys demolishing the idea that the war is a conspiracy of English-speaking countries to prise Congo away from the French sphere of influence. He points out that despite the intervention of Congo’s neighbours in 1998, this was never a world war. […] Rather, Prunier points out, the genocide in Rwanda acted as an incendiary bomb, setting fire to disputes that go back generations.’ — The Economist

‘This remarkable book sets out to explain the way in which the 1994 Rwandan genocide triggered what is sometimes termed “Africa’s first world war”, the conflict in the Congo basin that sucked Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, Angola, Namibia and Zimbabwe into war, and ultimately saw the overthrow of the Mobutu regime in Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo) and the death of 4m people.’ — The Sunday Times

‘The bloodiest modern conflict you’ve never heard of gets a searching appraisal in this exhaustive history. Africanist Prunier (The Rwanda Crisis) follows the 1996-2002 war in the Democratic Republic of Congo through many bewildering twists and turns. Sparked by a Rwandan army incursion to clear out Hutu-dominated refugee camps on the border between the two countries, the conflict dragged in the armies of eight surrounding countries and an alphabet soup of Congolese guerrilla movements and tribal militias; millions died in the fighting and attendant massacres, starvation and disease. Prunier discerns many layers to the upheaval; a conventional struggle for political control of what had been called Zaire, it was also a multisided act of piracy aimed at looting the country’s mineral wealth, an outbreak of generations-long ethnic hatreds and a ghastly symptom of Africa’s ongoing crisis of weak and illegitimate governments. The author carefully untangles these complexities while offering unsparing assessments of the participants, including a vigorous indictment of Rwanda’s Tutsi leaders for using the 1994 genocide as an excuse for their own atrocities. Lucid, meticulously researched and incisive, Prunier’s will likely become the standard account of this under-reported tragedy.’ — Publishers Weekly


Gérard Prunier is a renowned historian of contemporary Africa, author of, inter alia, the acclaimed The Rwanda Crisis: History of a Genocide and of The Country That Does Not Exist: A History of Somaliland, both published by Hurst.  

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