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New Left Review 67, January-February 2011

Etienne Smith


The wars that have wracked the Democratic Republic of Congo since the mid-1990s have unfolded largely out of view of the world’s media, their horrific toll of 3–4 million casualties absent from front pages and tv screens. The relentless slaughter and the sheer complexity of events—involving, at one time or another, the armies of half a dozen states as well as a bewildering array of proxy forces, regional warlords and local militias—have proved formidable obstacles to analysis. The drc’s fate seems emblematic, too, of Africa’s ambiguous transition from postcolonial Cold War battlefield to a new, far less predictable, historical era, which has often seemed to defy intelligibility. Making sense of the Congolese wars and at the same time coming to terms with this wider historical shift is no easy task, but this is the goal of Gérard Prunier’s ambitious new book. [1] Gérard Prunier, From Genocide to Continental War: The ‘Congolese’ Conflict and the Crisis of Contemporary Africa, Hurst & Company: London, 2009, £16.50, paperback 529 pp, 978 1 85065 958 7

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Etienne Smith, ‘Congo’s Agonies’, NLR 67: £3

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