“Dancing in the Glory of Monsters” is a reflection of one of the greatest wars in Africa. The title of the book signifies how Congo plunged into being a failed state due to the violence that emanated from the consequences of the genocide in adjacent Rwanda. Stearns presents a true picture of how Congo collapsed into a conflict of revenge massacres of bizarre brutality. Alternatively, the story of “Africa’s Great War” portrays an impartial account founded on many meetings and interviews with both victims and perpetrators of the massacre including child soldiers, genocidiares, generals, ministers and rapists (Stearns, 2011, 15).
Stearns explains that the most lethal war of our generation was not adequately covered. It is important to point out that the Congo has endured forty decades of political degeneration that started in the 6th century with the Arab and European slave trade. This was followed in the 19th century by the extensive plunder of the area by King Leopold of Belgium. According to Stearns (2011, 330) “the colonial authorities handed over government to a Congolese people almost wholly unprepared to manage their vast state” during the liberty from Belgium in 1960.
President Mobutu Sese Seko, who enjoyed support from the United States of America exemplified incompetence, oppression and corruption for 32 years. To present a clear account of a series of violence in the country, Stearns gives a background of social, political and economic factors that resulted military invasions and revenge massacres. Eventually, between 1996 and 2003, the conflict resulted to 5. 4 million casualties in the region. This death toll represented an overwhelming 10 % of the whole population in the region with a majority of them being civilians; mostly children.
It is particularly hard to understand how Stearns covered war that entailed military forces from nine nations and more than 20 rebel groups in a country the size of Western Europe (Stearns, 2011, 35). Stearns points out that the initial Congo war begun in 1996 after the invasion by their neighboring Rwanda. Truly, this conflict was a direct consequence of the 1994 Rwandan genocide that left approximately 800, 000 people dead. This massacre took place in 100 days and the victims were the Tutsi community after being attacked by the Hutu.
After the attacks in Rwanda, the Tutsis dominated power and noticed that there was still a danger from genocidiares and Hutus staying or hiding in neighboring Congo in camps serviced by Western aid (Stearns, 2011, 45). The Hutus across the border, approximately more than 1 million, were just relating well with legitimate victims who did not participate in massacres when violence broke. Tutsis has decided to cross the border and finish their enemies from the refugee camps in Congo.
To fight their enemies, the Rwandese collaborated, somewhat as “moral cover”, with anti-Mobutu radicals like grouping of Congolese Tutsis residing in eastern Congo and Laurent Kabila to fight Hutus. The Congolese Hutus were warring under the umbrella of the Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Zaire (ADFL). Other communities such as Zimbabweans, Ugandans, Tanzanians and Angolans supported the war in terms of weapons, equipment and other soldiers (Stearns, 2011, 60). The goal of the supporters was to conquer Mobutu Sese Seko, the Congolese dictator, an aim they accomplished with a shocking speed.
They managed to reach the Congo’s capital, Kinshasa in less than one year and overthrew Mobutu and swapped him with Laurent Kabila. Other than, overthrowing Mobutu, Congo experienced a massive slaughter of people. The Tutsis progressing across the Congolese boundary went after those living in the refugee camps and forcefully ejected them into the jungle and killed anyone they came across. Furthermore, those that they could not find succumbed to starvation and diseases, mainly diarrhea, typhoid and malaria.
Stearns offers a vivid and comprehensive account from the talks he holds with a majority of the victims and his revelations are frightening. The stories depict man as inhuman and marred with cruelty (Stearns, 2011, 78). Surprisingly, a majority of people that Stearns talks to lack explanations as to why they participated in the massacres, even though, they are very ashamed of their actions. The history of these conflicts is particularly significant not only as a result of the massive deaths but also for the sense of strange regularity that accompanied the bloodshed.
From Stearns experience, it is very clear that the Congolese were entirely not ready for the war. Mobutu’s leadership had brought the country to a devastating state with a nearly non-existent army. Ironically, as a result of desperation, some Congolese even viewed Rwandans as rescuers regardless of their hatred to Tutsis (Stearns, 2011, 67). This demonstrates how the citizens were dissatisfied with Mobutu’s 32 years of leadership. Mobutu had encouraged ethnic hatred and discrimination against the Tutsis. This was particularly against those who were also Congolese, making them foreigners in their own nation.
Nevertheless, Stearns explains that the disparities between Tutsis and Hutus are intricate and cannot be decreased to a few facial aspects. Kabila told his people off for “dancing in the glory of monsters” denoting their consent to him and his authority, but contrary to their (Congolese) expectations, he (Kabila) was not a progress. His leadership was as awful as Mobutu’s and it only existed for a few years before the country experienced another war. However, the groupings were less apparent this time. Stearns explains that Kabila some backup from Zimbabwe and Angola who sent their own troops to ensure that he remains in power.
On the other hand, Uganda and Rwanda were attempting to overthrow him and this was facilitated by the fact the Congolese troops still had Rwandans in place. This war was however, different from the first war which was concerning political power (Stearns, 2011, 90). This second Congolese war was evidently concerning natural resources including coltan, diamonds, copper and cobalt and money. The perpetrators made the dirtiest arrangements for ready money to purchase weapons, and sold off Congo’s resources to the utmost bidder with ready money.
This was continued until the death of Kabila in 2001, resulting from one his bodyguards. Consequently, the Kabila son Joseph quickly took over power and managed to broker a delicate peace pact in 2003 (Stearns, 2011, 150). The enormous death toll of the conflicts supersedes the massacres of the Cambodian Killing Fields and First World War. Nonetheless, the conflicts in the Congo were, and still experience underreporting partially because the network of alliances and interests are totally profound, even to scores of Congolese (Stearns, 2011, 180).
There were a lot of wars happening simultaneously, entailing proxy wars concurrently being fought by bordering countries within the boundaries of this huge and uncontainable country. Amusingly, Congo was a very stable country in past and had no signs of dysfunctional government and a rogue state. This is because in the 19th century, under the Kongo Kingdom, it could assemble a strong army alongside the Atlantic and it even had diplomats in Portugal and Spain. On the contrary, the region encountered steady degeneration in the subsequent centuries (Stearns, 2011, 250).
Many Congolese were lost to slave trade and their colonial master, Belgium, obliterated it through simply using it to gain wealth through minerals. Since then, the authority fights to remain in power and is unwilling to form a civil society that would unavoidably overthrow them. The leaders are not afraid of chaos in the region and have always oppressed the citizens. The second war as already looked at had many issues just like onion layers. Stearns says “like layers of an onion, the Congo war contains wars within wars” (Stearns, 2011, 69).
The first apparent cause was self-defense and relation. On the other hand, political ideas played a significant role in the wars. Stearns points out that the vast natural resources in the region aggravated the war with Uganda and Rwanda being at the forefront to fight Congo. Additionally, the area politics of nine bordering states intensified conflicting interests. Even though many people may blame the deep ethnic tensions, Stearns points out that ethnicity was the only and strongest institutional and personal distinctiveness left in the region after the near total attrition of the state.
Concerning this issue, Stearns wrap ups “The Congo war had no one cause, no clear conceptual essence that can be easily distilled in a couple of paragraphs. Like an ancient Greek epic, it is a mess of different narrative strands” (Stearns, 2011, 336) During his regime, Kabila facilitated the immediate suspension of political parties. On the other hand, any attempt to criticize his government has serious repercussions such as incarceration, or even death. He turned against Rwandans because of paranoia even though they helped him clinch the power. Stearns explains that this was one of the reasons behind his being ousted (Stearns, 2011, 170).
In arguably of the most shocking panoramas in the history of any war, Stearns illustrates Kabila beckoning Didier Mumengi, the country’s Minister for Information, to meet him at the presidential helipad behind his residence. Mumengi at 36 was also a writer who was exiled to Brussels for most of his time. This was a period of war and gun shells were falling around them at this time. Kabila was undisturbed with the events and went ahead to assure Mumengi that the country could be defeated by Rwanda. Stearns (2011, 104) explains that he compares his defeat to an elephant being swallowed by a toad, “Can a toad swallow an elephant?
No! ” He then orders Mumengi go on the radio and call for support from people since they did not have an army. According to Stearns (Stearns, 2011, 107), the conversion is outrageous as Kabila instructs Mumengi “We don’t have an army so we will need them. In the meantime I will go look for allies. ” He hands Mr. Mumengi a pistol. “Here, you must use this. From today on you will be minister of war! ” In this book, Stearns is not hard on Rwanda as he has always been in other publications, for instance, in one of the United Nations reports where he was one of the contributors.
However, Stearns cite the country’s strongman and the present leader Paul Kagame referring to his military as intrusion as “self-sustaining” (Stearns, 2011, 78). Further, Stearns points out that Rwandan Military and related businesses obtained some cash estimated at about $250 million as profits from Congolese minerals during the second war. This is true and the Rwandese government is partly to blame for the war in Congo. Such figures and allegations are heavily supported within a sequence of U. N. reports, and eventually made the Netherlands and Sweden to defer aid to Rwanda.
Stearns is keen to point that Zimbabwe was acutely implicated in both wars in Congo and as a result, this expensive intervention had severe consequences for Robert Mugabe. Mugabe’s attempt to amend the nation’s constitution in 2001 and lengthen his regime was rejected by Zimbabweans (Stearns, 2011, 250). This occurred a time when the country was experiencing increasing unemployment and food riots. As a result, he lashed out; attacking chiefly commercial farms that were owned by the whites in the country o regain his popular backing.
This was a blow in the country and it had a devastating effect since he had destroyed agriculture, the nation’s key source of revenue. Zimbabwe experienced a dismal economy and eventually, this state forced Mugabe to recall his military from Congo. Domestically, he was still faced stiff competition from his rivals, Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) which was very active at time. However, Mugabe still ensured that he remain in power in 2002 and 2005 after rigging the elections. His move enjoyed full backup from former South Africa’s president Thabo Mbeki.
The situation in Zimbabwe was even worse in 2008 as it was experiencing rampant inflation. The shops were empty and there was no food; this called for action in the region (Stearns, 2011, 170). Consequently, Mugabe was voted out in March 2008 general elections. Surprisingly, he could not leave power but forced a presidential re-run, a fact that opened a new chapter in the country. Even though, the book is purely about Congo, Stearns is forced to give an account of Zimbabwe to present a clear picture of the role of the neighbors in the violence and the outcome of their involvement.
The support that the United States offers to Rwanda has in some way played a role in Congo’s endurance. Stearns points out that how Kagame has been able to persuade very many political leaders, diplomats and journalist from American that he is a wonderful leader can add up to another book (Stearns, 2011, 220). It is clear that no description of this country can have a happy conclusion. Stearns devotedly offers some policy recommendations including aid with stipulations on it, more strict measures relating to mining and a means of holding the worst perpetrators responsible.
However, he is also quick to point out that his policy proposals are difficult to achieve ending 15 years of hostility and plunder. Certainly, the price of the latest peace pacts has been the inclusion of various greedy warlords together with their troops into the mischievous Congolese national military (Stearns, 2011, 320). To come up with this account, Stearns employed his several years of experience to disclose several wars that tore Congo apart. This book has received many deserved recognitions from all corners of the world because of a compressive presentation of accurate information regarding the brutality in the region.