Editorial staff
 Table of Contents
 The great lakes crises
 Patterms of state collapse and...
 Kabila returns, in cloud of...
 Sovereignty and personal rule in...
 Conventional wisdom and Rwanda's...
 Book reviews

Title: African studies quarterly
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Table of Contents
    Editorial staff
        Page i
        Page ii
    Table of Contents
        Table of Contents
    The great lakes crises
        Page 1
        Page 2
        Page 3
        Page 4
    Patterms of state collapse and reconstruction in Central Africa: Reflections on the crisis in the great lakes
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        Page 8
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        Page 16
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    Kabila returns, in cloud of uncertainty
        Page 23
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        Page 28
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    Sovereignty and personal rule in Zaire
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    Conventional wisdom and Rwanda's genocide: An option
        Page 65
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        Page 68
        Page 69
        Page 70
        Page 71
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    Book reviews
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Full Text

African Studies Quarterly

Volume 1, Issue 3

Special Issue

Crisis in the Great Lakes

Published by the Center for African Studies, University of Florida

ISSN: 2152-2448

African Studies Quarterly

Editorial Staff

Michael Chege
Carol Lauriault
Errol Henderson
Kriston Jacobson
Chris Johnson
Andy Lyons
Richard Marcus
Victoria Michener
Janet Puhalla

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 1, Issue 3 I 1997

University of Florida Board of Trustees, a public corporation of the State of Florida; permission is hereby granted for
individuals to download articles for their own personal use. Published by the Center for African Studies, University of Florida.

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 1, Issue 3 I 1997

Table of Contents

Michael Chege (1-4)

Patterns of State Collapse and Reconstruction in Central Africa: Reflections on the Crisis in
the Great Lakes.
Ren6 Lemarchand (5-22)

Kabila Returns, In A Cloud Of Uncertainty
Thomas Turner (23-37)

Sovereignty and Personal Rule in Zaire
Willam Reno (39-64)

At Issue
Conventional Wisdom and Rwanda's Genocide: An Opinion
Tony Waters (65-74)

Book Reviews

The Challenge of Southern African Regional Security: A Review of Peace and Security in
Southern Africa. Ibbo Mandaza, editor. Harare: SAPES, 1996. 183pp.
Errol Henderson (75-80)

Mokoko, The Makgoba Affair: A Reflection on Transformation. Malegapuru William
Makgoba. Johannesburg: Vivlia Publishers, 1997. xxiv+243pp.
Guy Martin (80-83)

Religious Pluralism and the Nigerian State. Simeon 0. Ilesanmi. Athens, OH: Monographs in
International Studies (Africa Series, No. 66), 1997. 299pp.
Azim A. Nanji (83-84)

Discourses on Democracy: Africa in Comparative Perspective. Julius E. Nyang'oro, editor.
Dar es Saalam: Dar es Saalam University Press, 1996. xv+311pp. : ill.
Dan Ottemoeller (84-86)

Federal-State Relations in Nigeria's Second Republic. Joseph Okoroji. London: V.O.R.
Publications, 1997. 72 pp.
Donald C. Williams (86-87)

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 1, Issue 3 I 1997

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 1, Issue 3 I 1997

The Great Lakes Crises



In the third week of October this year, the "Cobra" militia, commanded by the former
president of Congo-Brazzaville, Dennis Sessou-Ngueso, took control of the national airport and
the presidential palace in Brazzaville thus bringing to an end the two-way civil war that pitted
him against the forces of the democratically-elected president of the country, Pascal Lissouba.
The war, which reduced Brazzaville to rubble and exiled most of the city's estimated 700,000
population to the countryside or neighboring Kinshasa, had been fought intermittently since
last June. Regional and international mediation had failed to stop it. In the wake of his defeat,
Lissouba fled to Burkina Faso while the leader of the neutral third force, Brazzaville's former
mayor, Bernard Kolelas, escaped to Kinshasa. So ended the fragile "consolidation" of democracy
in this ethnically-divided country whose fate, according to John F. Clark, lay in the evolving
compromise and statesmanship of its three main leaders'. And with that, this frequently
unstable republic has unwittingly been restored to the pre-1992 situation when Sessou-Ngueso
ruled the country as the unchallenged military dictator in the thinly-veiled disguise of a Marxist
ideologist heading a party and bureaucratic framework to match. As international TV crews
filmed the pillage of the city by unruly gunmen and interviewed victorious "Cobra" amidst the
ruins of the Brazzaville airport, the backdrop was composed of a population fleeing to Kinshasa
across the Congo River. It made for an irony that was impossible to forget: as Mobutu fled
Kinshasa last May in advance of the rebel coalition led by Laurent Desire Kabila, Mobutu
loyalists and nervous foreigners had crossed the river for safety to Brazzaville, where US
marines waited (in vain it turned out) to evacuate them.
That dramatic switch in roles is symbolic of how unpredictable the politics of this region
have become. The events in Congo-Brazzaville constitute the latest in a series of interlocking
tragedies in Central Africa that began with the genocide of the Rwandan Tutsi in 1994. Political
violence was of course never far from the surface. Burundi's ethnic carnage had resumed after
the October 1993 coup d'etat that destroyed the elected Melchior Ndadaye government.
Insurgency against the central government in Southern Sudan and Northern Uganda had lasted
for decades. But after 1994, violent conflicts in the Great Lakes region and the neighboring
countries have at once assumed an unprecedented ferocity and a regional if not international
This special issue of African Studies Quarterly examines the underlying causes of political
instability in the region and how lessons drawn from it might aid the search for a lasting
solution. At a time when Africa's fragile economic recovery calls for greater regional security,
the problems of central Africa are sending political seismic waves to other parts of the


University of Florida Board of Trustees, a public corporation of the State of Florida; permission is hereby granted for individuals
to download articles for their own personal use. Published by the Center for African Studies, University of Florida.
ISSN: 2152-2448

2 I Chege

continent: to Eastern Africa via Uganda and the lingering refugee problem in Tanzania, to
Southern Africa as Angola's problematic search for peace becomes intertwined with the fate of
governments' in Kinshasa and Brazzaville, to Sudan in the north as Uganda becomes a key
player among the new "front-line states" (with Ethiopia and Eritrea) opposed to the National
Islamic Front government in Khartoum.
The Great Lakes region--comprised roughly of Uganda, Western Tanzania, Rwanda,
Burundi, and the northeastern part of Democratic Republic of the Congo--lies in the eye of the
storm. In the brief span of time between 1994 and 1997, it has rapidly replaced Southern Africa
and the Horn of Africa as the most violence-prone of the continent's major regions. The
unprecedented 1994 horror in Rwanda may have led to the annihilation of up to 850,000 Tutsi,
according to Gerard Prunier's authoritative account of the events leading to the genocide2. But
the horror, as Ren6 Lemarchand has argued in his presentation here and writings elsewhere, lay
deep in the widely-shared Hutu-Tutsi "exclusionary" political calculus in which accession to
power by one group is automatically considered by the losers as the precursor to their own
destruction. In these circumstances, Lemarchand says, there is no room for compromise: "the
preservation of ethnic hegemony is perceived as a condition for physical survival" by the
incumbents, with "the elimination of rival claimants as the only means by which survival can be
assured"3. In the effort to show how conflict in Rwanda since 1959 has been filtered through
those lenses in Burundi (and vice versa) Lemarchand traces the hardening of the attitudes of the
Rwandan genocidaires to the overthrow of the Ndadaye government in Burundi (by the
country's Tutsi army) that culminated in his assassination. The mass exile of over one million
Hutu (many of them accomplices in the genocide) to the then eastern Zaire, and north-western
Tanzania only set the stage for the next round of the conflict.
To strengthen its declining political fortunes, the Mobutu regime (evidently with the
support of France) took up the cause of the Hutu exiles. This served as a counterbalance to the
perceived emergence of Tutsi (or Hima) regional hegemony that was symbolized by the
victorious alliance of Paul Kagame in Rwanda (Tutsi) and Yoweri K. Museveni of Uganda
(Ankole Hima). Both groups are somewhat related, if one goes by the profuse myths of the
"imagined communities" of this region. Among the many conspiracy theories in the region, this
one extends the reach of Tutsi hegemony to Burundi, where the predominantly Tutsi
government of Pierre Buyoya took over power in mid-1996. Others see the diplomatic and
military tentacles of the Tutsi-Hima alliance and counter-alliance as expanding further outward
with the United States (and the "Anglo-Saxon" world as Prunier calls it, following the
codewords of Paris) taking sides with Kagame and Museveni, while France supported the
disgraced pre-1994 Hutu regime in Rwanda and the tottering Mobutu regime in then Zaire. In
an opinion piece that appears in our "At Issue" section, Tony Waters deals with the construction
of improbable "conventional wisdoms" about the genocide and its fall-out in the realms of
humanitarian relief, ethic rivalries and regional power politics. It is a salutary reminder for
caution to those instant-experts of Africa who lurch to "ancient tribal animosities" as the cure-all
explanation for Africa's political problems4.
As we know now, the Mobutu regime overplayed its hand in its attempt to use the Hutu
refugees as a pawn in its struggle for self-preservation, using them alternately to play to the
galleries of the international humanitarian lobby (and its largesse), French diplomatic

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 1, Issue 3 I 1997

Introduction I 3

ambitions, and its embattled regional allies, like Daniel arap Moi of Kenya and Omar el Bashir
of Sudan. But Mobutu's calculations proved most self-destructive in his government's efforts to
disenfranchise the Zairian Tutsi (the Banyamulenge) in Kivu, adjoining Rwanda and Burundi.
For at this stage the memories of 1994 in Rwandese government circles and zero-sum political
calculations (which Lemarchand writes about) kicked in, bringing Uganda and Rwanda on the
side of the coalition of the Banyamulenge and forces loyal to Kabila. The immediate goal was to
break the Hutu refugees in Kivu loose from the control of the Interhamwe militiamen who had
constituted the vanguard in the Rwandan genocide, giving them a chance to go home to
Rwanda. That task, which had eluded the UNHCR and the humanitarian activists, was
accomplished by the end of November. For their part, the Interhamwe and some of the refugees
(nobody knows how many) fled to the Congo interior. With the Banyamulenge and their allies
in hot pursuit, some made for the Gabon border and yet others to Congo-Brazzaville, only to be
caught in the civil war there. Such were the rapid regional permutations of the troubles. But the
most significant long-term consequence of the fighting in 1996 was the demise of the Mobutu
regime. In a lightening series of military maneuvers, most of which were preceded by
outpourings of massive local support in favor of the "liberators", this armed coalition took over
most of Congo between October 1996 and May 1997. By the time this motley army marched to
Kinshasa, Kabila had the regional support not just of Rwanda and Uganda, but also--most
importantly--of South Africa, Angola, Zambia, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, and the international
business lobby keen to invest in the country's ample natural resources.
Yet, as the papers by Thomas Turner and William Reno in this issue remind us, the
triumph of Laurent Kabila brings formidable problems to the political and economic fronts. In
reports that are likely to delay development assistance to the Kabila government from Western
governments, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International in October accused the
victorious Congolese soldiers of a series of massacres of fleeing Hutu refugees. The Kabila
government, with the support of Rwanda and Uganda, has resisted UN-sponsored
investigation of these alleged massacres. Furthermore, as Turner remarks, although a
nationalist, Kabila is an outsider to the complex politics of Kinshasa and his unwillingness to
engage established political leaders there like Etienne Tshisekedi will cost him local support.
His legitimacy has in any case been substantially eroded by the popular perception of him as a
captive of a "foreign" Tutsi army and of his forces as external occupiers who do not understand
the capital city's lingua franca, Lingala. And, as William Reno demonstrates, any efforts to
reconstitute the country's economic base as a unitary system is bound to run into complicated
local and international networks, based on local political patronage, mineral and other resource
extraction. The private companies, local bosses with an ethnic following, and an assortment of
freebooters who established themselves in the shadow of the decaying Mobutu state, are likely
to resist any rationalization of the economic system, even if it is based on free enterprise as the
World Bank and donors insist it should be.
Taken together, the contributors to this issue have made a commendable effort to elucidate
the most salient factors in the evolving crises in the Great Lakes area and Central Africa
generally, an area of great potential to the future of the continent. Apart from its vast size (2.4
million square kilometers) and comparatively huge population (48 million), the Democratic
Republic of the Congo borders nine African states: Angola, Congo-Brazzaville, Central African

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 1, Issue 3 I 1997

4 I Chege

Republic, Sudan, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, and Zambia. It is also, as so many have
remarked, "a geological scandal" in view of its vast and varied mineral potential. Historically,
Congo has had cultural, political, and economic ties to all these countries that look set to expand
especially southwards to South Africa and the Southern African Development Community,
which Kinshasa is now slated to join. Political speeches have been made about a prosperous
future scenario already in the making. There have been press reports about a vigorous alliance
of new, younger, well-educated African leaders--like Yoweri Museveni, Paul Kagame, Meles
Zenawi of Ethiopia and Isayas Aferworki of Eritrea--that will carry the torch forward to that
future5. Most of the contributors to this issue are more cautious. But the debate has been joined.
As all Africanists continue to observe the events in this region, we hope this issue can provide
some guidance to their thinking, research, and personal judgment on that and related issues.


1. Clark, John F. "Congo: Transition and the Struggle to Consolidate" in John F. Clark and
David E. Gardinier, eds., Political Reform in Francophone Africa. Boulder: Westview
Press, 1997, pp.62-85.
2. Prunier, Gerard. The Rwandan Crisis: History of a Genocide. New York: Columbia
University Press, 1995, p.265.
3. Lemarchand, Ren6. "Patterns of State Collapse and Reconstruction in Central Africa", in
this issue, and Lemarchand, Burundi: Ethnic Conflict and Genocide. New York:
Cambridge University Press, 1995, pp.17-33.
4. The most publicized recent product of this genre is Keith Richburg, Out of America.
New York: New Republic Books, 1997.
5. Gourevitch, Philip. "Continental Shift", New Yorker, August 4, 1997.

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 1, Issue 3 I 1997
http: //www.africa.ufl.edu/asca/vl /3/1.df

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 1, Issue 3 I 1997

Patterns of State Collapse and Reconstruction in Central Africa:

Reflections on the Crisis in the Great Lakes


In a matter of days last October, a large swathe of eastern Zaire erupted into an orgy of
violence, sending tremors through the Great Lakes region and beyond. What brought
Armageddon to the shores of Lake Kivu were the search and destroy operations launched by
units of Rwanda's Arm6e Patriotique Rwandaise (APR) on a Hutu refugee population of over a
million people distributed among a dozen camps, many of which had been used as launching
pads for cross-border raids into Rwanda and Burundi 1.
The awesome nemesis visited upon the refugees is both epilogue and beginning. It brings
to a close the threats posed to the Rwanda state by Hutu extremists, and opens up a new
chapter in the tortured history of Zaire (now renamed the Democratic Congo Republic [DCR]).
The violence unleashed by the APR had its source in Zaire, but its logic came from Rwanda; the
Kabiliste insurrection, on the other hand, has a logic of its own, but its impetus came from
Out of the dialectic that so closely links retribution to insurrection emerged--or resurfaced -
-a "revolutionary" movement dedicated to the overthrow of Mobutu's dictatorship: Laurent-
Desire Kabila's Alliance des Forces D6mocratique pour la Lib6ration du Congo (AFDL). Its
spectacular success, only six months after its birth, in carrying the banner of "liberation" to the
gates of Kinshasa is a commentary on the extent of popular disaffection generated by the
Mobutist state--and, parenthetically, on the naivete of those analysts who failed to recognize, or
refused to admit, that its disease, like that of Mobutu himself, was very clearly terminal.
This is not the place to speculate about the long-term impact of the seismic aftershocks
sweeping across the Great Lakes region and the neighboring states. The aim here is to reflect on
what the current crisis tells us about the patterns of decay and collapse affecting the state
systems of Rwanda, Burundi, and Zaire, and briefly consider the prospects for reconstruction.
But first something must be said of the human costs of the crisis, and its geopolitical
implications for the region.


Ostensibly aimed at Habyalimana's "willing executioners" -- i. e., the so-called Interhamwe
and remnants of the ex-Forces Arm6es Rwandaise (FAR), together accounting for
approximately seven per cent of the refugee population--the destruction of the camps sowed
chaos and bloodshed in much of North and South Kivu, causing massive social dislocations and
untold casualties among civilians. How many died in the course of the attacks is any one's


University of Florida Board of Trustees, a public corporation of the State of Florida; permission is hereby granted for individuals
to download articles for their own personal use. Published by the Center for African Studies, University of Florida.
ISSN: 2152-2448

6 I Lemarchand

guess; estimates vary from a few thousand to tens of thousands. There can be little doubt,
however, about the fate of the survivors.
To the loss of approximately one million lives resulting from the Rwanda genocide and its
aftermath must now be added at least 300,000 "unaccounted for" among those refugees who
could not or did not want to go back to Rwanda, as well as thousands of Banyarwanda
residents of North and South Kivu, Hutu and Tutsi, who died of hunger or disease, or at each
other's hands, or fell under the blows of the rampaging Zairian soldiers or the bullets of Kabila's
troops. If any credence is to be given to the report recently published by Medecins Sans
Frontieres accusing the AFDL of pursuing a "deliberate strategy of elimination of all Rwandan
refugees, including women and children," genocide is evidently not the monopoly of any single
state or community. In the history of man's inhumanity to man, few chapters are as horrific as
the carnage suffered by Hutu and Tutsi since 1972.
Behind the wreckage of the refugee camps and ensuing human tragedy lies an underlying
design, for which Vice-President Kagame of Rwanda and President Yoweri Museveni of
Uganda deserve full credit. The aim was to combine several objectives: first and foremost, to
bring to a halt the armed incursions mounted from the camps in North Kivu and thus restore
security on Rwanda's western border; second, to extend the search and destroy operations in
North Kivu to the camp sites in and around Uvira (South Kivu) where some 150,000 Barundi
refugees of Hutu origins had found shelter since 1995, and in so doing deal a crippling blow to
Leonard Nyangoma's Conseil National pour la Defense de la Democratie (CNDD), the leading
faction of the Hutu rebellion in Burundi; third, to deny two of Uganda's armed opposition
movements, Tabliq and the West Nile Liberation Front (WNLF), access to safe havens in Zaire;
fourth, to pave the way for Kabila's "second coming", and in so doing repay Mobutu in kind for
his military assistance to the Habyalimana government after the October 1990 invasion, and
subsequent covert support of the Interhamwe militias.
On each count, the Kagame-Museveni strategy succeeded beyond all expectations. Built
around a hard-core faction of ethnic Tutsi from North and South Kivu (the so-called
Banyamulenge) and with the backing of APR units, Kabila's AFDL emerged as the spearhead of
a local rebellion which quickly snowballed into a mass movement. Unlike what happened
during the 1964-65 eastern rebellion, Kabila's second try at capturing power was conducted
with considerable skill; the evidence indicates the AFDL leader made excellent use of the
lessons learned from his more experienced "sponsors"(Kagame and Museveni). Amazingly, the
fall of Kinshasa, on May 17, with hardly a shot fired, anticipated by a month Kabila's earlier
prediction of capturing the capital by mid-June.
What all this adds up to is a fundamental alteration of the geopolitical map of former
Belgian Africa. In Burundi, the Hutu rebellion has yet to recover from the loss of its privileged
sanctuaries in and around Uvira. While Burundi appears to be sinking ever deeper into the near
anarchy of an endless civil war, Rwanda is discovering the costs of refugee repatriation. Here
the security gains achieved by the destruction of the refugee camps must be weighed against
the infiltration of scores of Interhamwe and ex-FAR through the return to their homeland of half
a million refugees (approximately half of the total refugee population living in the camps in
Zaire and Tanzania). Countless murders of civilians are reported to have been committed by
Hutu extremists, in turn provoking retributions in kind by the Rwanda military.

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 1, Issue 3 I 1997

Patterns of State Collapse and Reconstruction in Central Africa I 7

In Zaire, the Mobutu era has come to an end, but the contours of the successor state remain
uncertain. What does emerge with reasonable clarity is Kabila's heavy indebtedness, politically
and militarily, to his external patrons. His meteoric rise from obscurity to the presidency of the
Democratic Congo Republic (DCR) could not have happened without their military backing;
similarly, his capacity to maintain himself in power will depend, to a large extent, on their
continued support. For Kabila to ignore the circumstances of his military prowess would entail
costs that he cannot afford. Rwanda and Uganda (along with Angola) are now key players in
the regional power equation, and will probably remain so for the foreseeable future.


Looked at from a broader perspective, the crisis in the Great Lakes challenges a sizable slice
of received wisdom about "the clash of civilizations". As will be remembered, the phrase
borrowed from Samuel Huntington's celebrated Foreign Affairs article 2, refers to the mortal
threats to world peace posed by fundamental cultural incompatibilities among civilizations.
That the Huntingtonian model is singularly inappropriate to explain the agonies of Rwanda and
Burundi is made abundantly clear by their remarkable cultural homogeneity. It would be
difficult indeed to imagine any two groups in the continent that have more in common in terms
of language and culture, history and social organization, as Hutu and Tutsi. Nor does
Huntington's reference to "the bloody clash of tribes in Rwanda" 3 to describe the horrors of
1994 bring us any closer to resolving the paradox of ethnically diverse, yet culturally coherent,
societies dissolving into genocide.
Political exclusion, not clashing civilizations, is the key to conflicting identity formation in
each state. To view Hutu and Tutsi as "tribes" can only make for confusion. Unlike what can be
observed in virtually every other African society, where "tribes" are juxtaposed against each
other in cookie cutter fashion, in Rwanda, and to a lesser extent in Burundi, ethnic relations
revolved around a vertical system of stratification in which Tutsi and Hutu stood in ranked
relationship to each other, with the Tutsi minority claiming the lion's share of power, wealth
and status, and the Hutu majority assuming a more modest position on the traditional totem
pole. What we are dealing with are not "tribes" in the usual (and misleading) sense of the word,
but status groups, whose distinctiveness was reinforced by occupational differences between
the Tutsi pastoralists and the Hutu agriculturists 4.
In this kind of ethnically stratified pecking order lies an extraordinary potential for violent
conflict. All it takes is for ethnic entrepreneurs to manipulate this potential for political
advantage. Nowhere is the temptation to tap this potential greater than in an electoral context
where appeals to ethnicity translate into a victory of the majority and defeat of the minority.
This is the instrumental face of ethnicity, which in Rwanda, as in Burundi, quickly led to the
reconstruction of ethnic selves in Manichean terms, in short to a constructivist frame of ethnic
reference 5.
The threats posed to the state in both instances are inseparable from the introduction of the
vote, and more generally from the ethos of democracy. The collapse of their state systems can
best be seen as the ineluctable outcome of a head-on collision between the "premise of
inequality" inherent in their traditional value orientation and the egalitarian message of liberal

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 1, Issue 3 I 1997

8 I Lemarchand

democracy. In vertically structured, minority-dominated societies, the verdict of the polls is
never neutral, any more than the state systems to which they give birth. Rather than a "society-
wide epiphany," to use Thomas Carothers' phrase 6, the result is violent conflict.
It is one thing to admit the potential for violence inherent in the electoral process, and quite
another to gauge the scale of ensuing conflict. What needs to be underscored is that both states
have experienced violence on a genocidal scale, and in both cases violence has generated
massive outflows of refugees to neighboring territories. Theories of state collapse make little or
no mention of the implications of genocide, both as an empirical fact and a phenomenon that
profoundly alters the perceptions that one group has of the other. A notable exception is Alex
De Waal's 7 lucid commentary on "the genocidal state": "Rwanda," he wrote,

is more than another collapsing state. The interim government of Rwanda is fighting for the
right -- as it sees it -- to free itself from the moral claims of the rest of the world. This requires
not just the eradication of the Tutsi minority but the annihilation of the human-rights and
democracy movement in Rwanda, and all the values it stands for. In this furnace extremist
politicians are reforging the identity of the Hutu people. It is frightening to watch.

In a society exonerated of moral constraints, and where the capture of power implies
domination of one group by another, killing becomes a moral duty. The preservation of ethnic
hegemony is perceived as a condition of physical survival, and the elimination of rival
claimants the only means by which survival can be assured. Conversely, in such circumstances,
the excluded community feels free to retaliate in kind. "An eye for an eye" becomes a license to
kill. The result is endless bloodshed. In this hellish universe of mutually inflicted mass murder
no one can claim innocence, nor is there any room for reconciliation and compromise. As a
result, the obstacles that stand in the path of state reconstruction are exceptionally daunting.
Nor indeed is there any room in contemporary discourse on state collapse for the rise of
armed refugee movements organized outside their homeland with the active support of
external actors. Although the significance of the phenomenon transcends the cases at hand to
include Somalia, Chad and Liberia, it is in Rwanda, Burundi, and Zaire that the collapse of state
systems is most patently traceable to insurgencies born of refugee flows 8.
What needs to be stressed here is the potentially explosive mix arising from the
involvement of conflict-generating refugee diasporas in electoral processes, a phenomenon
made dramatically clear by the recent history of Rwanda. The decomposition of the state
machinery on the eve of the genocide is traceable to the projection of electoral competition onto
intra-Hutu power struggles involving alliances, real or presumed, with the Rwanda Patriotic
Front (RPF), the external vehicle of Tutsi interests.
There are significant variations on this theme in Burundi and Zaire. In Burundi, the
emergent Hutu-dominant state system born of the transitional elections of June 1993 was
virtually blown to bits by the military coup of October 21, a move patently aimed at reversing
the verdict of the polls. The assassination of the newly elected Hutu president, Melchior
Ndadaye, did more than bring to a halt a five year transition to multiparty democracy; it
created a deep split within Ndadaye's party (the Front D6mocratique du Burundi -- Frodebu),
between those who still wanted to give democracy a chance, and those who felt that recourse to
force was their only option. Ambushed by extremists on both sides of the political spectrum, the

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Patterns of State Collapse and Reconstruction in Central Africa I 9

Burundi state expired under the combined assault of Tutsi militias and army men, on the one
hand, and Hutu rebels, on the other, the latter for the most part identified with the armed wing
of the Frodebu in exile, now renamed the Conseil National pour la D6fense de la D6mocratie
In eastern Zaire the nationality issue -- who has the right to vote and who doesn't--lay at
the heart of the "Kivu war" of 1993, pitting Banyarwanda (Hutu and Tutsi) against so-called
"native" Zairois. More recently, the withdrawal of their citizenship rights was seen by many
Tutsi as perfectly consistent with the threats voiced by the South Kivu authorities against
"foreigners" and the exceptionally brutal "cleansing" operations directed against them by the
Interhamwe and local units of the Forces Arm6es Zairoises (FAZ) in early 1996. After the
wholesale slaughter of Tutsi civilians in Mokoto, in April 1996, thousands of them left the
Masisi area to find refuge in Rwanda. The result of all this, as we now realize, was to create a set
of mutually reinforcing conditions for a tactical alliance between the Banyamulenge and the
APR, culminating in the shooting up of the refugee camps in October 1996 and the rise to power
of Kabila.
The significance of such critical moments and events -- whether traceable to the surge of
refugees across boundaries, the holding of transition elections or the intervention of the military
-- points to yet another flaw in theories of state collapse: the very limited attention paid to
triggering events in sharpening the edge of conflict, and accelerating the process of internal
decomposition. A case in point is William Zartman's 9 casual dismissal of "turning points,
warning signals, thresholds, or pressure spots," all of which offer important clues to an
understanding of the disintegration of state systems in former Belgian Africa. Although there
can be no quibbling over Zartman's characterization of state collapse as a "long-term
degenerative disease", there is more to it than a "slippery slope" phenomenon. To these
challenging thoughts we shall return in a moment. Let us, for the time being, take a closer look
at the regional dimensions of state collapse.

REGIONAL FAULT LINES: The Kin-Country Syndrome

However wide of the mark the "clash of civilizations" may be in uncovering the roots of the
Hutu-Tutsi conflict, what Huntington 10 refers to as the "kin country syndrome" is basic to an
understanding of the process of escalation in the Great Lakes. Where ethnic fault-lines cut
across national boundaries, conflict tends to spill-over from one arena to the next, transforming
kin solidarities into a powerful vector of transnational violence. An action-reaction pattern sets
in whereby victims in one setting become aggressors in the other. Such, in a nutshell, is the
essence of the kin-rallying syndrome behind the escalation of violence in the region.
In such circumstances, as Huntington 11 reminds us, "conflict does not flow down from above, it
bubbles up from below." At the heart of this bottom-up dynamic lies a phenomenon whose
devastating effects are nowhere more dramatically revealed than in the three states under
consideration -- the transformation of refugee-generating conflicts into conflict-generating
A critical aspect of regional escalation lies in the presence in each country of a large number
of refugees, most of them with searing memories of the violence they experienced -- or inflicted

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10 I Lemarchand

-- in their homelands. Refugee flows can best be seen as the vehicles through which emotions
are unleashed, ethnic ties manipulated, collective energies mobilized, and external support
secured. What is at stake here is not simply the physical survival of human beings, but the
political survival of specific ethnic communities. Whether as instruments in the hands of
extremists for extracting assistance from humanitarian agencies, making deals with local
authorities, or forging alliances with local kin groups -- or indeed as a political resource used by
host governments or secondary level participants to further their foreign policy goals -- refugee
movements, as one observer noted, are intensely political: "they create domestic instability,
generate interstate tension and threaten international security"12.
Much of the history of Hutu-Tutsi confrontations in Rwanda and Burundi is indeed
reducible to the polarization of group identities that has accompanied the movement of refugee
populations from one state to the other. Consider, for a moment, what happened in Burundi in
the wake of the Rwanda revolution 1959-1962: of all the factors that have contributed to sharpen
the edge of the Hutu-Tutsi conflict none has been more decisive than the flight into Burundi of
some 60,000 Tutsi refugees from Rwanda in 1960-61, rendered homeless by Hutu-instigated
violence, many mourning the death of relatives 13. By 1990 their number had grown to 180,000.
Little wonder if some took an active part in the Burundi genocide of Hutu in 1972. But by then
the shoe was on the other foot, with more than 50,000 Hutu from Burundi seeking asylum in
neighboring states. Another major exodus of Hutu took place after the so-called "Ntega and
Marangara incidents", in 1988, when in the wake of a local uprising thousands of Hutu fled to
Rwanda to escape retribution from the army. Until the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, the most
significant of such migrations took place immediately after Ndadaye's assassination, in October
1993, and the subsequent killing of thousands of Tutsi civilians by Hutu. As the all-Tutsi army
proceeded to restore "peace and order" with its customary brutality, an estimated 300,000 Hutu
poured across the boundary into Rwanda. As much as the devastating news of Ndadaye's
death, their presence in Rwanda contributed in no small way to sharpen ethnic tensions.
Although the evidence is lacking, there is every reason to believe that among the participants in
the 1994 genocide were a fair number of Hutu from Burundi.
If domestic instability and interstate tensions are prominent features of the "kin country"
syndrome in Rwanda and Burundi, the threats to regional security posed by the Kabiliste
insurrection are equally clear. So also is the part played by violence-generating refugees in
precipitating the crisis that paved the way for the insurrection.
To get our bearings on the significance of ethnic fault lines in North and South Kivu, and
properly grasp the factors behind the abrupt reconfiguration of the social landscape of the area,
we need to go back in time to the pre-genocide situation. A glance at the ethnic map of eastern
Zaire reveals notable contrasts with what can be observed in Rwanda and Burundi. First and
most obvious is the co-existence within the same provincial arenas of so-called "Banyarwanda"
(Hutu and Tutsi) and a variety of ethnic communities indigenous to the region (Hunde, Nande,
Banyanga, etc.). In 1993 the Banyarwanda were said to represent approximately half of the total
population of 3.5 million in North Kivu. Of these, approximately 80 percent were Hutu and 20
per cent Tutsi 14. Furthermore, although neither Hutu nor Tutsi are a homogeneous lot, until
recently the tendency among the "native tribes" has been to lump them together as
"Banyarwanda," and to use the label as synonym for "foreign intruders." That a sizable number

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Patterns of State Collapse and Reconstruction in Central Africa I 11

of them happened to be long-time residents of the area, that many were born in Zaire, or traced
the origins of their families to pre-colonial migrations, seemingly made no difference.
Looked at in terms of clan and regional ties, and length of residence, there are of course
marked differences among both Hutu and Tutsi. Some Hutu clans migrated into North Kivu
long before the advent of colonial rule. The same is true of the Tutsi. Especially relevant in this
regard is the case of the Banyamulenge, a Tutsi sub-group of South Kivu, numbering in the tens
of thousands 15. The label, in its pre-genocide connotation, suggests a sense of identity derived
from the locality where they first settled, that is "the people of Mulenge." The Banyamulenge are
only one of a number of Banyarwanda communities that might be referred to as "the early
settlers," people who migrated to North and South Kivu in the early or mid-nineteenth century,
if not before; another category are the so-called transplantse" i.e., the thousands of workers
(mostly Hutu) who were brought to the Kivu at the request of the colonial administration to
work on tea and coffee plantations; a third group are the mostly Tutsi refugees who left
Rwanda in the early sixties during the Hutu revolution, numbering anywhere from 30,000 to
50,000. For all these differences, the Banyarwanda never ceased to be seen by the soi-disant
Zairois otherwise than as foreigners, and therefore disqualified to claim citizenship rights. No
other issue has had a more decisive impact on the rise of a collective self-awareness among the
Banyarwanda than the withdrawal of their citizenship rights by the 1981 Nationality Act 16.
After the RPF invasion of Rwanda in 1990 incipient Hutu-Tutsi tensions began to emerge, but
these were consistently kept in check by their common awareness of anti-Banyarwanda
sentiment among "native tribes."
With the massive outpouring of Hutu refugees and Interhamwe from Rwanda in 1994 the
Banyarwanda frame of reference quickly dissolved into a rigid Hutu-Tutsi dichotomy. An
instant sea-change occurred both in the perceptions that the Banyarwanda had of each other,
and in the images that Hutu and Tutsi projected of themselves in the social milieu of eastern
Zaire. The "kin-country syndrome" asserted itself with a vengeance, driving Hutu and Tutsi,
irrespective of other distinctions, into opposing camps. Meanwhile, the communities
indigenous to North Kivu began to cast about for tactical alliances. While "native" Hutu joined
hands with the Interhamwe, FAR and Hunde elements against the "native" Tutsi, the latter
responded by casting their lot with the RPA (Rwandan Patriotic Army), but not before
thousands of them had been slaughtered by Interhamwe and FAZ elements in the Spring of
Before long the Banyamulenge label was freely used as an all-encompassing identity
marker by all Tutsi in Zaire, irrespective of regional ties or length of residence. Behind this
curious case of ethno-genesis lies a clear political objective: to openly proclaim their Zairian
roots and their full rights to Zairian citizenship. At the semantic level at least the term
Banyamulenge has settled once and for all the nationality issue. This is not the place for a full-
scale discussion of how the fault-line war in eastern Zaire escalated into a regional conflict, with
Rwanda, Uganda, and to a lesser extent Burundi, as secondary participants, and Angola and the
Sudan as tertiary parties. Suffice it to note that the collapse of the Zairian state could not have
happened so swiftly, and with so little resistance from the FAZ, unless the Mobutist state had
already shown alarming signs of decomposition.

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12 I Lemarchand

STATE COLLAPSE: The Longue Duree Dimension

State decay does not happen overnight. It is a long-term process, which brings to mind
Braudel's 'long duration' (longue duree) dimension. Although the Braudelian facet of state
collapse applies to all three countries, the cases of Rwanda and Burundi reveal contextual
specificities that mark them off sharply from their neighbor to the west.
In bi-ethnic, vertically structured social arenas, exclusionary policies are a major source of
erosion of state legitimacy. With the benefit of hindsight, one can better appreciate the long-
term implications of such policies for the Rwanda state. The more or less systematic exclusion of
Tutsi residents in Rwanda from meaningful political participation (beyond a quota system that
left few illusions in the minds of its presumptive beneficiaries), along with the refusal of
virtually every government to allow the Tutsi population in exile to return to their homeland,
made the Rwanda state doubly vulnerable. It created a deep and lasting sense of alienation
among the resident Tutsi population--in time making them highly receptive to the appeals of
their kin-group in exile -- while providing the exiles with justification for the 1990 invasion.
There is an obvious parallel between the exclusion of Tutsi in Rwanda and of Hutu in
Burundi, except for the fact that the latter formed the overwhelming majority of the population.
Moreover, the exclusion of Hutu in Burundi occurred more gradually, at a later stage, and did
not reach completion until the 1972 genocide, when anywhere from 100,000 to 200,000 Hutu
were massacred in the wake of an abortive insurrection, and tens of thousands forced into exile.
Again, at no time did they benefit from anything comparable to the massive military and
logistical support extended by Uganda to the RPF. What needs to be stressed is that in both
Rwanda and Burundi, ethnic exclusion resulted in the birth of an ethnocratic state made all the
more vulnerable by the rapid shrinking of its power base (of which more later).
As the recent history of the Banyarwanda in eastern Zaire cruelly shows, the denial of their
citizenship rights was certainly a factor in the concatenation of events leading to the unraveling
of the Mobutist state. Unlike what happened in Rwanda and Burundi, however, ethnic
exclusion did not hold the same implications. As long as it involved peripheral communities --
the Banyarwanda in Kivu, the Luba in Shaba, the Bakongo in the Lower Congo -- the threats to
the center seemed manageable. Although very much part of Mobutu's manipulative tactics,
ethnic exclusion has never been a systematic, guiding principle of Zairian policies. If anything,
the striking policy inconsistencies surrounding the nationality question in the Kivu are better
seen as the symptom rather than the cause of the incoherence of the Mobutist state.
The threat of Malthusian trends is the second major source of state erosion that needs to be
stressed, in part because it gave justification to the first. Long before they reached the edge of
the precipice both states were faced with demographic pressures which neither had the capacity
to contain. Rwanda and Burundi claim the highest population densities in the continent. At the
turn of the century each state had a population of roughly 1.5 million. Today their combined
populations are close to 15 million. In comparative terms this is as if one third of Zaire's
population were enclosed in a space one-sixtieth of its size. While raising serious questions
about the long-term viability of their state systems, the ever-expanding size of their population
retrospectively explains the past reluctance of their governments to accept the return of large
numbers of refugees. Moreover, it focuses attention on land shortage as a major ingredient of

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Patterns of State Collapse and Reconstruction in Central Africa I 13

ethnic strife (particularly in Rwanda, but also in eastern Zaire) and the inability of the state to
develop policies designed to reallocate land effectively and equitably, the reason in part being
that land eventually became a key resource in the arsenal of the state to build faithful clienteles
among privileged social groupings.
We touch here on a third aspect of the long-term processes of state decay, with relevance to
all three cases at hand: the shrinking of the political bases of state authority. Nothing is more
revealing of the weakening of the Rwanda state under Habyalimana than the steady erosion of
its power base. The shift of power accomplished by the revolution, from Tutsi to Hutu,
uncovered deep regional fractures among Hutu, northerners vs. southerners, Bashiru vs.
Bagoye, etc. As the regional struggles over patronage intensified, the point was reached where
power and authority tended to gravitate increasingly around the presidential household and his
immediate family, the so-called akazu ("small house" in Kinyarwanda). At the time of the RPF
invasion, on October 1, 1990, the Rwanda state was little more than a caricature of the neo-
patrimonial polity.
Much the same contraction of the political arena can be seen in Burundi. From 1972
onwards, power became the exclusive privilege of Tutsi-Hima elements from the south (Bururi),
a situation that came to reflect the dominant position of Tutsi-Hima officers in the military. If
nothing comparable to the akazu phenomenon characterized the Burundi situation, there can be
little doubt about the inherent fragility of a state system where key decisions are made by a
handful of army officers, and where the army itself is subject to ceaseless internecine struggles.
The overall implications are well summed up by Rothchild and Groth 17:
Because state institutions are fragile and lacking in effectiveness and legitimacy, they are a
poor vantage point to mediate the struggle between competing groups. Unable to channel
participation along predetermined lines, the overloaded state becomes isolated and aloof from
society, unable to structure the relations between social interests or between these interests and
Nowhere is this loss of legitimacy and growing isolation more palpably evident than in
Zaire. For a quarter of a century the Mobutist state was able to compensate for its lack of
internal legitimacy by drawing huge dividends from its international status as the staunchest
ally of the United States in Africa. The end of the Cold War could not but sharply increase its
international isolation and legitimacy deficit; bartering its anti-communist credentials for
external assistance was no longer a feasible option. Just as Mobutu owed his rise to power to the
incidence of East-West rivalries in the continent, in the last analysis the collapse of the Zairian
state must be seen as a casualty of the Cold War's end.
Intimations of the mortality of the Mobutist state were felt long before its downfall. Its
multiple afflictions have been diagnosed in considerable detail by Turner and Young 18. Some
are rooted in the cumulative effect of economic and financial constraints ranging from the
plummeting of copper prices in the 1970s and the ineptitudes of "Zairianisation", to a growing
debt burden and a widening gulf between a soaring supply of money and the availability of
basic commodities, leading to runaway inflation. Others are clearly traceable to Mobutu's own
neo-patrimonial style, which conjures up mixed images--Bula Matari working in tandem with
the Medellin cartel or Cosa Nostra. The result has been a process of political involution centered
around a handful of rent-seeking cronies, leading to what Crawford Young pithily describes as

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14 I Lemarchand

"self-cannibalization": "the state consumes itself to live for another day". "The decay of the
public realm," he goes on to note 19,

is marked by a cumulative deflation of the state apparatus in terms of its competence, probity
and credibility. Institutions of rule lose their capacity to translate public resources into
sustenance of infrastructures or valued amenities. A pervasive venality surrounds most public
transactions. As a consequence, the subject comes to experience rule as simple predation; the
aura of the state as powerful and nurturant protector vanishes.

While the image of the state as protector receded, that of the state as predator came
increasingly into focus. To compensate for the unpaid salaries of his troops, Mobutu in effect
gave them a blank check to ransom and loot. The privileged ethno-regional clienteles built
around the Ngbandi-dominated Division Speciale Prdsidentielle (DSP) only reinforced the
disaffection of the troops, whose principal source of livelihood was plunder and theft. The
phenomenon was already patently clear in the early 1990s if not earlier, and became all more
threatening during the Kabiliste insurrection. For the majority of the troops sent out to crush the
rebellion the purpose of their assignment was not to defeat the enemy, but to take maximum
advantage of the situation to engage in one "pillage" after another. As the tide began to turn
many ended up selling their weapons to potential rebels, or joining their ranks.
In the catalog of forces that conspired to produce the ultimate collapse of the state in
Rwanda, Burundi and Zaire, some are specific to their history and socio-ethnic configurations,
others to the complex pattern of interaction arising from the "kin-country" syndrome. Yet in all
three states emerges a common denominator: the extension of the dysfunctions of the state to
their militaries. The privatization of the Zairian army and its propensity to instigate civil
violence for purposes of personal profit, the active participation of the FAR in the Rwanda
genocide, and the murderous intervention of the Burundi army to block the transition to
democracy--all are reflective of the declining capacity of the state to control its instruments of
coercion. From all evidence, the Weberian definition of the state may well provide a more useful
thread for identifying the roots of its disintegration than some of the more fashionable extant
taxonomies 20


In an otherwise inspired essay, Zartman 21 makes surprisingly short shrift of the multiplier
effect of decisive events on processes of state collapse. His use of metaphors is revealing: "What
is notable in these scenarios (of state collapse) is the absence of clear turning points, warning
signals, thresholds, or pressure spots... The slippery slope, the descending spiral,and the
downward trend are the mark of state collapse rather than deadlines and triggers."
The least that can be said of this curiously ahistorical construction is that it is difficult to
reconcile with the evidence at hand--not unlike trying to explain the fall of the French monarchy
without reference to the seizure of the Bastille, the Tennis Court Oath, or the Flight to Varenne.
Triggers are not to be dismissed lightly, least of all when directed against entire ethnic
communities--or when perceived as such. From this vantage the October 1, 1990 invasion of

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Patterns of State Collapse and Reconstruction in Central Africa I 15

Rwanda by the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) can only be seen as a watershed. Against heavy
odds, almost four years later, the RPF was able to claim victory, but at an appalling cost.
Immediately seen by the Habyalimana government as evidence of a Tutsi conspiracy, the
invasion was the signal for arresting tens of thousands of Tutsi civilians, and not a few Hutu,
throughout the country. In the capital city an estimated 100,000 people were brought at gun
point into the national stadium for questioning. Only months later were they finally allowed to
return home. By then, however, ethnic violence had crossed new thresholds of intensity. In
January and February 1991, in response to a daring RPF raid on the Ruhengeri jail, local Hutu
militias massacred hundreds of Bagogwe pastoralists (a Tutsi subgroup). This was only the first
in a series of anti-Tutsi pogroms culminating in March 1992 with the cold-blooded massacre of
thousands of Tutsi civilians in the Bugesera region. Predictably, the Tutsi invaders for their part
showed little restraint in dealing with Hutu civilians in the "liberated" areas. Tens of thousands
are said to have been slaughtered by advancing RPF troops. By January 1993, an estimated one
million Hutu civilians were forced into camps throughout the country. Only if one remembers
their desperate condition--having lost all their possessions and sometimes their relatives--and
the depth of anti-Tutsi sentiment, can one understand why so many of them ended up
supplying the bulk of Habyalimana's "genocidaires."
With the assassination of Burundi's first elected Hutu president, on October 21, 1993,
another threshold was crossed in the rising tide of ethnic hatreds. In Rwanda, Ndadaye's
murder carried enormous symbolic significance. The message, in its devastating simplicity,
came through loud and clear: "You just cannot trust the Tutsi!" Relayed in the countryside by
thousands of panic-stricken refugees, the warning also found an immediate echo in the media,
including the racist Radio Mille Collines. Not only did the news of Ndadaye's death virtually
destroy the fragile consensus built around the Arusha accords; from then on the Hutu militancy
was clearly on the ascendant, transforming the state into a battle ground between moderates
and radicals.
The third, most lethal trigger was the two surface-to-air missiles that brought down
President Habyalimana's plane over Kigali, on April 6, 1994, killing, along with Habyalimana
and his closest aides, President Cyprien Ntaryamira of Burundi. To this day the identity of the
men who fired the missiles remains a mystery 22. Most Hutu, however, immediately detected
the hand of the RPF behind the dastardly deed. The killings began within hours.
As the Rwanda state finally collapsed, awash in a sea of blood, its counterpart in Burundi
was barely able to sustain the backlash of the genocide next door. As in a game of mirrors,
reflecting symmetrical images, the Rwanda genocide quickly entered the consciousness of the
Tutsi community of Burundi in the form of a self-fulfilling fantasy, giving retrospective
justification to Ndadaye's assassination, thus becoming part and parcel of what Paul Veyne calls
"'Timagination constituante"23. The killings in Rwanda were not just an omen of what could
happen to the Tutsi in Burundi; genocide had already happened. What some erroneously
viewed as a spontaneous explosion of violence after Ndadaye's death, was nothing less than
genocide. Indeed, it was part and parcel of Ndadaye's dastardly plans (which is why he had to
be killed). It mattered little that (a) Burundi was the scene of the first genocide recorded on the
continent, and (b) that it was a genocide of Hutu by Tutsi. The only point that mattered for the
more militant elements of the Tutsi community was to capture the moral high ground by

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16 I Lemarchand

holding the majority of Frodebu politicians collectively responsible for the genocide of their kin
group. The drawing of a wholly arbitrary line of demarcation around the "genocidaires" also
meant drawing of state boundaries. As parliament ceased to function, and as governments were
made and unmade by pressures from the street, orchestrated by Tutsi militias, what was left of
the state fell into the hands of the Tutsi-dominated army, which to this day remains the
principal arbiter of conflict.
Space limitations do not permit more than the briefest reference to the equally devastating
impact of the Rwanda genocide in eastern Zaire. Here again it is the catalytic effect on group
identities that needs to be stressed. With the massive surge of Hutu refugees into the Goma
area, followed in early 1996 by countless atrocities committed by Interhamwe against local
Tutsi, collective identities quickly sorted themselves out into rival communities. Once allies and
victims in their fight for Zairian citizenship, they suddenly turned against each other with
appalling ferocity. Long before eastern Zaire became the launching pad of Kabila's revolution,
by courtesy of Vice-President Kagame, North Kivu had been the scene of a hideous slaughter of
Banyarwanda in 1993 24. As much as anything else about the Zairian state, its inability to come
to grips with the nationality question, and with the roots of the 1993 carnage, revealed the
extent of its paralysis.
If the foregoing does illuminate certain critical dimensions of state collapse, it also hints at
some of the more intractable problems that lie ahead on the road to reconstruction.


After the descent into hell, comes the purgatory of national reconstruction. Each of the
three states under consideration is entering this somewhat opaque halfway house with uneven
indulgences, and at different speeds. Although Rwanda has already made commendable
progress, Congo/Zaire has barely crossed the threshold of redemption. Only in Burundi is the
state fated to remain in limbo for the foreseeable future. Clearly, given the extreme fluidity of
the regional context, any attempt to assess the prospects for reconstruction must be highly
speculative. By way of a starting point, two remarks are worth noting. Firstly, only in Rwanda
has something resembling a state system re-emerged from the chaos of genocide; in Burundi
and Zaire, on the other hand, the nearest thing to the state is what Misha Glenny, in his classic
work on the fall of Yugoslavia, calls "the parastate," i.e. "the mutant offspring of an expiring
failed state... boasting certain essential attributes of a normal state but grotesquely lacking in
others"25. Because of its much greater degree of "stateness," Rwanda was able to play a critical
role in destabilizing Burundi's "genocidaires" in exile and in "facilitating" the Zairian transition.
There is every reason to believe that Rwanda will expect substantial dividends in return,
primarily in the form of continued influence in Kinshasa and Bujumbura.
Secondly, just as Habyalimana's Rwanda was the model polity which many Hutu would
have liked to transpose into Burundi, many are the Tutsi politicians in Bujumbura, including
some that might be described as "moderates," who today look to Kagame's Rwanda for
inspiration. Kagame's Rwanda has all the earmarks of an ethnocracy, but with just enough
power sharing at the top to enlist a measure of Hutu collaboration. Thus, if the substance of

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Patterns of State Collapse and Reconstruction in Central Africa I 17

power is to remain in Tutsi hands, via the military, no effort should be spared to give Hutu
elements willing to collaborate a prudent share of participation in decision-making.
Even the most cursory glance at the pattern of reconstruction in Rwanda cannot fail to
notice the characteristic traits of a military ethnocracy. The emergent polity is one in which the
45,000 strong, all-Tutsi army provides the critical underpinning of the formal government
institutions. Key decisions are made by Kagame and his trusted lieutenants, flowing from the
top down. The appointed parliament is little more than a fig leaf that barely conceals the
dominant position of the RPF. The civil service, the judiciary, the economy, the schools and
university are all under Tutsi control 26. The closest thing to a constitution are the Arusha
accords of August 1993. Although intended to provide the basis for an all-embracing power-
sharing formula, extending to the armed forces, the accords have been consistently "adapted"
and manipulated to serve the policy goals of the regime. Efforts to rebuild the judicial system
are proceeding with less than optimal results. While the trials of genocide suspects are said to
be relatively fair, there are still some 100,000 Hutu languishing in Rwanda's jails. Quite aside
from the fact that approximately half of the detainees are said to have been incarcerated for
reasons having little to do with their presumed involvement in genocide, but rather as the
quickest way for their neighbors to grab their property, the conditions in which most prisoners
are being held can only be described as inhuman.
With ethnic violence picking up momentum in the north -- largely as a result of armed
raids by repatriated Interhamwe and ex-FAR, inevitably followed by a devastating retribution
in kind by the APR -- the prospects for enlarging the ethnic base of the state appear extremely
remote. The implications transcend the Rwanda arena. In Burundi, where the radical fringe of
the Tutsi community remains extremely sensitive to the lessons of Rwanda, there are signs that
the current efforts at mediation will be violently rejected by certain units of the army and the
militias, with the Bagazistes trying to draw maximum advantage of the situation to further
advance their ethnocratic claims. In Zaire/Congo, any move designed to curtail the influence of
Rwanda's "near abroad" will probably be met with stiff resistance from Kagame, and indeed
from the Banyamulenge currently in charge of the security and the local administration in
North and South Kivu. Clearly, issues of ethnicity will continue to set the key parameters for
reconstruction in all three states. Which brings us to a brief consideration of the impending
avatars of the Kabiliste take-over in the DCR.
The difficulties facing Kabila are inscribed, in part, in the circumstances of his astoundingly
rapid military victory. Three factors are particularly worth noting: (a) the critical role played by
Banyamulenge elements trained in Rwanda in cementing the politico-military armature of the
rebellion; (b) the all-pervasive, overwhelming anti-Mobutu sentiment that infused the civil
society, and caused hundreds of thousands of Zairians to cast their lot with the rebels, long
before they even came into view; (c) the widespread assumption among anti-Mobutist forces
that "liberation" means a swift transition from dictatorship to democracy.
For Kabila to break out of the ethnic enclave in which he is now entrapped is a key priority
if his reconstruction project is to gain legitimacy. The task will not be easy. With the rapid
advance of the rebellion into the interior, a growing number of Zairians from almost every
province were brought into the armed forces of the Alliance, thus diluting the salience of the
Banyamulenge presence in the military, but not to the point of allaying fears of "foreign

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18 I Lemarchand

domination." Banyamulenge form the hard core of Kabila's troops; many occupy key positions
in the administrative machinery of North and South Kivu. Anti-Banyamulenge feelings run
high in both provinces, particularly among Hunde and Babembe. Despite efforts to incorporate
Bashi elements in the provincial power structure their loyalty is open to question. The same is
true of the Baluba/Kasai, who bitterly resent the exclusion of their "favorite son" (Etienne
Tshisekedi) from the ruling government coalition. Kabila is thus faced with a Hobsons's choice:
failure to meet the imperative of a broadly based coalition, meaning also a genuine effort to
scale down the influence of the Banyamulenge in the Kivus and elsewhere, can only lead to a
loss of legitimacy; turning against the architects of his victory against Mobutu, on the other
hand, would be tantamount to political suicide.
Kabila must bear the unanticipated costs of a military conquest that quickly outpaced his
capacity to put in place a viable administration. The abrupt collapse of the Mobutist state has
created a political vacuum that has yet to be filled. The most notable exception is North and
South Kivu. Even so, the picture conveyed to outside observers is one of considerable
improvisation, with little attention paid to the potential support that could be derived from the
civil society. If the situation in the Kivus is any index, many are the civil society organizations
(CSO) that could have provided the social ballast needed to reconstruct the new polity, but so
far their place in the new dispensation appears extremely nebulous. Many have been torn apart
by ethnic rivalries born of the rebellion; some were simply dismantled, while others were
brought under the tight control of Alliance cadres. Fear that the CSOs could transform
themselves into "contre-pouvoirs" is all pervasive.
In the absence of a civil society capable of providing effective linkages with the state, the
day-to-day tasks of administering the liberated territories have been entrusted to the
Commissaires de Zone. Although in many instances local incumbents were allowed to remain
in office, there can be little doubt as to where power lies -- in the hands of the Commissaires,
acting hand in hand with local units of the armed forces. Though decidedly more disciplined
than the FAZ, at times the enforcement of discipline on the civilian population is ominously
reminiscent of the Bula Matari scenarios. "The attitude of the army," according to a first-hand
witness, "is designed to bring back a taste of civic mores ('kuleta morale'), with an introduction
of the chicotte... What is unacceptable by any modern standard of justice is the fact that whip
lashing (on the legs) takes place on the spot, lying down face on the ground, by the same people
who observe the alleged misdemeanor" 27. If this testimony -- eerily evocative of the most
somber of Tshibumba's paintings (most notably "Colonie Belge") -- is any indication, recourse to
force could figure prominently in Kabila's strategies of state reconstruction. This impression is
strongly reinforced by the deliberate, wanton killings of tens of thousands of Hutu refugees at
the hands of Alliance troops, prompting the EU Head of Humanitarian Affairs Commission,
Emma Bonino, to describe the killing grounds of eastern Zaire as a "slaughter house."
As the foregoing plainly suggests, the focus of Kabila's efforts at reconstruction is less on
democracy than on the creation of spaces for discipline and moralization. In view of his own
background as an Afro-Marxist guerrilla fighter during the 1964 rebellion, and his subsequent
checkered career, it is easy to see why the virtues of the Civic Culture should only have a
limited appeal to his project de society. His early exposure to Marxism has left an ideological
legacy that points to a systematic effort at the re-socialization of Zairian society. In the Kivu this

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Patterns of State Collapse and Reconstruction in Central Africa I 19

finds expression in the ideological seminars conducted by the secr6taires g6n6raux charges de la
coordination, in which the emphasis is on a class analysis of Zairian society; in terms of
organization the aim is to reach out to the grassroots through the local cells (Chembe Chembe)
set up to assist the administration; ultimately it is for centrally appointed village officials to
filter and sanction the "general will" expected to emanate from the rural masses. It is evidently
far too early to draw definitive conclusions from the situation observable in the Kivus; the
ambivalence of Kabila's project 28 is well captured in the description offered by a recent visitor
to eastern Zaire:
Whereas certain statements of the AFDL (Alliance des Forces Democratiques pour la
Liberation du Congo) (interviews with Kabila, etc.) stress a liberal approach, the ideological
courses to which all functionaries are subjected rather stress a Marxist approach (class struggle,
national bourgeoisie, etc.). An article in the Rwandese official newspaper La Nouvelle Releve
(no. 339 of 7/4/97) gives yet another viewpoint, which centers around "a new social order in a
rural environment" comparable to the ideas of Guinea-Bissau's Cabral for an African Socialism.
Summarized in very short order, it states that organizing the rural society is first and foremost
in solving the country's problems. This can be concretized in three points: changing political
structures in favor of small producers, changing the mode of production, and increasing the
productivity. To enable this accelerated development, a combination of state efforts (parastatals)
and private efforts (via cooperatives) will be necessary.
It will be some time before the contours of the new state can be discerned with any degree
of precision -- beyond what few tentative conclusions one may draw from the profile of the
newly appointed government. Whether the expectations of the Zairian/Congolese masses can be
met in time to prevent a major political backlash remains unclear. What is beyond doubt is that
more will be required than a formal commitment to democracy, or Afro-Marxism, to
reinvigorate private enterprise, restart the production of the industrial and manufacturing
sectors, get the parastatals back on the rails, and restore the infrastructures. From Mobutu's
kleptocratic rule Kabila has inherited a devastated economy, a society driven by ethno-regional
enmities, plagued by deep poverty and shocking social inequalities, a country which, as one
rebel radio broadcast noted, "has been crushed to a pulp." Rebuilding the DCR on the ashes of
the Zairian state promises to be a Herculean task. Whether Kabila proves equal to the challenge
remains to be seen.


This paper was prepared for presentation at the XVIIth World Congress of the
International Political Science Association, 17-21 August 1997, Seoul, South Korea, Copyright
IPSA 1997. None of the views set forth in this paper are to be attributed to USAID or any other
agency of the US government; I claim full responsibility for all errors of fact or interpretation.

1. The question of how many refugees returned to Rwanda, and how many stayed behind,
is a highly controversial issue. By and large pro-Rwanda analysts tend to greatly inflate
the number of returnees (up to 700,000) and scale down the number of those who stayed
in Zaire. Typical of this tendency to manipulate statistics is the following statement from
a US official in Kigali: "Half a million refugees did not remain behind, but only about

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20 I Lemarchand

100 to 200,000.... The UNHCR and NGOs grossly over-counted the refugees by mistake
or probably more likely for their own motives -- continued western funding" (Personal
communication). According to UNHCR figures, the total refugee population, before
October 1996, was in the order of 1.1 million distributed among some fifteen camps from
Mugunga in the north to Uvira in the south. Some 316,000 were reported in the camps
around Bukavu, 715,000 around Goma, and 180,000 around Uvira, of whom 117,000
were Barundi. Assuming that as many as 700,000 returned to Rwanda, which has yet to
be confirmed, this still leaves some 400,000 "unaccounted for." For an excellent survey of
the refugee situation in eastern Zaire see the special issue of Dialogue ("Les Oublies de
l'Afrique des Grands Lacs"), No. 196 (February 1997), as well as Johann Pottier's
outstanding discussion, "The 'Self' in Self-Repatriation: Closing Down Mugunga Camp
(Eastern Zaire)", forthcoming, in Richard Black and Khalid Koser, eds., The End of the
Refugee Cycle? Refugee Repatriation and Reconstruction, Bergahm Books.
2. Samuel Huntington, "The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order."
Foreign Affairs, V. 72, N. 3, Summer 1993, p22 (28). The Clash of Civilizations and the
Remaking of World Order. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1996.
3. Ibid., p. 28.
4. For further elaboration on this theme, see Rend Lemarchand, Burundi: Ethnic Conflict
and Genocide. New York: Cambridge University Press and Woodrow Wilson Center
Press, 1995.
5. For an illuminating discussion of the constructivist and other models of ethnicity, see
Crawford M. Young, "The Dialectics of Cultural Pluralism: Concept and Reality", in
Crawford M. Young, ed., The Rising Tide of Cultural Pluralism. Madison: University of
Wisconsin Press, 1993, p. 21. On the role of intellectuals in fashioning the constructivist
face of ethnicity in Rwanda and elsewhere, see Michael Chege, "Africa's Murderous
Professors", The National Interest, Winter 1996-97.
6. Thomas Carothers, "Which Democracy Should We Export", Harper's Magazine,
September 1996, p. 19.
7. Alex De Waal, "The Genocidal State", Times Literary Supplement, July 1994, n. 4761, p.3.
For an illuminating background discussion of the Rwanda genocide, see David Rieff,
"An Age of Genocide: The Far-Reaching Lessons of Rwanda", The New Republic,
January 26, 1996.
8. On the genesis of refugee flows, see Myron Weiner, "Bad Neighbors, Bad
Neighborhoods: An Enquiry into the Causes of Refugee Flows", International Security,
vol. 21, No. 1 Summer 1996, pp. 5-42.
9. William Zartman, "Introduction: Posing the Problem of State Collapse", in William
Zartman, ed., Collapsed States. Boulder: Lynne Rienner, 1995.
10. Huntington, op. cit., p. 272.
11. Ibid., loc. cit.
12. G. Loescher, "Refugee Movements and International Security", Adelphi Paper No. 268,
International Institute of Strategic Studies, London 1992, quoted in Liisa Malkki,
"Refugees and Exile: From 'Refugee Studies' to the Rational Order of Things", Annual
Review of Anthropology, Vol. 24, 1995, pp. 504.

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Patterns of State Collapse and Reconstruction in Central Africa I 21

13. For the historical background, see Rend Lemarchand, Rwanda and Burundi. New York
and London: Pall Mall Press and Frederick Praeger, 1970.
14. See Filip Reyntjens and S. Marysse. eds., Conflits au Kivu: Antecedents et Enjeux.
University of Antwerp: Center for the Study of the Great Lakes Region of Africa, Dec.
15. The size of the Banyamulenge population in South Kivu remains an enigma; the figures
cited vary from 35,000 to 200,000 (see Reyntjens and Marysse, op. cit.). An educated
guess would suggest at least 60,000, possibly more; the figure of 200,000, cited by
International Alert and other NGOs, seems grossly exaggerated. Part of the confusion
may stem from the failure to take into account the changing definition of Banyamulenge:
after the attacks on the refugee camps, the term came to designate all Tutsi, regardless of
whether they came from North or South Kivu, or their length of residence in Zaire. See
the outstanding analysis in James Fairhead, "Demographic Issues in the Great Lakes
Region", Save the Children Conference on Practical Approaches to the Crises of the
Great Lakes, Sunridge Park, London, 24-26 March 1997. "Statistics from 1991 in
Rwanda," Fairhead writes, "suggested a catastrophic scenario within the next 25 years."
Present populations average 600 people per usable ha, with average rural population
density set to increase to c. 1000-1500 inhabitants per sq. km in 2015, with average farms
of less than 1 ha on which 8-12 people must live." Population projections for Burundi
and eastern Zaire, he adds, suggest equally problematic scenarios. See Johann Pottier,
"Social Dynamics of Land and Land Reform in Rwanda: Past, Present and Future",
SOAS, University of London. Typescript, April 1997.
16. The 1981 Nationality Act limited Zairian citizenship only to those persons able to show
they had an ancestor belonging "to one of the tribes established in Zaire since 1865," thus
repealing the 1972 law granting citizenship rights to all Banyarwanda established in
Zaire before January 1950. Not only did the 1982 Act disqualify those tens of thousands
of Banyarwanda and Barundi who came into Zaire at the request of the Belgian
authorities, along with Tutsi elements who fled the Rwanda revolution; even more
exasperating was the absurdity of a piece of legislation that made it virtually impossible
for anyone to comply with provisions given that (a) the boundaries of Zaire in 1885 had
yet to be fixed, and (b) proof of a pre-1885 ancestry is impossible to establish in juridical
terms. For further details on the nationality issue, see Jean-Claude Willame,
Banyarwanda et Banyamulenge; Violences Ethniques et Gestion de L'Identitaire au Kivu
Paris: L'Hartmattan, 1997)
17. Donald Rothchild and Alexander J. Groth, "Pathological Dimensions of Domestic and
International Ethnicity", Political Science Quarterly, Vol. 110, No. 1, 1995, p. 74.
18. Crawford M. Young and Thomas Turner, The Rise and Decline of the Zairian State.
Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1988.
19. Crawford M. Young, "Reflections on State Decline and Societal Change in Zaire"
Typescript, January 1997, p. 2.
20. See, for example, Jean-Germain Gros, "Towards a taxonomy of failed states in the New
World Order: decaying Somalia, Liberia, Rwanda and Burundi", Third World Quarterly,
Vol. 17, No. 3 1996, pp. 455-471, where the author valiantly wrestles with five categories

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22 I Lemarchand

of failed polities: "anarchic states", "phantom or mirage states", anaemicc states",
"captured states", and "states that failed in vitro (they are called aborted states)."
21. Zartman, op. cit., p. 9. The other side of this methodological coin is an overly
functionalist approach to the subject of state collapse. "Why do states collapse," asks
Zartman. "Because they can no longer perform the functions required for them to pass as
states" (p. 5). What would the author reply to a doctor who would explain the death of
his patient by gravely announcing that he/she could no longer perform the functions
required to stay alive?
22. For an instructive, although inconclusive, effort to solve the mystery, see Filip Reyntjens,
Rwanda: Trois jours qui ont fait basculer l'histoire Brussels: Institut Africain/CEDAF,
and L'Harmattan: Paris, 1995.
23. Paul Veyne, Les Grecs ont-ils cru a leurs mythes? Essai sur l'imagination constituante
Paris: Le Seuil, 1983. This myth has been largely endorsed by the UN Commission in
charge of investigating the circumstances of Ndadaye's assassination.
24. For an excellent first-hand account, see Davis Orr, "Kivu Province Becomes a War Zone",
Focus on Africa, Vol. 4, No. 4 October-December 1993, pp. 5-8.
25. Michael Glenny, The Fall of Yugoslavia London: Penguin Books, 1996, p. 263.
26. According to a reliable source, out of a total of approximately 5,200 students registered
at the National University in Butare, 5,000 are Tutsi and 200 Hutu.
27. Anon., "Tupemata morale: Report of a Field Trip to South-Kivu", May 1-8,1997, p. 3.
28. Ibid., p. 2.

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African Studies Quarterly I Volume 1, Issue 3 I 1997

Kabila Returns, In a Cloud of Uncertainty



Since the 1960's, Laurent Kabila had led a group of insurgents against the dictatorial
Mobutu Sese Seko government in Kinshasa, operating along Zaire's eastern border 1. Kabila's
group was one of the many rebel movements in the East that had arisen with the aim of
furthering the political program of Congo's first prime minister, Patrice Lumumba, the popular
and charismatic leader who was assassinated in 1961. The major Lumumbist insurgencies had
been subdued by Mobutu using foreign mercenaries between 1965 and 1967. The small
surviving groups such as that of Kabila posed no threat to the Mobutu regime.
The 1994 Rwandan genocide changed all that. Approximately one million Rwanda Hutu
refugees fled to eastern Zaire, which was already near the boiling point due to conflicts over
land use and political representation. In an effort to break out of its diplomatic isolation, the
Mobutu government provided backing to the Hutu, including army and militia elements,
thereby earning the enmity of the Tutsi-dominated government in Rwanda. Tutsi of South
Kivu, the so-called Banyamulenge, staged an uprising in the summer of 1996, with the support
of the Rwanda government. By the second half of that year, the alliance of Banyamulenge, Tutsi
of North Kivu, and Lumumbists and others, headed by Kabila, had taken over substantial parts
of eastern Zaire, with the corrupt and demoralized Mobutu army disappearing in the face of
their advance. After a short seven month campaign, Kabila and the new armed coalition entered
Kinshasa as Mobutu fled into exile.
Kabila's victory is significant on the local, national and international levels. Locally, in
South and North Kivu, Tutsi victims of ethnic cleansing turned the tables on their rivals.
Nationally, long-time opponent Kabila overthrew Mobutu and restored the country's name,
Congo. Internationally, Mobutu can be seen as one of a number of French-supported dictators
ousted or in difficulty, while Kabila can be seen as of a series of former guerrilla leaders now
supported by Washington, along with the current heads of Eritrea, Ethiopia, Uganda and
Rwanda 2.
The ethnic factor is found on all these levels. Locally, it is entwined with land rights.
Nationally, the ethnic identities of leaders constitute resources and handicaps. However, one
must beware of simplistic notions, e.g., Tutsi as a "cohesive, insular tribe." The Tutsi of Rwanda,
Burundi and eastern Congo have distinct interests.
Kabila is dependent upon an ethnic minority and upon his foreign backers, in particular
the Ugandan and Rwandan governments. His survival will depend upon his ability to
dominate the Tutsi within his government, who have ties to their foreign backers, especially in
Rwanda. To establish his autonomy vis-a-vis his foreign backers he will need more support


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24 I Turner

from Congolese other than the Tutsi. It seems unlikely he will be able to gain such support
without reaching a compromise with other anti-Mobutu forces including the Union for
Democracy and Social Progress (Union pour la D6mocratie et le Progres Social, UDPS) and
Unified Lumumbist Party (Parti Lumumbiste Unifi6, PALU). Tutsi elements of the Kabila
government likely would resist dilution of the coalition, unless the UDPS led by Etienne
Tshisekedi and PALU expressed support for the demands of the Tutsi of North and South Kivu.
Tshisekedi's complaint that Kabila is held hostage by "foreigners" feeds the resistance of the
people of Kinshasa to the Tutsi and makes a compromise between Tshisekedi and Kabila less


That Mobutu Sese Seko, who brought down Patrice Lumumba, should be brought down in
turn by Laurent-D6sir6 Kabila, self-proclaimed Lumumbist, would seem an ironic full circle
turn of the wheel. In reality, however, history never repeats itself. Unresolved grievances and
long-lasting metaphors can give the appearance of repetition to a unique event which reflects a
new situation. Such was the case during the disintegration of Yugoslavia and the fighting in
Bosnia; so too in the Congo. There are many echoes of the decolonization of 1959-60 and the
Lumumbist "rebellions" of 1964-65. Kabila claims the mantle of the martyred Patrice Lumumba
but that claim, like any political claim, should be examined critically. In this article, a variety of
claims by Kabila and his supporters, and a variety of characterizations of the Kabila movement,
will be examined.
Is the victory of Kabila and the Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-
Zaire (Alliance des Forces D6mocratiques pour la Lib6ration du Congo-Zaire, AFDL) to be
understood in a national context, as a victory over Mobutu and his latest prime minister,
General Likulia Bolongo? Or is it (as Kabila and some aides have suggested) a victory over the
entire political class of the Mobutu era, including also Etienne Tshisekedi, the UDPS and the
"Sacred Union" of opposition to Mobutu?
Alternatively, is the Kabila victory to be interpreted in geo-political terms, as a victory of
one power or coalition over another? Specifically, was the victory of Kabila a defeat for France
and a victory for the United States, seen as backers of Mobutu and of Kabila respectively? In
regional terms, was this a victory of a coalition of predominantly English-speaking states to the
East of Congo/Zaire led by Uganda, over French client-states to the West, including Gabon,
Congo-Brazzaville and the Central African Republic?
Whether one adopts the intercontinental or the regional level of analysis, is the conflict to
be analyzed in terms of cultural projects, of which "Francophonie" is the outstanding example?
Is there, as the French have alleged, an American counter-project? If so, what is that project and
does support for Kabila make sense as a reflection of that project? Or does it make more sense to
"chercher le capitaliste, to look for the national or multinational corporations which may have
sought to obtain or enlarge a foothold in mineral-rich Central Africa, as was the case in the
1960s 3?
Journalists and others in Kinshasa tended to interpret the Kabila movement as dominated
by ethnic Tutsi. Yoweri Museveni of Uganda and Paul Kagame of Rwanda were seen as

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Kabila Returns, In a Cloud of Uncertainty I 25

collaborating in a plan for Tutsi hegemony, and those Congolese who joined Kabila as
"foreigners" carrying out that plan. Such a view is too simple but is there any basis for it in fact?
There were echoes of the 1960s in Kabila's invocation of Lumumba, and a number of
newspapers and magazines exhumed Che Guevara's assessment of Kabila based on several
months of collaboration in 1965-66, but the question remains, how seriously is one to take
Kabila's claim to the mantle of Lumumba?
In his march across the Congo and in consolidation of his power in Kinshasa, Kabila made
it clear that he regarded the internal opposition to Mobutu as part of the problem. The internal
opposition, starting with Tshisekedi, claimed (at least) an equal standing with the Kabila
insurgency. The easy victory of Kabila would not have been possible, they argued, had not the
Mobutu regime been undermined by years of work by the internal opposition. To evaluate this
argument, one shall have to place the internal and external opposition in the context of the
Mobutu regime, its social base and its external alliances.
Clearly, there is a surfeit of explanations of the Kabila victory, many of them
oversimplifications if not caricatures. The explanations range from the individual level of
analysis (e.g., Kabila's background and personality) to the global (e.g., the Franco-American
rivalry in the post-colonial era). In this article I shall examine a number of preliminary
assessments as reported in the press. Then I shall suggest several elements of a more
satisfactory explanation, linking various levels of analysis. Ethnicity and democratization will
be examined in their local, national and international forms.


The fall of Mobutu was widely interpreted as a loss for France, his most consistent
international backer, and his replacement by Kabila as a victory for the United States 4. The
reality was more complex and the ability of the patrons to control their supposed clients was
doubtful. However, the Congo crisis of 1996-97 was shaped by the collapse of the "troika"
(France-Belgium-United States) which had been promoting peaceful political change in
Congo/Zaire, and by resurgent rivalry between Paris and Washington.
Nzongola Ntalaja wrote in the mid-1980s that "the United States eventually replaced
Belgium as the major arbiter of Zaire's destiny, but continues to deal with Zairian affairs within
a multilateral strategy of imperialism in which Belgium and France are its key partners." For
Crawford Young, Mobutu's survival was due in large measure to his success in multiplying
external patrons. These views are complementary, in that Mobutu's Zaire was both dependent
and uncontrollable 5.
France and the United States have a long history of rivalry in the Congo. They pursued
opposed policies in 1960-63, with France supporting secessionist Katanga while the U.S. sought
to establish a strong pro-Western central government in Leopoldville/Kinshasa. Belgium backed
the Katanga secession led by Moise Tshombe, then cooperated with the U.S. in suppressing the
Lumumbist insurrections of 1964. The 1965 coup d'6tat was widely interpreted as a victory of
the American-backed Mobutu over the Belgian-backed Tshombe 6.
Belgian interests suffered under Mobutu, due mainly to the efforts of Mobutu and the
politico-economic elite to pursue their own interests in the name of nationalism, by expanding

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26 I Turner

the sphere of the state at the expense of the church and the colonial corporations. However, the
former colonial power remained the "significant other" of Mobutu. Until the very end, the
dictator continued to care deeply about assessments of him in the Belgian press 7.
In the meantime, relations with the Americans prospered. There was a momentary chill in
1973-74, when Mobutu spectacularly broke relations with Israel, announcing his decision before
the General Assembly of the United Nations, and setting off a wave of breaks with Israel by
African states. The "Zairianization" of foreign property, including oil company facilities,
deepened American discontent with their former prot6g6 8. However, the Angolan civil war of
1975 convinced the American government that it needed Mobutu as an ally. Jimmy Carter, who
had declared human rights to be his foreign policy priority, appeared to pose a threat to
Mobutu but invasions of Katanga by the Angola-based Front for the National Liberation of the
Congo (Front pour la Lib6ration Nationale du Congo, FLNC) led to a partial reversal of Carter's
skepticism. Under Ronald Reagan, Mobutu again became a trusted ally 9.
Successive French governments worked to supplant Belgium in the Congo. Starting in
1973, France became an important military supplier. President Val6ry Giscard d'Estaing
received a triumphal welcome to Kinshasa in 1975, an apparent sign that Mobutu was
distancing himself from Belgium and the U.S. The radio and television installations of the Voice
of Zaire, the largest in Africa, were built by French companies with government aid 10. Zaire,
supposedly the second largest French speaking country in the world, became a leading
participant in the Francophone movement.
When the FLNC invaded Katanga for the second time, in 1978, Belgium and France sent
paratroopers to rescue the Europeans at Kolwezi in Shaba (i.e. Katanga). Planning to negotiate
with the FLNC, the Belgians proceeded cautiously, landing their forces at Kamina. Their hand
was forced when the French landed directly at Kolwezi and counterattacked 11. Again in 1989,
France upstaged Belgium when President Francois Mitterand told the Francophone Summit
that his government was writing off debt totaling US$ 2.6 billion owed by twenty-five of the
world's poorest states, including Zaire. The subsequent announcement that Belgium was
writing off or rescheduling much of its own debt appeared anticlimactic 12.
The end of Cold War competition in Africa, together with the shortcomings of his regime,
led the Americans, Belgians and French to jointly pressure Mobutu to oversee the transition to
democratic government and to depart voluntarily. In 1992, the United States, France and
Belgium all extended official support to the Tshisekedi government. Had the "troika" remained
united behind Tshisekedi, he might be the leader of the Congo today. Instead, they all became
disillusioned with the leader of the "radical opposition" but failed to maintain a common
The troika split over the questions of Rwanda and Angola. Belgium and the U.S. distanced
themselves from the Hutu in the aftermath of the genocide of Tutsi but France implemented
"Operation Turquoise," which not only sheltered Hutu from the forces of the Tutsi-dominated
Front Patriotique Rwandais (Rwandan Patriotic Front, FPR) but also allowed Hutu soldiers and
militia members to escape to Zaire with their weapons. France allowed Mobutu out of
quarantine because of his cooperation on the Rwandan question 13.

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Kabila Returns, In a Cloud of Uncertainty I 27

In the meantime, the U.S. had cooled on Mobutu. First, his effort to promote an agreement
to end the Angolan civil war failed 14. Second and more serious, from the American point of
view, Mobutu allied himself to Islamist Sudan.
During the AFDL campaign, November 1996-May 1997, the differences of orientation of
France and the United States were crucial. The most important American contribution was the
intervention that did not happen, when France led the effort to send an international military
force to protect Hutu refugees in eastern Congo/Zaire. The French obviously planned to use
humanitarian intervention as a means of protecting Mobutu while the United States was willing
to sacrifice the Hutu refugees in order to protect Kabila. In the last weeks of the Mobutu regime,
the U.S. apparently persuaded Morocco not to intervene on Mobutu's behalf, while France
promoted a transfer of power to Msgr. Laurent Monsengwo (archbishop of Kisangani, former
chair of the National Conference), a military operation on behalf of Mobutu, and allegedly an
assassination attempt against Kabila 15.
France's interpretation of the Kabila campaign as "Anglo-Saxon" was adopted by
Congolese. English classes reportedly increased in areas controlled by the AFDL, and two
French businessmen were killed in the days after the fall of Kinshasa.
France's actions and attempted actions throughout 1996-97 were designed to protect not
only the Mobutu regime but a network of client regimes in Congo-Brazzaville, Gabon,
Cameroon and other states of the region, organized under the Francophone banner. The
question remains, to what extent did the United States have an alternative political or cultural
project? French political scientist Jean-Francois Bayart writes that the only discernible long term
thinking on the part of the Americans is their opposition to the Sudanese regime 16. Others see
Kabila as the latest recruit to a group of former guerrilla leaders committed to good governance
rather than democracy and exemplified by Museveni 17. In order to evaluate this claim we shall
have to examine the African scene in the wake of the Kabila victory.


Former Tanzanian president Julius Nyerere declared flatly that the international forces
which had helped put Kabila in power were African and it does seem that events of 1996-97
reflect Central African rivalries. Congo/Zaire borders on nine states, many of which harbor
exiles ("rebels") from neighboring states. Uganda supported Sudanese fighting the Khartoum
regime, while Sudan was supporting exiles attacking Uganda from Zairian soil. Uganda
supported Rwandan rebels who overthrew the Habyarimana government in Kigali, a
government supported by France and Zaire. Katangans launched two invasions of their home
province from Angola in 1977 and 1978 18.
Uganda apparently supported Kabila as a means of eliminating Ugandan opposition
groups on Congo/Zaire soil, and perhaps also to punish Mobutu. Similarly, Rwanda wished to
eliminate the Hutu refugee forces in Congo/Zaire, and perhaps to punish Mobutu. The Angolan
government was motivated by a wish to punish Mobutu and to strike a blow against its
opponents, the Cabinda separatists as well as Jonas Savimbi's National Union for the Total
Independence of Angola (UNITA). Angola-based Katangans apparently joined the fighting on
Kabila's side, while UNITA fighters aided Mobutu, as did Rwandan Hutu 19. Former "front line

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28 I Turner

states" (on the front line in the battle against white domination of southern Africa) may have
wanted to get rid of Mobutu because of his betrayal of their cause.
Rwanda was given a free hand in eliminating its Hutu opponents as compensation for its
aid to Kabila. It will be interesting to see how Kabila's government pays back the Angolan
government for its help.


The Mobutu regime had alleged from the beginning that the insurrection was in fact an
invasion and that Kabila was a "marionette." At the end of October 1996, "anti-Tutsi hatred"
swept Kinshasa 20. Tutsi strongman Paul Kagame of Rwanda claimed in July that Rwanda had
put Kabila in power 21. Was the AFDL insurgency a "Tutsi rebellion"?
American journalists Duke and Rupert attribute Kabila's ability to consolidate his control
over the Congo to "a powerful constituency within his alliance: the ethnic Tutsi military and
political leaders who led the fight to oust Mobutu Sese Seko." Kabila and "Western-trained
technocrats" in his government represented the public face of the AFDL but real power lay
elsewhere. Citing "numerous Congolese and Western analysts," Duke and Rupert claimed: Tutsi
political and military leaders-many with close links to neighboring Rwanda and Uganda-are
often more powerful than the top civilian officials 22.
The power of these Tutsi supposedly was "like a net" around Kabila. Local administrators
in areas under AFDL control since the early stages of Kabila's rebellion "defer to" or "are
intimidated by" the Tutsi-dominated military, according to Duke and Rupert. The rebellion
began with Banyamuleage Tutsi uprising in South Kivu, and members of the "Tutsi core" of the
movement 'believe their sacrifices give them the greatest standing within the alliance
Key Tutsi figures included D6ogratias Bugera and Bizima Karaha. "Tutsi influence in the
military and in the alliance's political structure appears to converge in the person of Mr.
Bugera," according to Duke and Rupert. A Tutsi architect from Goma, North Kivu, Bugera was
an important figure in the alliance's relationship with Rwanda and reportedly played a key role
in recruiting for the AFDL army. Bugera was named regional commissioner (governor) of North
Kivu. Bizima, a Tutsi from South Kivu with a medical degree from South Africa, is Kabila's
Foreign Minister and a spokesman for the new regime.
Duke and Rupert attribute the death of Andr6 Ngandu Kisasse, an AFDL leader, to
divisions within the AFDL military. They discount the official AFDL explanation that he was
killed in an ambush by Mobutu's army and allege (on the basis of an informant in the alliance)
that Kisasse was killed because of his persistent questioning of Tutsi domination of the military
Duke and Rupert, and most other writers, fall short in explaining the nature of the Tutsi
identity. Duke and Rupert claim that the Tutsi, who make up no more than 1 percent of the
Congolese population, are a "cohesive, insular tribe." In contrast, French political scientist
Gerard Prunier writes, "contrary to a commonly held belief, Hutu and Tutsi are not tribes. They
are two social divisions of the Barundi and Banyarwanda tribes who may have had a different
racial origin in the distant past but who have lived together, spoken the same language, and

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Kabila Returns, In a Cloud of Uncertainty I 29

intermarried for hundreds of years. Their social conflicts existed before colonization but had
never reached the level of open and massive violence that developed in the 1960s and after" 24.
This is more satisfactory than the Duke-Rupert characterization but leaves one wondering, what
is a tribe?
Rather than attributing cohesiveness to the Tutsi (Duke and Rupert's characterization of
Tutsi as "a cohesive, insular tribe" is reminiscent of anti-Semitism) one more usefully might ask
what elements of common interest led to the emergence of an apparent Tutsi coalition. The
forging of a coalition of Tutsi of South Kivu (so-called "Banyamulenge"), North Kivu, Rwanda
and to a lesser extent Burundi is due in large measure to Mobutu's promotion of ethnic rivalries
and to anti-Rwandan measures adopted at the National Conference. Rwanda-speakers began
arriving in what became North Kivu over two centuries ago. During the colonial period, the
Belgians recruited Rwandans, mainly Hutu, to work in the Congo, which was seen as under-
populated. A third wave of Rwandans consisted of Tutsi fleeing the Hutu revolution of 1959-63.
And of course the fourth wave consisted of Hutu fleeing the FPR army which overthrew the
Hutu-dominated government in 1994. In some areas-around Masisi for example-Rwanda-
speakers formed the majority of the population. Local ethnic groups such as the Hunde feared
that elections would deprive them of control over local administration. Mobutu used the
Rwanda as allies against the local people. When the National Conference began in 1991,
delegates from North and South Kivu aired their grievances against "strangers" living in their
regions. As Prunier puts it, the National Conference "decided to apply selectively an already
unjust and contradictory set of citizenship laws," disenfranchising the Rwanda speakers. By
1993, North Kivu was the scene of a three-way war, between Tutsi, Hutu, and locals. The arrival
of armed Hutu from Rwanda in 1994 led to ethnic cleansing and the flight of Tutsi refugees
from North Kivu into Rwanda 25.
The Banyamulenge, Rwanda-speakers living in South Kivu for nearly two centuries,
realized that what was happening to the Tutsi of North Kivu probably would happen to them
as well. When with Mobutu's support, other ethnic groups of South Kivu formed a coalition
against them, Banyamulenge sought the aid of Kagame and the FPR government in Rwanda.
The result was the formation of the AFDL, originally a coalition of four anti-Mobutu groups,
including one representing the Tutsi of North Kivu and another representing the Banyamulenge
26. The spokesman for the group was Kabila, who (as we have seen) for decades headed a
guerrilla movement based in Bembe country i.e., the hills above Fizi, along the border between
South Kivu and Katanga. Backing the AFDL gave Rwanda a means of smashing the armed
Hutu forces in and around the refugee camps of North and South Kivu, and ultimately of
overthrowing its enemy Mobutu.


The collapse of the Mobutu dictatorship led to a collision between two forms of opposition
to Mobutu, the internal opposition exemplified by Tshisekedi, committed to non-violent direct
action, and the armed opposition, based abroad, exemplified by Kabila. Major parties of the
internal opposition have faced violent repression while figures associated with the ousted
regime have been welcomed into the Kabila entourage.

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30 I Turner

Beyond personal rivalries as to who will lead the new Congo, there are differences of
political culture reflecting widely varying experiences over the years. Both the internal parties
and the external ones represent the revival of political categories of the 1960s. Mobutu's banning
of party politics from 1965 to 1990 meant that political vocabulary did not adjust to changing
realities but remained stuck in the categories of 1960: religious vs. secular parties, centralist vs.
federalist, moderate vs. radical. When the Mobutu regime restored multi-party competition in
1990, many of the parties resembled those of 1960. There were two main differences, however.
First, while overtly ethnic parties had been common in 1960, ethnic labels now were banned.
Second, 25 years of Mobutu's dictatorship had discredited the centralist tendency, so that even
parties claiming to reflect the Lumumbist heritage conceded the need for decentralization 27.
In the course of the seven-year "transition" which began in 1990, Congolese acquired a new
vocabulary, reflecting influences from elsewhere in Francophone Africa. Along with the concept
of the "National Conference," they borrowed the term "civil society," to refer to non-party
groups which participated in the conference and in political life in general 28.
However, Kabila and his Parti de la R6volution Populaire did not take part in the so-called
"transition" and in particular stayed out of the National Conference. When the AFDL took over
Kinshasa, they spoke in an unreconstructed Marxist-Leninist vocabulary of the 1960s, telling
residents of their intention of "having the peasants elect the people's representatives, so as to
institute a true democracy at the grass roots level" after "re-education." Peasants are to be
organized in "production brigades," perhaps under the leadership of former Mobutist soldiers
29. This is the Lumumbism not of Patrice Lumumba himself but of the insurrections carried out
in his name in 1964-67 and in particular of Kabila's maquis, which survived into the 1980s.
Kabila recognizes the population's desire for democracy. Proclaiming the "Democratic
Republic of the Congo," he promised to form within 72 hours a "provisional government of
public salvation." Foreign minister Bizima said the AFDL wanted "free and fair elections, of
which everyone can be proud." However, Karaha noted that it would take time to create the
conditions in which elections could be held. If he was referring to the need to restore the
communications network and to carry out a census, it is difficult to disagree. If he was referring
to the supposed need for "re-education," then there is likely to be trouble, since many Congolese
consider that they are politically aware and ready for democracy. When the AFDL took over
various cities, conducted educational programs, then conducted elections, UDPS leaders often
were chosen 30
One of Kabila's main problems is that he heads one of the least representative governments
to rule the independent Congo. He created a provisional government or executive committee of
the AFDL in March 1997, including seven commissioners or ministers, one deputy
commissioner, and two provincial commissioners (for North and South Kivu). This included
men who had been with Kabila from the beginning of the rising, including Tutsi of North and
South Kivu, but also the Tetela Raphael Nghenda and the Luba-Katanga, Gaeten Kakudji. Also
included were Mwenze Kongolo and Mawampanga Mwana Nanga, leaders of the All North
America Conference on Zaire before returning to join Kabila. In Kinshasa, Kabila formed a
"government of public safety," based on the executive committee, adding two members of the
UDPS and two of the Patriotic Front. One of the UDPS members was Justine Mpoyo Kasavubu,

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Kabila Returns, In a Cloud of Uncertainty I 31

daughter of the first Congolese president, Joseph Kasavubu. Later, Julienne Lumumba,
daughter of Patrice Lumumba, until then a journalist in Paris, was named a minister 31.
Kabila's government remained politically and geographically unrepresentative. It was
based on the Swahili-speaking eastern provinces of North and South Kivu and Katanga, despite
the inclusion of two members of the Kongo ethnic group, Mawampanga and Kasavubu. Street
demonstrations of the past few years had confirmed the popularity of the UDPS and the Parti
Lumumbiste Unifi6 (Unified Lumumbist Party, PALU) of Antoine Gizenga yet these two parties
were excluded; Tshisekedi made it clear that Kasavubu and agriculture minister Paul Bandoma
did not represent the UDPS. These two parties staged large demonstrations against Kabila and
several demonstrators were killed by Kabila's troops 32.
The struggle between Mobutu and the self-proclaimed "radical opposition" including the
UDPS and PALU, after 1990, had confirmed a minimal definition of the state. Key institutions
included the presidency, the security services, the central bank, and the networks of diplomatic
representatives overseas and territorial administrators within the Congo. Mobutu retained
control over these institutions and thus remained head of state, despite losing control of the
legislature and the prime ministership on several occasions and being forced to concede
substantial autonomy to regional political and economic institutions.
Kabila now finds himself in a similar position in that he controls key institutions but lacks
broad support. He is dependent upon an ethnic minority and upon his foreign backers, in
particular the Ugandan and Rwandan governments. His survival will depend upon his ability
to dominate the Tutsi within his government, who have ties to those foreign backers. To
establish his autonomy vis-a-vis his foreign backers he will need more support from Congolese
other than the Tutsi. It seems unlikely he will be able to gain such support without reaching a
compromise with other anti-Mobutu forces including the UDPS and PALU. Such a compromise
would entail recognition of the validity of the internal opposition to Mobutu. As regards PALU,
it would entail recognition of a shared legitimacy as heirs to Lumumba. Tutsi elements of the
Kabila government likely would resist such dilution of the coalition, unless the UDPS and
PALU expressed support for the demands of the Tutsi of North and South Kivu.


Recent events in the Congo suggest the need for a reconceptualization of ethnicity and
nationalism and the links between the two. As a starting point, let us take the observation of
Crawford Young that identities are multiple, shifting in response to context and situation. As
Young puts it, ethnicity is rooted in a collective recognition of affinity, to which social and
emotional meanings are attached. Its imputation of intimacy finds reflection in the frequency
with which kinship metaphors are used to express it; a co-ethnic is a brother, not a mere friend
I would add to Young's formulation that kinship metaphors express inequality. Not only is
a father or an uncle senior to the son or nephew, but in Congo one rarely hears the term
"brother" without a modifier: "big brother" or "little brother." Even when it is not explicit, as
when Tshisekedi calls Kabila his 'brother," the seniority of Tshisekedi is implied.

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32 I Turner

"We" assumes meaning in relationship to "they" but "we" and "they" are not simple
equivalents. As Young observes, "we" normally attaches positive connotations to the cultural
properties believed to define its identity; the sundry "they" groups found in its cognitive map
frequently have negative characteristics and evoke condescending feelings or fear. "We" is likely
to simplify its map by reducing "they" to an easily comprehensible number of others, grouping
those who appear to have similar languages, cultural practices, or regions of origin.
I would add that "they" are not merely others, they are "strangers," people from elsewhere.
When Kasavubu delivered a speech on "the rights of the first occupant" in 1945, he was
expressing a deeply held Congolese value 34. This value would find expression in many conflicts
of the decolonization era and of the past year.
Instrumentally, ethnicity is asserted when it is useful to a group in securing advantage or
resisting deprivation. Its activation may also reflect the interest of an ethnic elite in buttressing
its claim to political leadership. Ethnicity is activated when circumstances dictate its political
use, in a context in which actors perceive competition, conflict, or threat as ethnically textured.
Elections tend to activate ethnicity, Young observes; so too does civil war, as events of 1996-97
make clear.
The potency of ethnic mobilization depends on its primordial dimension, according to
Young. Ethnic consciousness rests upon shared symbolic meanings, emotionally laden and
deeply rooted, which can trigger fears, anxieties, and animosities. The capacity of these affective
symbols to supply "we" and they" demarcations lies in their ability to project themselves as
primordial attachments, however novel or ill-defined a given identity may be (e.g.,
Ethnicity in Congo operates on a number of levels, the broadest of which is the country's
four vehicular language zones. In a song composed for the 1970 elections, Franco (the late
famous musician) sang, "Mokongo no, Mongala no, Moluba no, Moswahili no; we are all
brothers" The terms Mokongo and Moluba include not only people who accept the Kongo and
Luba labels as primary ethnic identity but others from the regions where Kongo and Luba are
the vehicular languages. This solidarity is strong, even though in other contexts such people
might be bitter rivals. The capture of Kinshasa in 1997 provoked a reaction of Ngala-speaking
locals (many of them ethnic Kongo) against Swahili-speaking "strangers."
The region or province constitutes another level of politically relevant solidarity. Katanga is
the clearest example. Although the area is multi-ethnic, there is a strong sentiment of
attachment to that originally artificial administrative unit. As a Katangan, Kabila was more
readily accepted in that particularistic province than a Congolese from another province would
have been. However, he fell into a trap as he attempted to broaden his movement beyond its
initial Kivu-Tutsi base. He may have thought he was strengthening the Congolese component
by bringing in Katangans, including a number of his Luba-Katanga co-ethnics, but these are
seen by many not as Congolese in general but as Katangans in particular 35.
Journalists may suggest that "Kabila put ethnicity back on the agenda" but in my view he
entered a political scene already dominated by ethnicity. Mobutu's declaration of 1990, opening
an era of multi-party politics, created new opportunities and new threats. Ethnic parties were
banned but ethnicity was pervasive. The new parties sought to use prominent members of
various ethnic groups to secure support in the home areas of those persons.

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Kabila Returns, In a Cloud of Uncertainty I 33

Ethnicity is crucial also on the level of individual leaders. In the drama of the so-called
"transition" of 1990-96, three ethnic identities were particularly important: those of Kengo,
Mobutu and Tshisekedi. Transitional premier L6on Kengo wa Dondo is a bundle of ethnic
symbols -partly white, partly Jewish, partly Rwandan, a "white Ngbandi"-each with a well-
defined meaning in Zairian political culture. The Constitution prevented Kengo from
challenging for the presidency since he is not of Zairian parentage, but he was brought up in
Zaire and educated with other members of the political class. Western governments claimed to
believe in Kengo's fiscal competence and integrity; he was named prime minister by Mobutu
partly because of the Western belief, but especially because he lacked a political base within the
Mobutu's relevant identities are first, Mongala (Ngala-speaker), second, man from
Equateur region, and third, Ngbandi. The President gave most of his speeches in Ngala. From
the beginning of his regime, he surrounded himself with people from Equateur.
At the time of independence, few people outside of northern Equateur would have heard
of the Ngbandi ethnic group. After thirty years of Mobutu rule, the Ngbandi were well-known
as Mobutu's "tribe." Mobutu began with military and police leadership somewhat skewed
toward his Equateur region and neighboring Orientale, but purges and selective promotion led
to further skewing. By the late 1980s the heads of "special" services were all Ngbandi. The
Special Presidential Division reportedly was recruited almost entirely from the Ngbandi, a fact
which facilitated its against other armed forces e.g., mutinous paratroopers in 1992.
The Ngbandi have a reputation as a "backward" group, or a warrior people, which is a
more positive way of saying the same thing 36. Mobutu opponents often claimed that the
Ngbandi are strangers i.e., recent immigrants from the Central African Republic. One legacy of
the Mobutu era may prove to be an unsettled area along the border with the Central African
Republic, particularly if the Ngbandi come to feel that they are being punished collectively for
the sins of Mobutu.
The Luba-Kasai ethnic label has been a mixed blessing for Tshisekedi since the Luba-Kasai
are both respected and resented. The Luba are known as "the whites of the Congo" or "the Jews
of the Congo." When Congolese say that one of their number is like a white man, they imply
selfishness. Both Luba and others tend to attribute the same positive and negative stereotypes to
the Luba: intelligent, hard-working, haughty, tribalistic. The Luba are considered to have
greatly profited from the opportunities represented by colonialism. Resettling outside their
homeland, the Luba progressively became the leading "cultural brokers" first in the Kasai, then
in Katanga, then throughout the Congo, with the exception of the Lower Congo area. "And, as
they did so, they became internally derived 'strangers' in the country" 37.
Tshisekedi is seen as conforming to the stereotypes: intelligent and hard-working but also
haughty and tribalistic. Resentment of the Luba facilitated Mobutu's efforts to divide the
opposition, although bribes presumably helped as well. The president also exploited the
internal division between up-river and down-river Luba e.g., using the Luba-Kasai Joseph
Ngalula against Tshisekedi 38.
Starting in 1996, the ethnic identities of Kabila and of his Tutsi allies came into play. Kabila
is a Luba from northern Katanga; Luba-Katanga speak a rather different language from the
Luba-Kasai and are regarded as belonging to a related group rather than the same group. His

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34 I Turner

"Katangan" and "Lumumbist" identities are more salient on the national level than the specific
Luba-Katanga identity.
Ethnic mobilization is fed by feelings of unfair advantage. Resentment of the Luba-Kasai, of
Tutsi in the Congo, of mulattos and of "strangers" in general, is based on the perception that
they owe their privileged position to the colonialists. Resentment of Tutsi, as of Ngbandi, was
fed by their perceived advantages under Mobutu. Congolese nationalism is another level of
ethnicity and has a xenophobic streak. As Chajmowiez suggests, the National Conference
reinforced anti-Tutsi sentiment by adopting the principle of "geo-politics," according to which
each area had to be represented by its own sons (or daughters), and so-called "civil society" i.e.,
those participating in politics as representatives of churches, human rights organizations, etc.,
did nothing to defend the Tutsi of Kivu from ethnic cleansing 39.
In one sense, the problem between Tshisekedi and Kabila is simply that each feels entitled
to be the leader of the Congo. However, there is a specifically Congolese tone to this problem,
typified by Tshisekedi's complaint that Kabila had not met him but had sent a younger aide:
"My brother Kabila [is held hostage by] people I don't even know, foreigners..." Such a
declaration, feeding the resistance of the people of Kinshasa to the Tutsi, makes a compromise
between Tshisekedi and Kabila less likely.


Recent events in the Congo pose a challenge to the academic sub fields of Comparative
Politics and International Relations, each of which tends to simplify reality in a characteristic
fashion. If one takes the political or politico-economic system of Congo/Zaire as the unit of
analysis, then the other states of the region as well as major states outside the region are
situated in the "environment" of the system. From the perspective of the international system,
the configuration of states is crucial and the internal characteristics of a given state are
background information. In the Congo case however, the internal characteristics of the regime
and the configuration of states both were important but the particular set of linkages between
international and internal politics, particularly along the eastern border, proved crucial.
Kabila's victory is significant on the local, national and international levels. As mentioned,
in South and North Kivu, Tutsi victims of ethnic cleansing turned the tables on their rivals by
establishing links to other groups, in the Congo and in neighboring states, which had their own
reasons for aiding the Tutsi of Kivu. Kabila overthrew Mobutu by means of a transnational
coalition and his victory may represent a shift in power from the oil-producing states of the
Atlantic to the mining states of southern Africa. Mobutu can be seen as one of a number of
French-supported dictators ousted or in difficulty, while Kabila can be seen as of a series of
former guerrilla leaders now supported by Washington, along with the current heads of Eritrea,
Ethiopia, Uganda and Rwanda.
Recent studies by Makifiri and De Boeck reveal the complexity of linkages between
ethnicity and local interests including land ownership along the Congo's frontiers with Rwanda
and Angola, respectively 40. Such linkages between the very local and the international exist in
other zones of conflict-Israel/Palestine and Bosnia are obvious examples-and are crucial to
conflict resolution.

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Kabila Returns, In a Cloud of Uncertainty I 35

Finally, events in the Congo push the political scientist to take another look at the concept
of "political culture" and in particular (a) ideas of nationalism and ethnic subnationalism and (b)
ideas held by Congolese regarding the nature of the political community including the laws
defining citizenship.


1. An account of Kabila's 20-year maquis in the Fizi area is forthcoming in Cahiers
Africains (the former Cahiers du CEDAF, Brussels).
2. Leymarie, Philippe. Sous le choc de la revolution congolaise. Le Monde Diplomatique,
July 1997 p. 12.
3. Roche, Marc. "Triomphe de Jean-Raymond Boulle, l'homme d'affaires financier des
rebelles." Le Monde, May 18-19 1997, 3; "Kabila yaka!" Africa Confidential, April 11 1997,
7. The fragmentary information at my disposal does not suggest that the mining
companies initiated the Kabila campaign but does suggest that their payments to the
AFDL made possible Kabila's victory.
4. "Un Waterloo en Afrique." Le Nouvel Afrique Asie, June 1997, 10-11; Buchet, Jean-Louis.
"Une d6confiture pr6visible." Jeune Afrique, May 28-June 3 1997, 56.
5. Nzongola-Ntalaja. Crisis and Change in Zaire, 1960-1985, in The Crisis in Zaire: Myths
and Realities. Nzongola-Ntalaja, Editor. Trenton, N.J.: Africa World Press, 1986, p. 3-25.
Young, Crawford. Zaire: The Unending Crisis. Foreign Affairs, 1978. 57(1): p. 169-185.
Lemarchand, Ren6. Zaire: the Unmanageable Client State, in American Policy in
Southern Africa: The Stakes and the Stance, Ren6 Lemarchand, Editor. Washington:
University Press of America, 1981. p. 145-165.
6. Lemarchand, Ren6. The C.I.A. in Africa: How Central? How Intelligent? The Journal of
Modern African Studies, 1976. 14(3): p. 401-426. G6rard-Libois, Jules. The Katanga
Secession. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1966.
7. Braeckman, Colette. "Une carapace tres sensible aux coups de plume." Le Soir,
September 9 1997, 1, 9.
8. Young, Crawford, and Thomas Turner. The Rise and Decline of the Zairian State.
Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1985, p. 369 and chapter 11. The low point in
U.S.-Zaire relations (prior to 1997) came in 1975, when Mobutu accused the CIA of
plotting his overthrow (p. 373).
9. Yakemtchouk, Romain, Les Relations entire les Etats-Unis et le Zaire. Studia Diplomatica,
xxxix (1 1986): 5-115.
10. Young and Turner, Rise and Decline, pp. 374-5.
11. Yakemtchouk, Romain. Les deux guerres du Shaba: les relations entire la Belgique, la
France et le Zaire. Studia Diplomatica, 1988. XLI(4-5-6): p. 375-735. Willame, J.-C. La
Second Guerre du Shaba. Geneve-Afrique, 1978. XVI(1).
12. "Zaire-Belgium: Relations Normalised," in Africa Research Bulletin/Economic, Aug. 15,
1989, p. 9358-9.
13. Fottorino, Eric. France-Afrique, les liaisons dangereuses. Le Monde. 24-25-26 July, 1997.

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 1, Issue 3 I 1997

36 I Turner

14. Crocker, Chester A. High Noon in Southern Africa. Making Peace in a Rough
Neighborhood. New York: W. W. Norton, 1992, p. 486.
15. Fitchett, Joseph. France Paints U.S. Role As Crucial in Zaire Crisis, International Herald
Tribune, 8 November, 1996, p. 9. Angeli, Claude. Chirac a jou, les parrains de Mobutu
jusqu'a la catastrophe, Canard Enchain6,, 2 April 1997, p. 4. Malley, Simon. Six tombeurs
de Mobutu, Nouvel Afrique-Asie, May 1997, p. 6-9.
16. "L'&re de l'apres-Mobutu," Croissance, 403, April 1997, p. 15.
17. Gourevitch, Philip. "Continental Shift." New Yorker, August 4 1997, p. 42-55.
18. Willame, Jean-Claude. Contribution a 1'6tude des movements d'opposition au Zaire: Le
FLNC. Cahiers du CEDAF, 1980. (6).
19. Prunier, Gerard. The Great Lakes Crisis, Current History, 96: 210, 1997, p. 193-199.
Buckley, Stephen. Uganda Helps Rebels In Zaire, Diplomats Say. International Herald-
Tribune. March 5, 1997, p. 2. implication de l'Angola? La Presse (Tunis), April 25, 1997, p.
20. Braeckman, Colette. La haine anti-tutsi souffle sur le Zaire, Le Soir, 31 October-1
November 1996, p. 8.
21. Kigali a planifi, la chute de Mobutu, La Presse (Tunis), 10 July 1997, p. 1, 8.
22. Duke, Lynne, and James Rupert. Power Behind Kabila Reflects Congo War's Tutsi Roots,
International Herald Tribune, 29 May 1997, p. 7.
23. Duke and Rupert; some Lumumbists apparently blame Kabila for the death of Ngandu
Kasesse, according to Braeckman, Colette. Comment le Zaire fut lib&r6. Le Monde
Diplomatique, July 1997, p. 13.
24. Prunier, Gerard. The Great Lakes Crisis, Current History, 96: 210, 1997, p. 193-199.
Newbury and Newbury emphasize the creation of Tutsi and Hutu among Rwanda
speakers, rather than the creation of the (Banya-) Rwanda group from Tutsi and Hutu:
Newbury, Catharine. The Cohesion of Oppression. Clientship and Ethnicity in Rwanda,
1860-1960. New York: Columbia University Press, 1988; Newbury, David. The Invention
of Rwanda: The Alchemy of Ethnicity, presented to Annual Meeting, African Studies
Association. Orlando, 1995.
25. Prunier, The Great Lakes Crisis; Willame, Jean-Claude. Banyarwanda et Banyamulenge.
Violence ethniques et gestion de 1'identitaire au Kivu. Zaire, annales 90, volume 6,
Brussels, Paris: Institut Africain-CEDAF; Editions L'Harmattan, 1997; Chajmowiez,
Monique. Kivu: les Banyamulenge enfin a l'honneur! Politique africaine, 1996. (64): p.
26. Other groups in the AFDL were: 1. Conseil de Resistance Nationale pour la Democratie
(CRND, National Council of Resistance for Democracy), led by Andr6 Ngandu Kasesse,
who had broken away from one of the splinter groups of the MNC-L (Mouvement
National Congolais-Lumumba); 2. Alliance Democratique Populaire (People's
Democratic Alliance, ADP), led by D'ogratias Bugera; 3. Mouvement Revolutionnaire
pour la Liberation du Zaire (Revolutionary Movement for the Liberation of Zaire,
MRLZ), led by Mosasa Myintega. (Africa Research Bulletin, p. 12663.
27. Young, Crawford. Zaire: the Shattered Illusion of the Integral State. Journal of Modern
African Studies, 1994. 32(2): p. 247-263.

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Kabila Returns, In a Cloud of Uncertainty I 37

28. Turner, Thomas. Zaire: Flying High Above The Toads: Mobutu and Stalemated
Democracy, in Political Reform in Francophone Africa, D.E. Gardinier and J.F. Clark,
Editors. Boulder: Westview Press, 1997. p. 246-264.
29. Braeckman, Colette. Comment le Zaire fut liber6, Le Monde Diplomatique, July 1997, p.
12-13. Speaking to international audiences, members of the Kabila government spoke of
an "6conomie social du march6" a policy which sounds like that of France under Lionel
Jospin! (Andriamirado, Sennen. "Kabila n'est pas seul." Jeune Afrique, May 28-June 3
1997, p. 53.) The actual socio-economic policies of the new regime remain unclear.
30. Sotinel, Thomas. A Kisangani, les s6minaires id6ologiques et politiques a des partisans
de Laurent-D6sir6 Kabila. Le Monde, April 24, 1997, p. 2.
31. For the composition of the governments see Africa Research Bulletin, 34, 4 p. 12663 and
34, 5 p. 12675. Kasavubu later was named minister/ambassador to Belgium and the
European Union, resident in Brussels. To some Congolese this isolated her from Kabila.
32. Congo: manifestations ensanglant6s. Le Soir. 26-27 July 1997, p.7.
33. Young, Crawford, Ed. Rising Tide of Cultural Pluralism: the Nation-State at Bay?
Madison, University of Wisconsin Press, 1993, pp. 21-25.
34. Gilis, C.-A. Kasa-Vubu au coeur du drame congolais. Brussels, editions Europe-Afrique,
35. Braeckman, "Comment le Zaire fut liber&."
36. Early in the Mobutu years, a popular song named "Nyama ya Zamba" (beast of the
forest) was banned, because it was taken as a reference to Mobutu's origins.
37. Jewsiewicki, Bogumil. The Formation of the Political Culture of Ethnicity in the Belgian
Congo, in The Creation of Tribalism in Southern Africa, Leroy Vail, Editor. University of
California Press: Berkeley, 1989.
38. Willame, Jean-Claude, and Laurent Monnier. Les provinces du Congo: structure et
fonctionnement. Cahiers 6conomiques et sociaux, Collection d'Etudes Politiques, 1964.
(II: Sud Kasai_Uele_Kongo Central).
39. Chajmowiez, Kivu: les Banyamulenge enfin a l'honneur!, p. 119-120.
40. Mafikiri Tsongo, "Pratiques informelles, ph6nomenes informels et problkmes ethniques
au Kivu (Zaire)" and De Boeck, Filip, "Identit6, resistance et 'effervescence' social:
perspectives locales et globales au Zaire." both in Phenomenes informels et dynamiques
culturelles en Afrique, ed. G. de Villers, Brussels, Paris: Institut Africain-CEDAF;
Editions L'Harmattan, 1996.

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African Studies Quarterly I Volume 1, Issue 3 I 1997

Sovereignty and Personal Rule in Zaire


Zaire's 1 real political system operates outside conventions of formal state sovereignty. As
formal state bureaucracies collapsed under Zaire's president Mobutu Sese Seko (1965-97), the
country's ruler increasingly exercised authority through control over markets, rather than
bureaucracies. Control became less territorial and more centered on domination of an
archipelago of resources that could be used to generate income and attract powerful allies.
Abjuring "development," administration became incidental to the profitable exploitation of
resources for personal gain. Bureaucracies, feared the ruler, acquire their own interests and
powers 2. Rather than providing security to citizens, the regime held on to power through
opposite means. Even outsiders' recognition of Zaire's sovereignty has become contingent to
what are violent, essentially private commercial arrangements as a means of exercising
This reconfiguration represents a stark contrast to earlier characterizations of Zaire's
political system, particularly what Callaghy called a "Zairian absolutism" of effective
accumulation and exercise of patrimonial control in the 1970s and 1980s within the framework
of a centralized (if ineffective) state administration 3 As reliable Cold War era outside sources of
income faltered, Mobutu's first response to crisis was to intensify old strategies, consolidating
power not through state structures, but via patronage to loyal strongmen. His apparent
monopoly over the distribution of resources to a single patronage network discouraged him
from innovating, even as the pace of change quickened in the late 1980s. Strongmen quickly
discovered, however, that changing conditions brought them new opportunities to profit on
their own. Enterprising politicians used old positions of privilege to take advantage of new
opportunities and resources that came with defection from the president's network. Yet how
did Mobutu weather for so long the collapse of not only Zaire's state institutions, but also his
presidential network of strongmen and aspiring politicians that really ran Zaire before the
1990s? And after Laurent Kabila finally removed Mobutu from power in May, 1997, how has
the nature of state collapse under Mobutu influenced Kabila's own construction of authority?


Global recognition of the sovereignty of the Zairian state was central to Mobutu's political
strategy, especially as this allowed him to attract diplomatic support and foreign aid. As noted
by Jackson, global recognition of sovereignty bestowed such prerogatives on rulers of weak
African states 4. Beyond the Cold War era analyzed by Jackson, however, unquestioned formal
sovereignty also served the useful purpose of simplifying deals with some foreign firms and
creditors -- another key component of Mobutu's politics. Such a view is consistent with analyses


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40 I Reno

which concluded that the exercise of political power in Zaire owes more to informal political
networks based upon economic control, rather than formal notions of proper state behavior. As
they stress, however, such political practices clashed with economic efficiency 5. Yet from at
least 1990, Mobutu discovered that the contradiction between the exercise and consolidation of
political power, on the one hand, and economic inefficiency, on the other, rapidly decreased his
capacity to reward loyalty among associates. Changes associated with the end of the Cold War
aggravated this. He had to find a way to fragment the power of increasingly unruly strongmen
and do so while tapping new sources of wealth. This strategy continues to be pursued by
Laurent Kabila.
Mobutu's success as a patrimonial ruler saddled him with an extensive network of clients
who exercised power in their own right. Mobutu later managed this vulnerability with new
non-bureaucratic strategies of rule through manipulating market opportunities, even where
actual sources of accumulation were not under his direct control. For example, in 1976 Mobutu
gave the German firm Orbital Transport and Raketen, A.G. virtual sovereignty over a 150,000
square kilometer portion of Shaba in exchange for rents 6. Kabila later used this same strategy to
oppose, then unseat Mobutu. Mobutu left individual military units and commercial syndicates
to forage on their own, signaling what appeared to be the dissolution of Zaire. Different factions
jealously guarded useful territory and opportunity from rival entrepreneurs. But competition
among these groups reduced chances of mutiny or coordinated attack on Mobutu. Individual
strongmen appealed to Mobutu for protection against local rivals even as they consolidated
virtually autonomous fiefdoms organized around commerce in diamonds, gold, coffee, timber,
cobalt and arms 7. This benefitted Mobutu insofar as it forestalled resistance and contained
challenges amidst collapsing patron-client networks. Mobutu realized that his best chance for
survival lay in using opposition among factions of his patronage network to neutralize the
network's threat to him.
Mobutu used this method because it did not require a command hierarchy that could
acquire interests of its own and it obstructed rivals' attempts to build their own organizations.
The existence of multiple centers of accumulation in Zaire facilitated this radical
decentralization of politics. An archipelago of copper, cobalt, gold and diamond deposits in
parts of the country leaves broad stretches of Afrique inutile that physically separates some
political groups. Because of the breakdown of rail and road networks, mineral rich provinces
like Shaba and Kasai do much more business with southern neighbors than with Zaire's
domestic market. Kivu in the east has closer contact with Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda than
with most of Zaire. Collapsing infrastructure also encouraged Mobutu's associates to exploit
local opportunities rather than joining others to mutiny against Mobutu. In this context
ownership of air cargo firms highlighted contours of political competition or alliances better
than did formal agreements or individuals' titles. Competition at these centers of accumulation
for control over trade is what left a political space for Mobutu to manage crises. Sovereignty,
then, is important to Zaire's state rulers as a license to make deals with essentially private allies.
The pretense of Kengo wa Dondo (the Prime Minister and putative "official" rival to
Mobutu from 1994 to 1997 to implement reform and impose austerity showed how benefits of
sovereignty were shared while factions struggled to control resources. As head of the
"democratic opposition" Union pour la democratic et le progras social (UDPS) some outsiders

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Sovereignty and Personal Rule in Zaire I 41

treated Kengo as a "responsible" alternative to Mobutu. Creditors saw in Kengo a sovereign
interlocutor who acknowledged debts and agreed to implement reforms. His status as a
reformer positioned Kengo to reap the benefits of manipulated liberalization to favor his
faction's power and attract foreigners interested in Zaire's resources. Mobutu profited from
Kengo's reputation as a reformer (global interlocutor) when this attracted renewed creditor and
foreign firm interest in Zaire, giving Mobutu assets and relationships that he then used to
support his personal power.
Political struggle focused on resources and trade, as opposed to formal declarations of
political authority or state institutions, has created a special role for some mining companies in
Zaire. These firms utilize their unusual capacity to do business in this contentious political
environment. Their arrival reinforces the decentralization of Zairian factional politics, since
many of these firms become insinuated into local strongmens' political strategies and share in
the commercial benefits of Zairian state sovereignty. Here, too, firms find that they can
manipulate liberalization to attract creditor support for their operations. Some even try to
convince creditors to subsidize their joint ventures with local strongmen! For these outsiders,
the cloak of Zaire's sovereignty helps conceal to others the extent to which their deals are
integral to the country's personal politics.
The specific features of decline after the Cold War's end and Mobutu's response to this
crisis highlights the innovative strategies that Mobutu and his rivals used to reshape politics
within conventions and formal boundaries of Zaire that global society recognizes. As I will later
detail, these actions then imposed constraints and introduced opportunities that influence
Kabila's efforts to rule the country. But first, I examine how Mobutu's rejection of conventional
state building options and specific features of his patrimonial politics reshaped Zaire's political


Zaire boasts many commercial and diplomatic opportunities that can be translated into
political resources. Taking 1986 as a baseline, before mineral exports began to fall precipitously,
copper, cobalt, zinc, and diamond exports of state-run firms generated $1.15 billion in the
formal economy. Coffee, the country's main agricultural export, added $80 million 8. This left
uncounted profits from money laundering, illicit exports and the drug trade, which Mobutu
translated into patronage when he exercised direct control over the exchange of these goods.
Trading a staunch anti-communist stance for aid from superpower patrons netted him $448
million in 1986 9. Visible non-tax resources at Mobutu's disposal thus stood at almost $1.7 billion
in 1986. Added to this was United States support for loans from multilateral creditors in return
for aiding UNITA rebels in Angola and access to a Zairian air base at Kamina to resupply
Mobutu was quite successful at incorporating creditors into his political alliance during the
1980s. Callaghy observed that Mobutu masterfully manipulated relations with creditors,
alternating promises with brinksmanship to keep loans coming 11. The International Monetary
Fund (IMF) returned to Zaire in 1983 after a five year absence, and proceeded to disburse $1.3
billion to Mobutu's government over the next five years. A senior IMF official in Washington

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42 I Reno

resigned to protest what he claimed was improper US pressure on the IMF to treat Zaire
leniently in Paris Club debt negotiations that granted Zaire a six year grace period on bilateral
debt payments.
Creditor patience with Mobutu seemed almost limitless during the Cold War. From 1976 to
1990, IMF officials devised 14 stabilization programs for Zaire. Between 1975 and 1985, gentle
treatment at Paris Club debt renegotiations led to rescheduling $3.5 billion of Zaire's 1985
external debt of about $7.5 billion. Mobutu also boasted personal ties to at least one World Bank
official. In one instance, he hired as his personal assistant a World Bank official who had access
to confidential information about granting aid to Zaire 12! This shows the extent to which
Mobutu exercised autonomy in these relations, rather than simply acting as a Cold War client to
France or the United States 13.
These resources underwrote Mobutu's patron-client network, giving him control over the
distribution of resources to loyal associates. The prevalence of large, politically motivated
projects in the 1970s and 1980s underscores the importance of outside finance to sustaining
Mobutu's patronage network. The Inga-Shaba project, costing $1.5 billion in 1983 alone, typified
this reliance on external resources. The project included a hydroelectric dam to supply
electricity to mining areas in Shaba. Although electricity could have been generated more
cheaply closer to mine sites, the project provided construction contracts for foreign firms, a
return for US and French support of Mobutu during revolts in Shaba, an area which supplied
about half of Zaire's mineral exports in 1977 and 1978 14. Shaba's massive and inefficient Tenke-
Fungurume copper mine, designed to tie-in to the Inga project, typified Mobutu's increasing
reliance on exploiting natural resources with the help of outsiders to accumulate wealth.
Mobutu's November, 1973 nationalization of large local firms further foreclosed a political
strategy based upon collecting revenue from entrepreneurs supported with pro-growth
economic policies. Mobutu instead expropriated agricultural and commercial enterprises from
mostly foreign owners, converting them to political resources for the president to distribute to
loyal associates. Most beneficiaries had no managerial experience 15. The economically
destructive policy drove down the proportion of agricultural exports in Zaire's foreign trade
from 28 percent of total earnings when Mobutu took power in 1965 to about 6 percent in 1990 16.
While providing commercial agriculture properties for political clients, the policy gutted tax
revenues from agricultural trade, which declined from 61 percent of state revenues in 1973 to 28
percent in 1978 17.
This internal shrinkage of productive capacity, along with alternative (foreign) partners,
reinforced Mobutu's reliance on arrangements with foreigners to run state-owned mines, the
most promising remaining indigenous source of wealth. Reliance on outsiders ended Mobutu's
need to underwrite expensive state bureaucracies, some of which had shown past tendencies to
become vehicles of secessionist movements. Exercising private control over many of Zaire's
resources with foreign help, Mobutu now safely abandoned expensive clinics, schools and
public works that served citizens but contributed little to his stock of political resources. Rural
areas no longer providing much in the way of state revenues could be abandoned as political
burdens as Mobutu faced growing pressure to choose which clients would be patronized and
which would be jettisoned.

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Sovereignty and Personal Rule in Zaire I 43

Mobutu's allocation of 2.1 percent of state spending to health and education in 1990, versus
17.5 percent in 1972, reflects a rational choice from the perspective of a weak state ruler 18. The
destruction of agricultural production for export also followed Mobutu's disinterest in
cultivating support among small agricultural producers and entrepreneurs in exchange for
revenue and legitimacy. Those who produced for export in the 1980s thus faced extremely low
official prices for their goods. For example, the Zairian state marketing board that bought and
sold coffee, Office Zairois de Cafe, paid farmers seven cents per kilogram of coffee in 1985 while
smugglers paid 42 cents 19. Most of these marketing boards disappeared by the early 1990s, as
farmers smuggled produce or grew only subsistence crops.
Meanwhile, the long-term shift of government expenditures to the president's office reflects
Mobutu's personal control over state resources (Chart 1. Yet World Bank statistics report lower
percentages of state spending under direct presidential control. For example, the World Bank
reported that 64.7 percent of Zaire's budget was reserved for Mobutu's discretionary spending,
versus a Zairian official report of about 95 percent in 1992 20. A former Zairian official suggests
that this discrepancy reflected creditor efforts to portray Mobutu's corruption in the best
possible light to convince observers that perhaps Mobutu would support reform after all and
that debts were collectable 21.

CHART 1: Privatization of Government Expenditures 22

President Agriculture Social Services

1972 28% 29.3% 17.5%

1974 26% 32.1% 12.4%

1976 29% 30.9% 13.2%

1978 29% 41% 11%

1980 33% 42% 11%

1982 35% 32% 10%

1984 39% 30% 9%

1986 39% 29% 7%

1988 49% 18% 4%

1990 80% 11% 2%

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1992 95% 4% nil

Nonetheless, Mobutu's "privatization" of the state budget in 1990 coincided with growing
impatience among creditors with Mobutu's unkept promises of economic reform. In 1991, the
IMF announced that Zaire lagged on payments of $81.7 million to the organization and would
receive no new loans. Three years later the IMF expelled Zaire. This added to a rapid increase of
outside pressure on Mobutu, along with rising popular demands for reform. Ironically,
Mobutu's reaction was to still more radically privatize the state itself. At first he did not
abandon wholesale his strongmen associates. Instead, he allocated almost no state expenditures
to social services or infrastructure after 1992, using the funds to replace resources lost
This state retreat from citizens reflected the extent to which Mobutu relied on his extensive
personal networks rather than effective institutions for regime survival. The extremely negative
effects of Mobutu's rule on most Zairians likely foreclosed a reversal, since official
accountability to popular needs would generate organized calls for him to leave office. Most
Zairians lived in an economy that had shrunken 40 percent between 1988 and 1995 and suffered
inflation that rose to 23,000 percent in 1995 23.
Twenty-five years after independence, only 15 percent of the roads inherited from Belgian
colonial rule remained passable 24. Guidebooks for foreign travelers reserved lurid language for
Kinshasa, warning that rampant day-time banditry and rogue police exceeded the fabled
dangers of Lagos. Visitors provided tales of arduous travel up the Zaire River, evoking Joseph
Conrad's description of the impenetrable forests and a lassitude from which state structures are
absent 25.
As private control over state resources destroyed the productive capacity of state agencies,
Mobutu's ability to extract resources from the informal sector assumed ever greater importance.
Abjuring "development" in any conventional sense, Mobutu now used state power exclusively
as a resource to help associates profit from clandestine trade, avoid taxation and explore new
rackets that manipulated state regulatory authority such as passport sales, money laundering,
and drug trafficking. These activities generated considerable wealth. Estimates of exports of
gold and diamonds from Zaire in 1992, for example, suggest a trade worth a half billion dollars
annually 26.
Mobutu's intensified strategy of building political authority through market control
increasingly impinged upon local authorities who used access to illicit trades to help themselves
and their neighbors weather the collapse of state institutions 27. MacGaffey and Vwakyanakazi
show how community trade networks that developed in the 1970s and 1980s contravened
predations of Mobutu's political network. Many of these entrepreneurs still had to deal with
local strongmen who used state office and ties to Mobutu for extortion. But MacGaffey and
others found that some operated independently of political interference as a "civil society"
capable of addressing politicians 28, which would pose a threat to Mobutu's authority.
Financial and political stakes for the control of this trade were high. Taking 1990 as a base,
Mobutu controlled over three billion dollars. His control over the output of state-run mining
firms contributed one billion dollars to his political resources. These and other state revenues
devoted to the president's office totaled $1.5 billion annually, rising in the late 1980s to

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Sovereignty and Personal Rule in Zaire I 45

compensate for the decline in multilateral creditor lending. Overseas development assistance in
1990 brought in $822 million, despite Mobutu's deteriorating relations with creditors and donor
governments 29. These sources of income together generated only $1.121 billion in 1993 (Chart 2.
Adding to this, Mobutu no doubt benefitted from Zaire's half billion dollar diamond trade

Chart 2: Recorded Trade Originating from Zaire ($mn) 30

1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995

Oil $167 $148 $165 $40 $130 $156 $160

Tin $16.4 $14.2 $8.2 $5.3 $3.9 $5.0 $5.5

Diamonds $400 $320 $220 $200 $289 $296 $376

Coffee $692 $548 $483 $487 $330 $432 $450

Copper $813 $892 $525 $302 $136 $120 $150

Cobalt $404 $418 $218 $125 $54 $120 $160

Zinc $82 $79 $59 $28 nil nil $12

ODA* $634 $823 $494 $262 $178 $235

TOTAL $3208 $3242 $2172 $1449 $1121 $1344

Overseas Development Assistance

and possibly from portions of a half billion dollar diamond and arms trade between Zaire and
Angolan UNITA rebels from the 1980s 31. Thus, even if Mobutu controlled all of Zaire's trade
and production, formal and clandestine, he faced declining overall accumulation of wealth.
Meanwhile, foreign firms limited their investment in mining equipment, which cut production
in the formal sector even further.
Mobutu's dilemma was that he could intrude even more into clandestine economies, but
doing so generated ire on the part of strongmen and local authorities who tapped these
economies for their own benefit. Even then he could not replace all lost political resources.
Having weathered the collapse of a bureaucratic state that many thought would be his
downfall, Mobutu now faced a true crisis: the serious recession of his patronage system and the
loss of external state support that Jackson (1990) attributed to Mobutu's status as a sovereign

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By 1990, Mobutu faced serious challenges to his ability to rule through patronage. Foreign
state officials not only ended their support for Mobutu, many openly backed his rivals.
Belgium, France and the U.S. now pressured Mobutu to begin political and economic reforms.
A key Belgian socialist party leader, Ronald van den Bogaerd, openly supported Etienne
Tshisekedi, a long-time Mobutu rival, as an alternative to the president 32. Even formerly
supportive French officials condemned Mobutu's regime, cutting aid in 1991 to about $100
million, one-third the level of aid two years earlier. French President Mitterand promised that
"French aid will be conditional towards authoritarian regimes and more enthusiastic for those
beginning a democratic transition" 33.
Impatience among U.S. officials posed even greater problems for Mobutu. The U.S.
Undersecretary of State for Africa, Herman Cohen, criticized Mobutu in testimony before the
U.S. Congress in 1991. Zairian reformers seized on these statements, and those of Melissa Wells,
the U.S. ambassador to Zaire, to indicate that U.S. officials expected a democratic transition in
Zaire 34. U.S. official ire at Mobutu, however, focused on Mobutu's inability to service his debts
to the U.S. government, which, under provisions of the Brooke Amendment, required that the
U.S. Congress cut off aid. Soon after, the World Bank broke with Mobutu. The immediate cause
was Mobutu's appropriation of $400 million from Gecamines, the state-run copper mining
conglomerate, and his refusal to allow an audit of the firm's books. The break with the U.S. and
the end of South African and U.S. backing for his alliance with UNITA rebels in Angola
deprived him of a key clandestine patronage resource, and reduced his capacity to manage his
associates' clandestine diamond mining and arms transfer businesses with Angola 35.
Mobutu appeared to bend to domestic and outside pressure to reform in April, 1990 when
he announced the legalization of independent opposition parties. The convening of a national
conference in Congo across the river from Kinshasa appeared to provide a model for reform.
Zaire's conference opened in Kinshasa in August 1991, under the leadership of Archbishop
Laurent Monswengwo Pasinya, known for his neutrality and apparent lack of political
ambition. Television and radio carried live debates that culminated in the formation of a Haut
conseil de la Republique (HCR), which was expected to negotiate a hand over of power from
Mobutu to Tshisekedi, the conference's choice for interim leader. Students protests in 1990,
along with foreign condemnation of Mobutu's repression of them, generated even higher
popular expectations of change.
Tshisekedi's rise as an opposition figure at first appeared as a formal legal challenge to
Mobutu's authoritarian rule. More serious for Mobutu, Tshisekedi's visibility, a Luba-Kasai
from diamond rich Eastern Kasai, revived old struggles to control resources. Tshisekedi
achieved fame earlier as a dissident parliamentarian in 1980 when he and twelve others charged
the army with the massacre of over 300 diamond miners in Eastern Kasai. Since then, Mobutu's
military allies and businessman associate Bemba Saolona had used official positions and
alliances to exploit diamonds in this region and control trade routes that lead from UNITA-held
diamond fields 36. Threatening this network's access to state prerogatives, Tshisekedi tried to
use technocrats to run Zaire's Central Bank. Mobutu summarily dismissed Tshisekedi,
prompting critics to respond with a Union sacree (Sacred Union) of opposition parties.

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Sovereignty and Personal Rule in Zaire I 47

Like sovereignty, formal political opposition needs to be understood in the broader context
of disintegrating patron-client politics and extreme de-bureaucratization. Multiparty politics
did not merely signal the surfacing of factions. Instead, factions marked the end of the more
centralized patronage network, Schatzberg's "State as Bandit", in which rivals position for the
scramble to parcel out resources 37. De-bureaucratized patrimonialism instilled an
individualistic, acquisitive "capitalist lifestyle" of a Zairian sort. For example, a booklet from
Mobutu's era entitled Devenez Riche Rapidement (Get Rich Quickly) advised with apparent
official sanction "liberating the mind of all doubts as to the legitimacy of material wealth.... A
man is more of a man when he has more wealth 38." This became politically explosive in the
Zairian context, since "officially" sanctioned private accumulation among strongmen is easily
converted to autonomy by a ruler and the freedom to make their own arrangements with
Mobutu faced a serious contradiction. He could use security forces against his rivals to
disorganize them, but effective military units could remove him in his weakened state. Yet to do
nothing would encourage his opponents. He chose the former. Student protests and the HCR
conference were met with army looting and attacks on opponents in 1990 and 1991. Mobutu
could do little more than incite rather than command troops, since most soldiers were unpaid.
Violence had costs for Mobutu too. Looting and the destruction of the remaining
infrastructure prompted foreigners to leave the country. Copper and cobalt production began
radical declines. Unable to attract loans and without maintenance crews, machinery stopped.
Banking services collapsed, making formal economic activity almost impossible. Recession of
Mobutu's patronage resources was in full swing. Equally significant were shifts in who
controlled exports, a matter examined in detail below.
By 1992, Mobutu had become highly vulnerable. Comparing this to Mobutu's patrimonial
domination in the 1970s and 1980s, Crawford Young called this the "shattered illusion of the
Integral State." Recognizing the unsustainability of Mobutu's course, he wrote that "surely a
reinvented Zaire, whatever name it will bear, will be grounded in a relationship between state
and civil society profoundly different from that imported by the integral state 39." But state-
building through significant ties to broad societal groups appeared very unlikely in anything
but Zaire's long-term future. Mobutu still had recourse to alternative strategies which would
weigh heavily in Kabila's reconfiguration of Zaire's sovereignty and political economy.


Mobutu resorted to short-term measures to reverse the decline of his control over
resources, and thus political authority. In 1992 he purchased banknotes from a German
company to pay troops, by-passing the Tshisekedi controlled legislative council for fiscal
matters. This led to hyperinflation, with the national currency, the zaire, declining to 110 million
to the dollar in 1993. In Kinshasa, Tshisekedi's HCR issued a currency of its own, competing to
control the benefits of economic activity. Use of a particular version of the country's currency
became an indicator as to which rival authority one obeyed. It also signaled a desperate attempt
on the part of Mobutu to hold on to instruments of patrimonial control, even while he was not
in a position to accumulate wealth.

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Mobutu's long-run problem lay in reasserting political authority amidst declining
resources. His patronage network would fragment in any event as he lost his capacity to match
his old rate of payouts. Much of the (unpaid) army disappeared by the early 1990s, for example,
declining from a peak of 70,000 in the mid 1980s to close to 20,000 40. His first step was to give
new roles to specialized security forces. Through decentralizing the military, Mobutu bent to
the reality of radically declining patronage resources. In a vast country with many centers of
accumulation he could more easily tolerate their private mining or trade rackets. Each unit
jealously watched the other while struggling to control wealth of its own. Organizations that
once served the ruler's, if not the state's, interests became more exclusively self-interested
commercial syndicates.
The Guarde Civile, for example, counted 10,000 men under the command of General Kpama
Baramoto. A close associate of Mobutu, the general expanded his role in clandestine trade after
1992, especially in Kivu where he ran gold and diamond mining operations 41. This faction
exploited ties with outsiders on its own, a feature central to the breakdown of state-centered
patronage systems. By 1996, Baramoto was involved in a joint venture with U.S. owned Barrick
Gold Corporation to mine in Bunia, Baramoto's base. Barrack also provided funds to refurbish a
local airport, filling in for Baramoto's unwillingness to spend money on local infrastructure 42. A
local airport no doubt helped Baramoto, who needed transportation to keep close track of his
diamond mining operations in Kasai and his stakes in air cargo companies. Bunia's airport also
helped cement Mobutu's ties with outside allies when Sudan's regime, for example, used the
airport to ship weapons to Ugandan insurgents 43.
Rather than threatening Mobutu's control, this situation gave him the capacity to interfere
with the diamond trade in Tshisekedi's home base in Kasai and helped attract clandestine trade
from UNITA-held areas in Angola into Baramoto's hands. Joint military-UNITA mining
operations allegedly spread to Angola itself. In Kasai, Baramoto's soldiers protected LIZA, a
diamond mining venture owned by Mobutu's son Manda. This syndicate operated several
mining ventures where soldiers guarded alluvial miners who clandestinely gathered diamonds
within Miniere de Bakangwa (MIBA) mine sites 44. Since Mobutu's Kasai-based opposition now
controlled MIBA, these operations deprived this political faction of resources.
Other units went into business. Mobutu's Division Speciale Presidentielle (DSP) under Gen.
Nzimbi Ngbale Kongo shipped cobalt from Shaba province to Zambia, in coordination with
Kyungu wa Kumwanza, Mobutu's governor for the province 45. Mobutu indirectly benefited
from ties between Kyungu and another old crony from Shaba, Nguza Karl-I-Bond. Mobutu
could not block this faction's separatist tendencies under their Union desfederalistes et
republicans independents (UFERI). Although unable to control their actions directly, he could use
them to deny his rivals in Kinshasa and elsewhere of access to Shaba's resources. Kyungu
reportedly enlisted South African militias, including Inkatha units to help protect and run
mining operations on his own 46. Kyungu and his allies also targeted immigrants who shared
Tshisekedi's Luba-Kasai origins, seizing their property, distributing it to local supporters and
sending perhaps a million into flight back to Kasai 47. This undermined a united opposition or
an alliance of separatists against Mobutu. Similar attacks by "local" people against immigrants
of Rwandan origin occurred in north Kivu, with support from Mobutu and his associates 48.

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Sovereignty and Personal Rule in Zaire I 49

This divide-and-rule strategy gave considerable leeway to military organizations to act as
private armies. While unable to reward allies directly, Mobutu encouraged units to commit acts
of violence against opponents to create a climate of distrust and instigate local conflict. Even the
Kinshasa government got in on the loot in 1996, supporting a decree stripping Zairian
citizenship from people of Rwandan-Tutsi ancestry and directing them to give up their property
49. Like private armies in former Yugoslavia, loosely organized militaries used exemplary terror;
for example, mutilated captives were sent back to their communities, to create fear of troops
and promote flight.
This minimalist strategy fragmented political authority, "inviting" exit from the polity of
those no longer useful to a ruler after stripping them of what assets they possessed 50. Cheap
and easy to employ, it created a stability based on balancing contending forces without the need
for a bureaucratic military organization. It also shows how disorder in Zaire was not anarchy,
but rather the result of deliberate strategy designed to preoccupy, destroy and disorganize
rivals, rather than seize territory or control institutions, which Mobutu's regime would have
been incapable of holding and administering in any case.
Mobutu remained in power and thus prevented Tshisekedi from establishing an
independent authority to move against him, despite Tshisekedi's more populist character and
his location in the capital. Meanwhile, Mobutu used what resources remained to him to buy off
critics, pay off supporters and defectors from the Union sacree, and entice some notable men to
serve as ministers.
By June, 1994, the HCR compromised with Mobutu's old parliament, merging under Kengo
wa Dondo, a former Mobutu ally. A technocrat, Kengo attracted backing from creditors and
some foreign officials. This consolidation of Mobutu's position came just in time for Mobutu to
exploit opportunities to further buttress his powers arising out of the Rwanda crisis in 1994 and
the sudden expansion of new foreign mining firms into Africa. This new alliance made
Mobutu's presence much more palatable to his former associates who now opposed him, since
Kengo appeared much less hostile to Mobutu than had Tshisekedi and thus less likely to hold
their former ties with Mobutu (and their ill-gotten wealth) against them.
Dividing internal opposition did not restore the old sources of wealth that Mobutu enjoyed
in the 1970s and 1980s. For this, he would need outsiders to help exploit Zaire's natural
resources, or provide pay-outs. By 1994, outside help was scarce. The French government
backed away from the now isolated Tshisekedi early in 1994. The 1992 election of Clinton in the
U.S. brought no new initiatives to punish Mobutu, but left him bereft of support in the White
House. Meanwhile, Belgian officials still refused to deal directly with Mobutu 51. This external
political rejection served to cut off most aid and loans to Mobutu. Perhaps the divide-and-rule
strategy would have become less relevant in Zaire as Mobutu's control over resources
diminished further, but sudden developments in the region gave him more leeway to gain
access to new, cross-border sources of wealth and alliances that preserved bonds between
Mobutu associates and rivals alike.

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Mobutu's isolation eased as the Revolutionary Patriotic Front (RPF), an army of Rwandan
exiles, advanced deep into Rwanda from Ugandan territory in October, 1993. French military
forces flew 150 men stationed in the Central African Republic to Kigali, Rwanda's capital, to
defend the incumbent regime. Belgian forces contributed 400 paratroopers to the intervention.
Emphasizing coinciding interests with his old patrons, Mobutu sent several hundred troops
from his DSP which had acted loyally on his behalf during Zairian army mutinies in 1991 and
1992. In contrast to the European troops, the DSP troops actually battled the RPF 52.
Unconcerned about domestic popular opinion opposing intervention, Mobutu offered political
and military services to French politicians who would otherwise face political criticism at home
for such direct action.
Mobutu provided French officials with a rear base for their troops who arrived to protect
foreigners when Rwandan president Habyarimana's regime crumbled against the RPF
onslaught. This helped reintegrate Mobutu back into Central African and global diplomatic
circles. His support for French goals also pleased French officials concerned about the RPF's
links to outsiders hostile to French clients in Africa. Some RPF leaders had fought with
Ugandan president Museveni's guerrilla forces a decade earlier, helping him to come to power.
From the perspective of some in the French government, Museveni appeared as an "anglo-saxon
force of instability." France's Minister for Cooperation, Jacques Pelletier, seemed especially
attached to the view that "Uganda is only a pawn of anglo-saxon imperialism and the RPF is
simply a marionette of Kampala" 53.
French officials broke with Belgian rejection and American coolness toward Mobutu and
met him at his home in Gbadolit6 in April, 1994 at the height of the Rwanda crisis. This meeting
opened new diplomatic channels for Mobutu. Herman Cohen, former U.S. undersecretary for
African Affairs under President Bush attended the meeting. As head of the private Global
Coalition for Africa, Cohen received World Bank financing to help mediate political conflicts on
the continent. Michel Aurillac, a former Minister of Cooperation and later an Africa advisor to
President Chirac, attended, as did Jacques Foccart, a former advisor to DeGaulle and eminence
grise of France's Africa policy 54.
Mobutu's foreign contacts expanded to include South Africa's secret service chief. He also
attracted the interest of private U.S. political advisors. Barbara Hayward, a former Reagan and
Bush advisor, and Cohen's business partner, James Woods, former Secretary of State for
Defense for Africa, met with Mobutu in December, 1994 after Mobutu engaged Woods' and
Cohen's public relations firm to represent him in the United States 55.
Mobutu gained considerable local political benefits from his reconciliation with French
foreign policy officials. Eastern Zaire, especially the Kivu area, is culturally and economically
tied to East Africa. Given the presence of a large population of Rwandan ancestry in the east
with ethnic ties to the RPF, the RPF victory in Rwanda posed a threat of greater informal
regional ties, weakening the hold of Mobutu and his associates over Kivu. This prompted
Mobutu to instigate violence between refugees, the local population and potential separatist
politicians in Kivu, as he had done earlier 56. Mobutu also shared French suspicion of Uganda's
president Museveni who backed (English speaking) Rwandan forces. Mobutu's reconciliation

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Sovereignty and Personal Rule in Zaire I 51

with foreign backers encouraged some of his domestic opponents to compromise, agreeing to a
"conclave" to merge the rival legislatures, replacing Tshisekedi with Kengo. The choice of Kengo
as Prime Minister also gave Mobutu more control over affairs in Kinshasa. With a Polish father
and part-Rwandan mother, Kengo lacked ethnic connections that gave Tshisekedi an
autonomous powerbase. Kengo's isolation increased further with violence in Kivu, since his
mother comes from the disfavored "outsider" Rwandan-Tutsi group.
Mobutu's reconciliation with France paved the way for France's military Operation
Turquoise intervention into Rwanda in late June, 1994, as the RPF captured the Rwandan capital.
French politicians labeled this intervention, managed from Goma in Kivu province, a mission to
stop remnants of the old government, still entrenched in western Rwanda, from continuing to
massacre Tutsis. This operation helped establish Mobutu in the diplomatic world as a principle
player in Central Africa and garnered him an invitation to the Franco-African summit in
Biarritz in November, 1994 (from which the new Rwandan regime was excluded), thus ending
Mobutu's diplomatic isolation from France.
Mobutu even hosted his own "summit meeting" on the Rwanda issue in Gbadolit6 in late
1994. France gave Mobutu leeway now to play a domestic game without institutions or even
new material patronage. He instead allowed allied anti-Tutsi ethnic extremists exiled from
Rwanda to organize on Zairian territory. His willingness to allow humanitarian organizations
to supply refugee camps also gave extremist groups access to resources that they used to feed
their fighters and distribute to their supporters in camps. This prolonged the refugee crisis to
Mobutu's benefit since extremists joined "original inhabitants" to attack "outsider" groups 57.
In August, 1995, Kengo's government moved to expel Rwandan refugees, some of whom
armed themselves to fight the Rwandan regime and to intimidate local refugees and Zairians.
At first, this appeared to threaten Mobutu's political balancing act. Reports allege that the wife
and brother-in-law of the president of the defeated Rwandan regime, both now supporters of
the extremists, accompanied Mobutu to China in November, 1994 to buy arms 58. These ties,
solidified during the earlier DSP intervention into Rwanda, reflected DSP links to Rwandan
militias in exile in Zaire.
Even though expelling refugees would have helped defuse Mobutu's game of aggravating
ethnic tensions, outsiders decided that changes in Mobutu's behavior, not Kengo's, would
encourage Rwandan refugees from Zaire to return home. Kengo's and the HCR's hostility
toward Rwandan refugees brought condemnation from aid agencies that feared another
unorganized exodus. This translated into new promises of aid, which could then be used as
political resources to destabilize political groups in Kivu.
At the same time, those anxious to protect the Rwandan RPF government had to deal with
Mobutu to block destabilizing expulsions of refugees from Zaire. Mobutu used opposition to
expulsions as a diplomatic weapon against the Rwandan government, to serve French patrons,
and reinforce his own position as sovereign of Zaire in global eyes.
By 1996, Mobutu had completed his diplomatic rehabilitation, at least in French eyes. In
April he met French president Jacques Chirac on French soil, a meeting arranged through the
Cellule Africaine, a bureau in Chirac's office that manages relations with francophone African
leaders 59. The head of the Cellule, Michel Dupuch, was a protege of Foccart, one of Mobutu's
strongest personal supporters in the French foreign policy establishment. The meeting dealt

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with Zairian arms sales to rebels in Burundi, the head of which had personal ties to Mobutu's
Gbadolit6 entourage 60. Mobutu used these ties and foreign concern about Hutu exiles from
Burundi in the same way that he used Hutu refugees from Rwanda to manipulate internal and
external actors for his personal benefit. The normalization of Mobutu's global status (despite
arming Hutu militias) attracted bilateral aid. German officials later visited Gbadolit6, offering
an ECU 84 million aid package 61.


While Mobutu used his ties to foreign governments to exploit concerns about possible
state collapse in Zaire and instability in Central Africa, he also used his status as globally
recognized ruler of Zaire to attract foreigners who had little interest in maintaining global
norms or advancing official policy. These foreigners included religious and business
entrepreneurs, both of whom played important roles in helping Mobutu refashion his transition
from a disintegrating patronage network as a basis of authority. Clients of a sort, they benefited
from Mobutu's status as ruler of a sovereign state to pursue their activities that had much to do
with personal profit. More significantly, ties with foreign religious organizations attracted to
profitable opportunities in Zaire gave Mobutu new means to regulate domestic rivals in the
spiritual, as well as the commercial world. Mobutu used these and other firms to help him
secure acceptance among members of the increasingly fractious "Troika" (Belgium, France, and
the USA).
Mobutu vainly sought further rehabilitation with a U.S. visa to attend the United Nation's
fiftieth anniversary celebration in New York in late 1995. Along with Cohen & Woods, he
engaged the lobbying firm of conservative activist Paul Erickson to procure a visa 62. As former
political director of Pat Buchanan's 1992 presidential campaign, Erickson had visibility in
Washington. Jack Abramoff joined Erickson in this venture. Abramoff provided contacts of his
own from his previous position as executive director of the conservative lobby group Citizens
for America and national president of College Republicans 63. Abramoff's contacts may have
been broader yet. A South African truth commission report in 1996 alleged that (unknown to
Abramoff) some of his political activities in the 1980s were financed by South African
intelligence networks to promote right-wing American political activists' claims that the African
National Congress was a communist front organization 64.
Mobutu allies also included Henri Damas Ombga, a Cameroonian businessman accused of
illegal drug and arms dealing 65. Other contacts included a delegation of French businessmen
who visited Gbadolit6 in 1996, and advanced Mobutu's cause among commercial networks
recruited to the campaign to undermine diplomatic pressure on his regime 66.
Mobutu's relationship with 1988 U.S. presidential candidate and evangelist Pat Robertson
revealed a more innovative private diplomacy that reached beyond conventional public
relations firm or lobbyist efforts. Mobutu recruited Robertson to his quest to secure a U.S. visa.
More importantly, Robertson brought to Zaire his African Development Company (ADC),
active in diamond, timber, gold, and power generation businesses. This commercial venture
operated alongside Robertson's Operation Blessing, billed as a humanitarian relief effort for

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Sovereignty and Personal Rule in Zaire I 53

Rwandan refugees in eastern Zaire. Operation Blessing included more obviously commercial
ventures as well, running a 50,000 acre farm near Kinshasa.
Robertson justified the profit-seeking nature of his religious venture as part of his efforts to
generate cash for relief work 67. He adopted the fashionable rhetoric of "sustainable
development" to attract contributions and depict his business operation as a non-governmental
organization (NGO) providing social services.
Mobutu also commercialized charity with the appointment of Tonga Boki, his old head of
the old state-run labor union, to run an "NGO union" to coordinate "private" activity and solicit
overseas support 68. Foreign religious charities also were used to undermine home-grown
religious-based political opposition groups in Zaire, some of which received inspiration from
the leadership of Catholic Archbishop Monsengwo, who gained popular respect for his
intransigent anti-Mobutu stance. To counter Monsengwo's popularity, Mobutu used 1990
measures liberalizing media to attract U.S. television ministries. Pat Robertson's fiery preaching
appeared alongside that of fellow U.S. evangelist Jimmy Swaggart, suggesting that the
downtrodden should accept their lot in this life and expect relief in the next.
The evangelizing-commercial spirit spread to Mobutu's entourage. Honore "The
Terminator" Ngbanda, once Mobutu's intelligence service head, now "Brother Ngbanda," ran a
Christian cafe and appeared on television giving Bible sermons 69. Mobutu's visitors included
Reverend Moon, Jehovah's Witnesses, and various American Baptist and Pentecostal groups 70.
Moon's interest extended to mass conversions in the military and in FLEC, a separatist
movement in Angola's Cabinda enclave under Mobutu's patronage. Moon's organization also
appears to have run a logging company 71.


While Mobutu's regime fell into serious arrears on debts, he managed to maintain contacts
with creditors so long as they looked favorably upon Kengo's austerity efforts. The HCR
accepted plans to reduce state employment from 600,000 to 50,000 and trim the size of the army
72. Kengo thus took political responsibility for unpopular and harsh austerity measures, while
Mobutu benefited from tentative contacts with creditors anxious to receive payments.
Meanwhile, Mobutu manipulated creditor prescriptions necessary to reach a comprehensive
agreement with the IMF for the profit of his political network.
IMF officials made clear that future loans depended upon establishing a free market in
Zairian currency. Accordingly, several ethnic Lebanese diamond dealers associated with
Mobutu's entourage proposed that their Qualitoles Company set up exchange bureaus in
cooperation with the Central Bank of Zaire. Qualitoles was to sell dollars below informal market
rates, with the central bank paying the difference between Qualitoles' rate and the unofficial
market rate. The plan was promoted as a way to lower unofficial exchange rates as private
traders competed with Qualitoles to sell dollars.
Instead, Qualitoles sold "cheap" dollars to Promodiam, a mining company made up of
ethnic Lebanese Zairian diamond dealers and an Israeli military trainer for Mobutu's DSP with
close ties to DSP head, Gen. Nzimbi. Promodiam's directors used this cash to expand their
activities in Zaire's artesianal diamond mining industry 73. Together with Guarde Civile head

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Baramoto's LIZA, these two controlled 35 percent of recorded 1996 diamond sales 74.
Promodiam also used its "cheap" dollars to buy imports to supply to local traders. This
arrangement turned "reform" into a state subsidy of Promodiam's and Sozabanque's private
trading and diamond mining businesses and helped finance greater Mobutu clique control over
Zaire's illicit diamond business that accounts for 70-80 percent of the country's diamond
industry 75.
Pointing to broader business dealings, United States Drug Enforcement Agency officials
detected U.S. banknotes in Zaire suspected to have come from the Colombian drug trade 76.
Such illicit wealth could be recycled through Qualitoles and the central bank, later leaving the
country as diamonds for sale abroad. For Mobutu, money laundering could promote control
over the illicit diamond trade to support loyal traders, generate income to buy arms, and attract
illicit diamond trading from neighboring states.
Zairian and French reports point to the success that Mobutu associates found in redirecting
the diamond trade from Angola's UNITA rebel group during the 1990s into Zaire 77. This helped
finance Mobutu's arming of extremists among Rwandan refugees, influence rival and loyal
commercial networks, and consolidate ties to associated foreign commercial networks.
Interlocking air cargo routes and the companies that fly them traced these transactions, and are
thus a more accurate indicator of the business of politics in Zaire than are formal reform
programs or pronouncements from Kinshasa or Gbadolit6 78. These and other natural resource
trade networks would become a focus of struggle when rebels challenged Mobutu in 1996-97.
Greater payoffs with foreign investment and normalized relations with creditors required a
new, innovative strategy. Creditors demanded radical privatization, along with promotion of
foreign investment to boost production and revenues to pay debts. This coincided with
Mobutu's need for alliances with larger, better financed foreign firms with greater capacity to
negotiate with outsiders on behalf of his failing state bureaucracy, and eventually, seize
resources directly as organizations like the state-run mining conglomerate, G6camines,
collapsed. Creditors smoothed this transition when they argued that privatization would remove
mineral resources from Mobutu's political control and harness the country's main source of
foreign exchange for economic reform. Instead, Mobutu used commercial ties to new foreign
investors to monopolize resources and exploit the presence of firms to marginalize rivals.
Mobutu's chance to both satisfy creditors and advance his political control over rivals came
with the Swiss Procurement Company's, (SWIPCO) proposal to privatize G6camines (copper
and cobalt), Miba (diamonds), Kilomoto (gold), and telecommunications to a consortium of
South African, French, Canadian and American firms in mid-1995 in one fell-swoop. The
unprecedented offer to privatize all of Zaire's large-scale mining ventures promised that foreign
investors would revitalize production (with Mobutu and his associates as business partners).
The SWIPCO proposal also revealed the extent to which Kengo associates appeared in deals
alongside Mobutu's allies. SWIPCO's director, for example, earlier provided Kengo with a
private jet. SWIPCO also had ties to SICPA, a company that appeared in the Qualitoles deal
with Mobutu's associates and had printed currency that Mobutu privately commissioned when
Tshisekedi threatened to eliminate presidential control over central bank operations 79
SWIPCO proposed to pay Zaire's $475 million arrears to the African Development Bank to
release $600 million in new credits to upgrade enterprises targeted for privatization. The deal

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was designed to recruit African Development Bank (ADB) support (Zaire held half of all arrears
to ADB in 1995). SWIPCO would take over state assets, which they would refurbish with capital
provided by state guaranteed loans, with SWIPCO and Zairian officials to receive a commission
for procuring the new loans 8so
IMF officials disapproved of the deal, however, since it treated the ADB as a privileged
creditor. IMF practice is to see its own loans paid off before approving new credits or reform
policies needed to attract other creditors and investors. In spite of this, the IMF sent a
consultation mission to Kinshasa in December, 1995, which reported "very encouraging"
findings and a token $3 million debt payment from the Kengo government 81.
After SWIPCO, privatizing state-run enterprises occurred in a piecemeal fashion. A U.S.
mining firm, for example, bid to take over OKIMO (state-run diamond mining firm) operations.
It promised to rebuild a local airport in Kasai, currying favor with officials there. At the same
time, the foreign firm negotiated with Mobutu associates to make a longer-term deal.
Meanwhile, a Polish firm used Kengo associates to negotiate with Kasai officials to refurbish an
OKIMO power station, in exchange for payment in coffee 82.
The state-run G6camines copper mines attracted the greatest foreign attention. Once
generating $900 million and 10 percent of the globe's copper production, G6camines operations
had fallen into decrepitude. Kipushi mines, located in Shaba, became a useful tool for Mobutu
to influence local political struggles. The Kipushi project, intending to make Zaire into a major
zinc producer, involved American Mineral Fields (AMF). Mobutu associate Pay Pay wa Kasige
brokered the deal between South African and American investors who acquired Kipushi project
rights as part of a larger consortium 3.
AMF also participates in a joint venture with South Africans to mine diamonds in Angola's
Cuango River area 84. If AMF's Sierra Leone and Angola operations set the pattern for Mobutu's
business in Zaire, this firm's association with the security firm International Defense and
Security (IDAS) seemed able to provide its own security. That is, the profitable mineral venture
provided corporate alliances and financing for its own private protection. In this deal, AMF was
able to edge out the more established Anglo American corporation. Local beneficiaries of the
proposed venture included separatist-minded strongmen who now behaved more loyally
toward their president who negotiated deals with foreigners. This permitted Mobutu to come to
an accommodation with politicians like Nyungu in Shaba, who found that association with a
ruler of a sovereign state still translated into personal gain.
Shaba's Tenke-Fungurume mine also attracted foreign investors. A Canadian firm met with
Kengo to discuss their interest in the site. It faced a formidable alliance of Australian and South
African firms that proposed to invest up to $1.5 billion to bring production of copper to over
100,000 tons per year s8. The Canadian firm signed an agreement, proposing a 55 percent joint
venture with G6camines, thereby positioning itself to take control of a part of G6camines that
Mobutu no longer had the capacity to personally control.

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These deals left Mobutu more freedom to divide and rule his enemies and rivals in a
manner similar to strategies seen among private Bosnian Serb armies. In Zaire, battles between
forces organized by Mobutu (and Kengo) allies in Kivu mobilized people to attack Zairians of
Rwandan Tutsi origin. This eased Mobutu's task of recruiting local supporters and Hutu
refugees who fled Rwanda in 1994. Mobutu even proposed to allow these pro-Mobutu "insider"
outsiders to vote in elections scheduled for May, 1997 86. Like Mobutu, Bosnian Serb strongman
Radovan Karadzic harnessed aspirations of local strongmen as central authority collapsed.
Weapons and tacit support went to looting operations that targeted victims on the basis of
ethnicity. Instigators of conflict operated with little formal organization and could plausibly
deny responsibility. Inhabitants evacuated communities, leaving behind assets, becoming easy
targets for extortion as they fled 87. Yet, with international support, rulers of recognized states
retained the benefits of sovereignty, even as some used tacit alliances with strongmen and their
private armies to keep rivals at bay and protect outsiders. Yugoslavia and Zaire also provide
examples of local struggles over resources that reinforce ethnic divisions and break down
multiethnic alliances, undercutting moderates who challenge rulers as people seek protection in
revived or newly discovered communal ties. Those who threaten the ruler directly are more
easily isolated, co-opted or eliminated 88.
As in Yugoslavia, this method of control in Zaire was compatible with the rise of
enterprising ethnic strongmen who pioneered a de facto stealthy secession as a consequence of
their new-found autonomy. Like Bosnia's ethnic politicians, informal, low-key separation made
no demand for global recognition of the extinction or birth of a sovereign entity. Zaire's
sovereignty remained as a political asset for Mobutu in this fashion, despite the nearly total
collapse of bureaucratic capacity and then of patrimonial control.
Global recognition of Zaire's sovereignty still left incentives for Zairian rivals to
acknowledge a state within its old colonial boundaries. Arguably, some local authorities in
Zaire (and in Bosnia) possess capabilities to create separate states by virtue of de facto control.
Yet the current attraction of existing sovereignty as a political resource gives strongmen in both
places strong incentives not to challenge the sovereignty of recognized states, even if the reality
on the ground is quite different.
Uncontested sovereignty adds to their local capacity by leaving in place a framework that
gives those associated with it the capability to enter into a full range of international
agreements. Non-state actors, including foreign firms, hide partnerships with strongmen
behind the shield of recognized state sovereignty. State sovereignty also simplifies questions
concerning legitimacy of contracts, insurance, and adherence to laws in the firm's home
country. In Zaire, this meant access to deals that firms negotiated with Mobutu's regime.
Unchallenged formal state sovereignty also leaves in place an interlocutor who acknowledges
debts and provides a point of contact between foreign state officials and strongmen without
raising politically disturbing questions of recognition.
One saw this dynamic in the stealthy secession of Zaire's provincial authorities. Ethnic
Rwandan rebels in Kivu, along Zaire's border with Rwanda, voiced no irredentist or
secessionist desire outside of occasional utterances of field commanders who reflected on their

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Sovereignty and Personal Rule in Zaire I 57

de facto control on the field of battle. Shaba's and Kasai's authorities refrained from declarations
of independence, despite extensive cross border alliances and hostility to authorities in
Sovereignty sustained through coincidence of these mutual interests now remains as one of
the few resources left to a very weak Kinshasa regime under Kabila's control. Both parties have
no incentive to disrupt tacit agreements with strongmen in the provinces. This extensive
decentralization of authority effectively reduced the Mobutu clique, and now, Kabila, to
warlords, since they too must scramble to control rivals through primarily commercial, almost
entirely non-bureaucratic means, bolstered with whatever resources and alliances their status as
rulers of a sovereign state give them. This balance based on the foundation of state sovereignty
also permits fluidity in local alliances. Regional strongmen did business with Mobutu
associates, for example, as they fought other members of that clique on a different front.
Officials of foreign states were relieved to still encounter a recognizable state in which one day
rulers might have the will and capacity to fulfill international obligations. With Mobutu's
replacement by Kabila, they remain anxious that the regime in Kinshasa serve as an
Paradoxically, Zaire's de facto dissolution shows that state formation is still very much a
matter of law, not of de facto capacity. Sovereignty in even a very weak state proves to be not
only very important, but also unexpectedly divisible internally. The key to this arrangement lies
in the absolute status of Zaire in international law, short of total dissolution or some new
configuration which would have to be arranged against the short-term interests of many
outsiders who prefer the post-independence framework of Africa's sovereign states, weak
though they may be.
Zaire's continuing sovereign status contributes to the simultaneous fulfillment of material
and political interests of different groups. The structure and nature of Zaire's politics also belies
expectations of anarchy or a major reordering of states as a consequence of bureaucratic and
patrimonial collapse.
Herbst predicts that weak state rulers in Africa will refrain from inter-state war as a
solution to perpetual weakness, portending prolonged stagnation 89. He correctly points out that
barriers remain to changing frontiers (which he decries), but this view glosses over the
considerable cross-border connections and informal regionalization that exists within the
current context of formal sovereignty. Furthermore, this takes place under the umbrella of, and
with resources derived from, sovereign status that many thought would forestall major change.
This reinforces the notion that sovereignty is contextual and that this condition promotes (as it
masks) a wider range of differently constituted units in the global state system. It shows that in
Zaire, changing uses of sovereignty, not Mobutu alone, preserved Zaire from dissolution 90.


Despite Mobutu's status as head of a sovereign state, some foreign investors found his
informal demands and incapacity to control associates to be a fundamental obstacle to doing
business with him 91. The frustration of some investors coincided with that of rulers in
neighboring states who faced the cross-border effects of Mobutu's alliances with clandestine

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networks. For example, Mobutu's partnership with extremist Hutu exiles from 1994 posed a
security threat to the Rwandan regime. Mobutu associates' diamond dealing with UNITA rebels
helped finance UNITA's war against the Angolan government. Ugandan rebels received
supplies from Sudan via the airport at Bunia that serviced gold mining there 92
This created a conjunction of interests such that when Kabila emerged as head of his
Alliance des Forces Democratique pour la Liberation (AFDL), he had little trouble finding foreign
anti-Mobutu allies. Kabila's strategies, however, show remarkable continuity with Mobutu's,
with an even greater emphasis on external partners in lieu of a domestic patronage network
grafted onto a state administration. Kabila recieved help from Angolan and Rwandan troops
and Ugandan weapons 93. Salim Saleh, the Ugandan anti-insurgent leader and brother of the
president, for example, expanded his business reach to include a gold mine in Kisangani after
the AFDL capture of the area 94. These arrangements also showed the reluctance of neighboring
rulers or internal insurgents to dissolve Zaire, instead resorting to regional networks to achieve
their aims.
Once he appeared successful, Kabila became an attractive alternative commercial partner to
Mobutu. The increasingly competitive nature of the mining business in Africa, with many new
firms adapted to doing business in tough places, generated a broader range of potential
partners for the rebel war leader. Kabila recognized the centrality of resource exploitation to his
war effort, and welcomed foreign firms, provided they paid a "war tax" of 15 percent of
projected investment 95. Kabila appointed his brother (Florent Kambale Kabila) as "Mining
Minister" to collect fees. He appointed another brother, Gaetanka Kakudji, as governor of the
mineral-rich Shaba province. Kabila developed some commercial expertise of his own as a rebel
leader since the 1960s. Well before his successful campaign in 1996-97, he presided over the
Compagnie Mixte d'Import-Export (COMIEX), a venture with private merchants and Kabila's
pre-AFDL Parti de la Revolution Populaire. This firm tapped into cross-border trade in coffee and
gold to Uganda and other neighbors to the east before the rebel war began 96.
Larger cash injections to Kabila's war effort came from outsiders. The AMF signed a new
billion dollar deal with Kabila in April, 1997, providing a cash payment and a jet to transport
the rebel leader's associates 97. This was a calculated risk on AMF's part. The renegotiated deal
excluded the more established former partner Anglo-American, which could not take the risk of
dealing with rebels for fear of unsettling rulers of other weak states where it has investments.
AMF garnered additional benefits in the form of rights to buy diamonds in Kisangani, a
$100,000 daily trade after rebels captured the city 98. The state-run MIBA reportedly provided
Kabila with an additional $3.5 million in April, 1997, after rebels carried off the head of the firm
to the eastern part of the country after capturing him in Mbuji Maye 99
These and other deals were critical for encouraging additional investors to do business
with Kabila and establish his credibility in outsiders' eyes, turning him into a person who could
engage in commerce and assume the sovereign state's fiscal responsibilities. The apparent
stability that followed from acknowledgement of external obligations of the state and
willingness to participate in global markets encouraged creditors and officials in other states to
view Kabila as an alternative to anarchy. These relations continue the focus on the outward
aspects of the state, not the changes of politics within it. Specifically, anti-Mobutu social action

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Sovereignty and Personal Rule in Zaire I 59

within is ignored and aspects of warlord politics are accepted, so long as they accord with
external interests.
Other places in Zaire, however, present an alternative to this strategy of finding weak state
stability in a reworking of the politics of Mobutu's successor. Eastern Kasai, and especially the
city of Mbuji-Maye, is a center of autonomous development efforts and separatist tendencies.
The city has its own university, established in 1990 with funds from local operations of MIBA,
the state-run mining company. The city government works with the Catholic Church to run the
university, which set up a geology faculty with help from the Belgian firm Sibeka, owner of 20
percent of MIBA. Among the city's feats is a plan to expand the capacity of the near-by Lubilanji
hydro station to generate electricity that government authorities fail to provide. Local officials
and businesses took steps to institutionalize autonomous development, creating CODEKOR, or
the Conference for the Development of Eastern Kasai 100
Closer examination of Mbuji-Maye's economy reveals considerable ties to commercial
networks that knitted together Mobutu and Kengo political associates, as well as a local struggle
to keep these networks at arms length. MIBA head Mukamba Kadiata Nzemba billed himself as
a "friend" of Mobutu's even though MIBA helped underwrite the local university. Local MIBA
operations included joint ventures with foreign firms that operated in areas under more solid
Mobutu control, but also exclusive ventures with foreign firms to increase local autonomy to
exploit resources. Swanepoel, a South African engineering firm, demonstrated the political-
private commercial nature of Kasai separatism, with its infrastructure projects benefiting Kasai.
In return, Swanepoel appointed a member from its firm to the board of CODEKOR.
Infrastructure development in this more purely autonomous manner threatened the Mobutu
faction's hold on illicit diamond mining, since local miners and Angolan dealers had easier
access to Mbuji-Maye. Kasai autonomy also changed regional strategic calculations. Kasai
authorities were more interested in peace in Angola to protect independent access to Angola's
ports and railways, versus Mobutu's interest in strengthening UNITA's diamond trade.
But ominously, Kabila's selective moves against firms appeared to target and rein in this
regional autonomy. Otherwise quite open to deals with foreign firms, Kabila moved in May
1997 to disrupt the South African railroad deal, as he did the locally run diamond mining
business (mentioned above). These actions do not interfere with Kabila's overall "free market"
(actually, controlled, but private and profitable market) approach as a whole. This does not
bode well for Zairians expecting local autonomy. Instead, it continues the politics of control
through manipulating access to accumulation with help from private foreign firms in lieu of a
state bureaucracy.
In the process, Kabila squeezes Kasai strongmen who try to stand as popularly accountable
actors, insofar as they competed to control commerce, but seemingly for broader popular
benefit. Since local strongmen identify popular legitimacy and provision of social services as
valued goals, they are forced to build their authority in more conventional ways, striving to
create efficient internal revenue and development bureaucracies. Why this is so bears closer
examination of internal Kasai politics that is beyond the scope of this article.
Prospects for the survival of this experiment do not look promising, as outsiders help
Kabila establish control over the territory of Zaire (Congo). The problem for Kasai is not the
larger country of which they are a part. It is instead that the reassertation of control and its

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manner of application is not decided by those who live under it. Kabila deserves some blame
for political choices that limit the possibilities of people in his country. But outsiders -- foreign
firms, creditors, officials in other states -- share responsibility when they act with unorthodox
internal methods to preserve the outer form of a sovereign state.


1. For clarity's sake and my emphasis on the Mobutu era, I refer to the country as Zaire,
though it was renamed the Democratic Republic of Congo in May 1997.
2. A point derived from Joel Migdal, Strong Societies and Weak States, Princeton:
Princeton University, 1988.
3. Thomas Callaghy, The State-Society Struggle: Zaire in Comparative Perspective, New
York: Columbia University, 1984, 141-232.
4. Robert Jackson, Quasi-states: Sovereignty, International Relations and the Third World,
New York: Cambridge University, 1984, 141-232.
5. Callaghy, State-Society, 3-137; Jean-Claude Willame, governance et Pouvoir: Essai sur
trois trajectoires africaines,Paris: L'Harmattan, 1994, 46-91.
6. Crawford Young & Thomas Turner, The Rise and Decline of the Zairian State, Madison:
University of Wisconsin, 1985, 387.
7. Sennen Andriamirado, "Les nabobs," Jeune Afrique,7 Feb 1996, 25-78.
8. International Monetary Fund, International Financial Statistical yearbook, Washington,
D.C. IMF, 1990.
9. World Bank, 1992 World Development Report, New York: Oxford, 1992, 256.
10. Colette Braeckman, Le dinosaur: Le Zaire de Mobutu, Paris: Fayard, 1992, 73.
11. Edward Pound, "IMF, World Bank Aide Has Dealings Hinting at Conflict of Interest,"
Wall Street Journal, 28 Dec 1990. See also Erwin Blumenthal, "Zaire: rapport sur sa
financiere internationale" La Revue Nouvelle, 77:11 Nov 1982, 360-78.
12. Edward Pound, "IMF, World Bank Aide Has Dealings Hinting at Conflict of Interest,"
Wall Street Journal, 28 Dec. 1990. See also Erwin Blumenthal, "Zaire: rapport sur sa
credibility financiere internationale" La Revue Nouvelle, 77:11 Nov 1982, 360-78.
13. Braeckman, Le dinosaur, 145-7.
14. Jean Claude Willame, L'6pop6e d'Inga, Paris: L'Harmattan, 1986; Pierre P6an, L'argent
noir, Paris: L'Harmattan, 1988, 161-6, Braeckman, Le dinosaur, 222-30.
15. On Zairianization, David Gould, Bureaucratic Corruption and Underdevelopment in the
Third World: The Case of Zaire, New York: Pergamon, 1980; Crawford Young &
Thomas Turner, The Rise and Decline of the Zairian State, Madison: University of
Wisconsin, 1985, 326-62.
16. Banque du Zaire, Bulletin Trimestriel, Kinshasa, March 1991, 9.
17. Banque du Zaire, Rapport annuel, Kinshasa: Banque du Zaire, various issues.
18. World Bank, World Development Report 1992, New York, Oxford: 1992, 238.

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Sovereignty and Personal Rule in Zaire I 61

19. Kisangani Emizet, "Zaire After Mobutu: A Potential Case of Humanitarian Emergency,"
paper for World Institute for Development Economics Research, Helsinki, 6-8 Oct 1996,
20. Compare World Bank, World Development Report 1992, 238 against Central Bank of
Zaire, Rapport annuel, (Kinshasa: Banque du Zaire, 1992), 19.
21. Interview with former Zairian official, 7 Oct 1996.
22. Banque du Zaire, Rapport annuel, various issues.
23. Economist Intelligence Unit, Zaire, 1st quarter, 1996, 19.
24. John Ayoade, "States without Citizens," Donald Rothchild & Naomi Chazan, eds., The
Precarious Balance: State and Society in Africa, Boulder: Westview, 1988, 196.
25. Blaine Hardin, Africa: Dispatches from a Fragile Continent, New York: Norton, 1990, 25-
60; Helen Winternitz, East Along the Equator: A Journey Up the Congo and into Zaire,
NewYork: Atlantic Monthly Press, 1987; Paul Hyland, The Black Heart: A Voyage into
Central Africa, New York: Paragon House, 1990.
26. "Zaire," Mining Journal, 26 Jan 1996, 23.
27. Janet MacGaffey, ed., The Real Economy of Zaire, Philadelphia: University of
Pennsylvania, 1991. See also Tom De Herdt & Stefaan Marysee, L'6conomie informelle
au Zaire, Paris: Harmattan, 1995.
28. Janet MacGaffey, Entrepreneurs and Parasites: The Struggle for Indigenous Capitalism
in Zaire, New York: Cambridge,1987; Mukohya Vwakyanakazi, African Traders in
Eastern Zaire (1960-1980), Ph.D. Dissertation, Madison: University of Wisconsin, 1982.
29. World Bank, World Development Report 1992, 214.
30. Figures refer to origin of trade and thus include known clandestine transactions.
International Monetary Fund, International Financial Statistics Yearbook, Washington,
DC: International Monetary Fund; Knight-Ridder Financial /Commodity Research
Bureau, The CRB Commodity Yearbook, New York: John Wiley & sons; UNCTAD,
Commodity Yearbook, NewYork: United Nations; United Nations, International Trade
Statistics Yearbook, New York: United Nations; various issues of Mining Journal and
March6s Tropicaux.
31. Interviews with members of Angolan Chamber of Commerce and an official of the
World Bank, Washington, D.C., June-July 1996.
32. "Quelles sanctions contre Mobutu?" La Cit6 [Brussels], 11 Feb. 1993, Braeckman, Le
dinosaur, 279-315.
33. Christian Casteran & Hugo Sada, "Sommet de la Baule," Jeune Afrique, 27 June 1990, 15.
See also Jean-Claude Willame, "Zaire: Ann6es 90," Cahiers du CEDAF, 1(1991); Jean-
Francois Bayart, "France-Afrique: La fin du pacte colonial," Politique Africaine, 39(1990),
34. "Accr6ditation du nouvel ambassadeur des Etats-Unis au Zaire," Elima [Kinshasa], 13
June 1991.
35. Emmanuel Dungia, Mobutu et 1'argent du Zaire, Paris: Harmattan, 1992; Francois Misser
& Olivier Vall6e, Les Gemmocraties: l'economie politique du diamant Africain, Paris:
Descl6e de Brouwer, 1997.

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36. Joseph Ngalula Mpandajila, "Lettre ouverte au Citoyen Pr6sident Fondateur du
Movement Populaire de la R6volution, "Politique Africaine, 3 (Sept 1981), 94-140;
"Angola/Zaire: End of the Diamond Connection," Africa Energy & Mines, 5 April 1995.
37. Michael Schatzberg, The Dialectics of Oppression in Zaire, Bloomington: Indiana
University, 1988, 53.
38. Quoted in Basil Davidson, The Black Man's Burden, New York: Times Books, 1994, 259
39. Crawford Young, "Zaire: The Shattered Illusion of the Integral State," Journal of Modern
African Studies, 32:2 (June 1994), 263.
40. Emizet, "Zaire After Mobutu," 16
41. "Zaire: Military Operation," Africa Confidential, 20 Sept 1996.
42. "Barrick-Okimo in Firm Deal," Africa Energy & Mining, 28 Aug 1996.
43. "Zaire: Digging In," Africa Confidential, 3 Jan 1997.
44. Interview, UNITA Representative, Washington, D.C., 20 June 1996, "Debeers Exports as
much as MIBA," Africa Energy & Mining, 8 Jan 1997.
45. Sennen Andriamirado, "Zaire: 1'6tat n6ant," Jeune Afrique, 18-24 Sept 1996, 31-4.
46. "Zaire I: Dual Control," Africa Confidential, 16 April 1993; "Zaire: The Long Goodbye,"
Africa Confidential, 6 March 1992; Interview, Washington DC, 6 June 1996.
47. Fall Jean Karim, "La province zairoise de l'ex-Katanga continue de rever d'autonomie,"
Le Monde, 30 Dec 1995, Braeckman, Le dinosaur, 184-6.
48. Colette Braeckman, "Le Zaire de Mobutu, 'parrin' des Grands Lacs," in Andr6
Guichaoua, ed., Les crises politiques au Burundi et au Rwanda (1993-1994), Paris:
Karthala, 1995,
49. Anzuluni Bembe Isilonyonyi, Le Haut Consiel de la Republique Parlement de
Transition, Resolution sur la Nationalit6, (Kinshasa, 28 April 1996).
50. As Albert Hirschman noted in his Exit, Voice, and Loyalty, Cambridge, MA: Harvard
University, 1970, 26-9, that inefficient organizations may promote exit of dissatisfied
"customers" under conditions of monopoly.
51. "Zaire: Deserting a Sinking Tshisekedi," Africa Confidential, 29 July 1994.
52. Gerard Prunier, The Rwanda Crisis, New York: Columbia University, 1995, 100-1.
53. "Ouganda: Paris voit rouge," Lettre de 1'Ocean Indien, 14 May 1994. Also see Gerard
Prunier, "The Great Lakes Crisis," Current History, June 1997, 193-99.
54. "Zaire/Ouganda: la guerre secrete," Lettre du Continent [Paris], 28 April 1994.
55. "Zaire: Op6ration 'Leopard,'" Lettre du Continent, 19 April 1994; G6rard Prunier, The
Rwanda Crisis, 317-8.
56. Jean-Pierre Pabanel, "Conflits locaux et strat6gie de tension Nord-Kivu," Politique
Africaine, 52 (Dec 1993), 132-4.
57. Steven Metz, Disaster and Intervention in Sub-Saharan Africa: Learning from Rwanda,
Carlisle Barracks: U.S. Army War College, 1994; African Rights, Humanitarianism
Unbound? Current Dilemmas Facing Multi-Mandate Relief Operations in Political
Emergencies, London: African Rights discussion paper, 1995.

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58. Human Rights Watch Arms Project, Rwanda/Zaire: Rearming with Impunity,
Washington, D.C, Human Rights Watch, 1995; "Bears Guard Honey," Africa
Confidential, 17 Feb 1995.
59. "Mobutu Chez Chirac," Le Soft, 25 April 1996; "Mobutu a L'Elys6e," Jeune Afrique, 1
May 1996, 4-5.
60. "Great Lakes 2: The Balance of Forces," Africa Confidential 1 Nov 1996.
61. "Bonn normalise d6jh avec le Zaire," Le Soft, 7 Oct 1996.
62. Thomas Lippman, "Seeking US Visa, Mobutu Enlists Friends," International Herald
Tribune, 7 Aug 1995.
63. Kin Key Mulumba, "Mobutu-Clinton: contact normalis6," Le Soft, 19 Aug 1995.
64. Washington Post, 6 Aug 1995; Government of South Africa, Interim Truth Commission
Report, (Pretoria, June 1996).
65. DDK, "Mobutu: chronique d'une rehabilitation," Le Soft, 11 Oct 1995; George Moffet, "US
Taps African Despot for Help in Rwanda," Christian Science Monitor, 23 Aug 1995.
66. "Bye bye la Troika, bonjour la France," Le Soft, 25 July 1996.
67. Carole Collins, "Zaire Remains Africa's Heart of Darkness," National Catholic Reporter,
32:15 (Feb 1996), 9-14. See also Jeffrey Marishane, "Prayer, Profit and Power: U.S.
Religious Right and Foreign Policy," Review of African Political Economy, 52 (Nov
1991), 73-117; James Adams, "Mobutu Champion Enrages Washington," New York
Times, 20 Aug 1995.
68. "Zaire: Les Grosses Legumes," Africa Confidential, 15 Dec 1995.
69. Chris McGreal, "Zaire's Miracle Man Runs Out of Luck," Guardian, 7 May 1996.
70. Kilolo Ngwalumuna, "la secte Moon recoit la visit de songourou," Le Soft, 16 Nov 1995.
71. Personal communication, Amsterdam, 7 Nov 1996; from a Liberian logger, London, 5
March 1997.
72. "Bemba haut de GAMM," Lettre du Continent, 22 Dec 1994.
73. "Zaire: Jump in Diamond Exports," Africa Energy & Mining, 6 Sept 1995; Katupa Nkole,
"SCIPA-Mines et le scandal de l'UZB," Le Soft, 7 Aug 1995.
74. "New Diamond Export Regulations," Africa Energy & Mines, 29 May 1996.
75. "Zaire: Baisse de la production de diamant," Lettre du Continent, 10 Nov 1994
76. Economist Intelligence Unit, Zaire, 4th quarter 1995, 24.
77. "Le saviez-vous" Jeune Afrique, 20 March 1996, 18; "Un Isra6lien de Kinshasa poursuivi
par la police congolaise?" Le Soft, 25 March 1996.
78. Sennen Andriamirado, "Les nabobs," Jeune Afrique, 7 Feb 1996, 25-7.
79. Kin-Kiey Mulumba, "Rebondissement dans 1'affaire des privatisations," Le Soft, 28 July
1995. Lettre du Continent, 25 July 1996; Thomas Turner, "Zaire: Flying High Above the
Toads: Mobutu and Stalemated Democracy," John Clark & David Gardinier, eds.,
Political Reform in Francophone Africa, Boulder: Westview, 1997, 259.
80. "Zaire: AAC to Call the Shots," African Energy & Mining, 24 May 1995
81. Interview, Washington D.C. official, 16 Oct 1996.
82. "Barrick-OKIMO in Firm Deal," Africa Energy & Mining, 28 Aug 1996, "Polish
Equipment for Zaire Coffee," Africa Energy & Mining, 10 May 1995.
83. "Heart of Anglo," Africa Confidential, 7 June, 1996.

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84. Kenneth Gooding, "Voisey's Bay Man Aims to Repeat Successes," Financial Times, 26
Sept 1996; "Lundin Widens Its Interest," Africa Energy & Mining, 24 July 1996.
85. "Major Companies Court GCM," Africa Energy & Mining, 17 Jan 1996; "Conclusive
Decision on Tenke-Fungurume," Africa Energy& Mining, 4 Dec 1996.
86. See Colette Braeckman, "Zaire at the End of a Reign," New Left Review, 222 (June, 1997),
87. Peter Maass, Love Thy Neighbor: A Story of War, New York: Knopf, 1996, 21.
88. V.P. Gagnon, Jr., "Ethnic Nationalism and International Conflict: The Case of Serbia,"
International Security, 19:3 (Winter 1994/5), 130-66.
89. Jeffrey Herbst, "War and the State in Africa," International Security, 14:4 (Spring 1990),
90. Contra U.S. official policy outlined in Michael Schatzberg, Mobutu or Chaos: The United
States and Zaire, Lantham, MD: University Press of America, 1991.
91. Michael Ledeen, "African Scenarios: The Future of Zambia, Zimbabwe and Zaire,"
Cobalt 94: Opportunities, Problems and Survival Strategies, Vienna, VA, Nov 1994
[photocopy], Interviews with mining executives, Denver, CO, March 1996.
92. "Zaire: Digging In," Africa Confidential, 3 Jan 1997.
93. Jean Boyne, "The White Legion: Mercenaries in Zaire," Jane's Intelligence Review, 9:6
(June 1997), 278-81.
94. "Africa: New Fingers on Zaire's Trigger," Africa Confidential, 9 May 1997.
95. Alliance des Forces Democratiques pour la Lib6ration, "Le Commissariat general a
l'Economie et aux Finances aux Compagnies 'amies.'" [photocopy, no date].
96. "MIBA and Its 'War Effort,'" Africa Energy & Mining, 16 July 1997; "New Underground
Trade Routes," Indian Ocean Newsletter, 22 March 1997; "Zaire: Kabila Yaka!" Africa
Confidential, 11 April 1997.
97. Stefaans Brummer, "Business at War for Zaire's Wealth," Mail & Guardian, 25 April
1997; Chris Gordon, "Kabila Dumps DeBeers," Business Mail, 2 May 1997.
98. "Diamond Miners Seethe," Africa Energy & Mining, 16 July 1997.
99. "MIBA and Its 'War Effort,'"
100. "Kasai Takes Off," Africa Confidential, 19 Jan 1996; "Zaire: SA Companies Grab
Opportunities in Eastern Kasai," Southscan, 12 Jan 1996, 15.

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Conventional Wisdom and Rwanda's Genocide: An Opinion


Certain thoughts about the Rwandan genocide of 1994 are commonly accepted. For the
most part, these ideas have been used to explain the causes of the genocide and, by implication,
propose solutions to Rwanda's continuing problems. The status of these ideas within the media
and policy circles, however, is problematic. Despite the tentative nature of the propositions
when they were first asserted only two or three years ago, they have come to represent what
may be called the "conventional wisdom" about Rwanda. Rarely are the assumptions behind
such ideas challenged.
The generation of such "conventional wisdom" is not unusual; every social situation
requires explanation that becomes part of common accepted knowledge. The ultimate measure
of such common knowledge is its utility in predicting the likely actions of participants in the
situations described. In the Rwandan situation, however, this common knowledge has not
always been a good guide for such predictions. Only rarely have particular policy prescriptions
led to the desired outcomes. In particular, Western-generated humanitarian policy, focused on
democratic political institutions, respect for human rights, principles of voluntary refugee
repatriation, and open markets, has been repeatedly frustrated.
In large part, I think that such systematic misreading of the Rwandan refugee situation is
due to the very nature of how information is gathered in emergency situations. Necessarily, the
emergency workers on Rwanda's borders in 1994 quickly developed common knowledge about
the crisis, the actors involved, and the solutions to the situation. This knowledge helped to
rationalize their own interventions and guide their efforts. Experientially based perceptions
obtained in the days of the four month-long genocide thus provided the foundation for distinct
views about Rwanda's problems1.
Such experientially based knowledge is not inherently inaccurate or bad. The problem is
that such knowledge, when unanalyzed, presents a fragmented, superficial, or incomplete
picture of the emergency situation itself. This is particularly true when the individuals writing
situation reports ("sitreps" in the sub-cultural argot) about the overall political situation are not
part of the societies being analyzed. For the emergency specialist, this is almost always the case.
Unfortunately, what happens in emergencies like the Rwanda genocide is that such views are
uncritically passed on by a headquarters where, because of the urgency of the situation, sitreps
are translated unanalyzed into emotional donor appeals and ReliefWeb documents. In turn,
fleeting impressionistic views or opinions become the conventional wisdom shaping definitions
of problems, accumulation of knowledge, and interpretation of "facts", and ultimately policy
Complete faith in conventional wisdom is risky, however. To understand any social
situation it is necessary to move beyond the limitations of experientially based conventional


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to download articles for their own personal use. Published by the Center for African Studies, University of Florida.
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66 I Waters

wisdom3. Of course, doing this in an emergency is a source of discomfort, as it involves
abandoning the few certainties already legitimate both in a remote headquarters and the field,
and acknowledging the risky contingent nature of emergency management. Nonetheless, both
analysis of and prescriptions for social problems stand to benefit from exploring and unearthing
the potential oversimplifications located within conventional wisdom.
Below are seven items of "conventional wisdom" from the Rwanda refugee crisis which, in
my view, misrepresent a complex reality and have served as poor guides for policy
interventions. In particular, these assumptions are inconsistent with broader understandings of
social behavior. The issues will be familiar to anyone who has followed the development of the
Rwandan crisis as it was discussed on policy levels, on ReliefWeb, and in the popular press.
And while the examples have to do with the Rwandan relief operation, my own bit of
conventional wisdom is to point out that the problems illustrated here are probably inherent in
the very nature of emergency relief programs, and are not unique to the Rwanda program.
Certainly policy errors based on such conventional wisdom were a major focus in William
Shawcross' book, Quality of Mercy, about the Cambodian crisis of 1979-83. My suspicion is that
field personnel and policy makers associated with the ex-Yugoslavian, Somali, Liberian, and
other emergency operations will recognize the pattern of quick conclusions based on fleeting
experience, with no subsequent sociological analysis.


1) Assumption: The key to the resolution of Rwanda's political problems is to be found in war
crimes trials since justice is a necessary and reasonable prerequisite for reconciliation. Related to
this is the assertion that war crimes trials are necessary in order to break the cycle of Hutu-Tutsi
violence. This is apparent because the absence of any punitive response to the 1960's genocide
in Rwanda was a precursor to the 1994 genocide4.
These views are assumed by many Westerners and also asserted by the current Rwandan
government. However, the relationship between war crimes tribunals and reconciliation
processes is debatable. The only other international tribunals attempted were after World War
Two, and these had little to do with reconciliation between Germans and Jews, or Japanese and
Chinese. Nor are there hard and fast indications that the Nuremberg trials are what made
reconciliation in post-war western Europe possible. As with the International War Crimes
Tribunal in Arusha, Tanzania, these trials set an important example for militaries which may be
tempted to participate in future war crimes. These trials were also probably an important ritual
for re-asserting the international moral order, as Alain Destexhe points out5. Finally, marking
individuals as indicted war criminals also seems useful in the cases of Bosnia and Rwanda, as it
makes it more difficult for labeled persons to make claims of political legitimacy. These issues,
while important, have little to do with reconciliation or "righting" the situation so the survivors
can re-establish congenial relations with other Rwandans who may or may not have
participated in the genocide.
As relevant as the post-World War Two trials may be, there are also instances where
rebuilding following mass murder and genocide-like crimes have occurred without trials. The
Ugandan Ambassador to the United Nations in 1996 pointed out to the African Studies

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Conventional Wisdom and Rwanda's Genocide I 67

Association that Uganda, Zimbabwe6, and post-Mau Mau Kenya are examples of countries
where war crimes were committed and went unpunished, but nevertheless the "cycle of
retribution" stopped. The Ambassador also made the point that South Africa is dealing with
extremely sensitive reconciliation issues without appeals for mass arrests, tribunals, or support
for a justice system which cannot possibly try all of the accused in a fair or just manner. Indeed,
the legitimation of mass arrests in Rwanda on the basis of the genocide can easily be seen as an
attempt by an authoritarian minority government to maintain control through terror or
arbitrary arrest. Certainly, it is seen by the Hutu masses as having this effect7
Violence is not cyclical, except perhaps in the short-run, and often only in the context of
politically-inspired legitimation processes. A quick look at the 20th century verifies this;
Germany, France, and the United Kingdom are now allies, despite two world wars. No cycle of
violence emerged following the dismantling of Soviet gulags. More recently, peace is emerging
in places like Lebanon, El Salvador, Vietnam, and Cambodia. Indeed, there are examples of
alliances and fights between ethnic groups, nations, and tribes which have formed and re-
formed in different situations. There is nothing inherently "cyclical" about these processes,
however. Neither is there a cycle of violence in Rwanda.

2) Assumption: The genocide was the consequence of poorly funded development programs:
had money been invested in the region in the past, the crisis could have been avoided. Likewise,
had money invested in the camps around Rwanda instead been spent in Rwanda, Rwanda itself
would be in better shape.
Economic development is only part of the problem in Rwanda, and it is not the part
directly causing genocide or war9. The poorest country in the region has been Tanzania, and
that country has certainly avoided genocide, as well as political instability. Uganda has been
better off economically than Rwanda and Tanzania; yet it also had a 15 year period of violence
and political instability.
Thankfully, modern genocide is still not a common enough event to draw any
generalizable assumptions about causation; the only other definitive cases are Nazi Germany
and Ottoman Turkey in Armenia10. Neither of these countries suffered from the same type of
poverty as there was in Rwanda. Reaching such a conclusion would even be difficult if cases of
government-sanctioned mass murder (as opposed to genocide) were included in the mix, e.g.
Pol Pot's Cambodia, Stalin's gulags, East Timor, and the 19th century American West. While the
body counts may have been more or less than Rwanda, the proximate political, social, and
economic situations were different. A similar consequence (mass murder or genocide) does not
necessarily imply the same cause".

3) Assumption: The Interhamwe (or armed elements) and refugees must be separated so that
the refugees can voluntarily return to Rwanda12.
This dogma has been used for the last three years by the UNHCR to explain the failure of
voluntary repatriation programs. Human Rights Watch says that the failure to separate ex-
Rwandan military from the refugee population was due to simple "indifference" by the
International community. More recently, Defense Minister Paul Kagame of Rwanda claimed
that the inability of the UNHCR to separate refugees from Interhamwe was justification for

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68 I Waters

Rwandan military intervention in Congo/Zaire. From my perspective, these views show a lack
of understanding for what refugees are and how social movements work.
No one person is either Interhamwe or not. In sociological terms, "Interhamwe" is not a
discrete category. Rather there is an alienated Hutu population sympathetic to the young men,
whatever they may call themselves, who mobilize and protect them in crisis situations. This
population is sympathetic to these young men even though many are aware that some have
committed genocide, and at times used brutal methods to control the Hutu population itself.
But not all former Interhamwe remain members of militias or paramilitary movements.
Likewise, some members of current paramilitary movements were not members of Interhamwe
militia in the early 1990's. Indeed, according to some accounts, some Interhamwe members
probably joined the RPF (Rwandan Patriotic Front) army which liberated Rwanda in 199413. The
important point is that militia groups are more likely to mobilize and achieve legitimacy in
times of crisis, i.e. during flight, forced repatriations, military attacks, and asylum crises. This is
why sociologists speak of how social movements "mobilize" people and identities. This stands
in contrast to legalistic approaches which assign different people to discrete categories like
"Interhamwe" and "refugee". In the case of Rwanda, impressions made during the brutal,
unusual days of the April-July 1994 seem to dominate Western understanding of Hutu social
movements. But such categorizations are not a very good basis for imputing motives or making
predictions of how Hutu nationalist groups will behave in refugee camps in the former Zaire,
Tanzania, Malawi, Angola, Kenya, or Gabon. They are also not a very good tool for
understanding how Hutu militia groups interact with their families within these refugee camps.
Indeed, using Interhamwe to understand the failure of voluntary repatriation reminds me of the
Americans blaming Communist subversion in South Vietnam on "Charlie." It was a real
phenomenon, but the caricature was so awkward that it was not a useful analytical tool.
Such status ambiguity also is why it is rarely possible to separate "legitimate refugees" from
military in virtually every refugee situation. Refugee situations are by definition focused by
both politics and crisis: running for one's life is by definition a crisis, and the very definition of
"refugee" implies political alienation from one's home country. It is little wonder that the many
gray areas surrounding claims to legitimate refugee status occupy a good portion of the
UNHCR's legal and diplomatic staff around the world. Thus, from a sociological viewpoint,
sympathy with paramilitary movements in refugee situations, while undesirable, are normal.

4) Assumption: There must be hundreds of thousands of murderers who assisted with the
genocide, and it follows that this many must be punished if justice is to be done14.
Again, who is and is not a murderer is a legal interpretation. Genocide is an organized
crime by a government against an ethnic group. But governments are not tried or put in prison;
individuals are. One can speculate about how many individual "murderers" there are -- most
guesses are based on the death toll and the means of execution (gangs of machete wielders).
Estimates based on such logistics range from some tens of thousands to three million
"murderers." These guesses while often logically sound, do not represent specific guilty persons
in the legal sense15.
Thus, while the 100-120,000 people (mostly Hutu men) in jail represent a reasonable count
given the scope of the genocide, without trial to legitimate their individual guilt as being greater

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httD: //www.africa.ufl.edu/asa/vl /3/5.vdf

Conventional Wisdom and Rwanda's Genocide I 69

or different from those who were not arrested, the prisoners do not represent any sort of
individual responsibility, but rather a collective one. Given the lack of clarity about who the
collective is (is it all Hutu, people who fled to Zaire, civil servants of the former government,
etc.) these 100-120,000 represent simply the power of arrest by the government, not a tool for
identifying and punishing the guilty.
The problem of the basic legitimacy of the current RPF-led government compounds the
issue further. The international community is in general agreement that the authoritarian RPF is
better than anarchy and that the genocidal MRND has no role in Rwanda's future. This,
however, is different from deeper issues of national legitimacy and nation-building. Tragically,
the current government seems caught in a vicious cycle. It is perceived by the Hutu masses as
an occupying force maintaining power through the use of arrest and intimidation. The jails,
filled with people who are the sons, brothers, cousins, nephews, or fathers of most Rwandan
Hutu, are a persistent reminder of this power. But, from the government's perspective, without
the arrests and consequent intimidation, the Hutu masses may revolt against the minority
government. Indeed the inability of the government to control the killing of genocide survivors
seems to indicate that this result is occurring.
From the perspective of many Hutu, the arrests are only the most current and
internationally obvious tool of Rwanda's authoritarian state. Many refugees point out that large
numbers of Hutu died in the war, and continue to die without recourse to any system of justice.
The lack of a visible response to the massacre by the military at Kibeho (4,000+ Hutu dead in
April 1994), and the steady flow of execution victims in the Kagera River in 1994-5 are just two
of the foci which cause Hutu to doubt the sincerity of the government16. Alain Destexhe has
made the legal point that killing by the RPF is fundamentally different than genocide (he
describes these killings by the legalistic term "exactions"). However, this legalistic distinction in
international law is irrelevant to the 100-120,000 people in Rwanda's jails awaiting trial by weak
Rwandan national courts which are part of the same political apparatus fighting Hutu militia
groups in the country-side. I suspect that this legal distinction is also not clear to the Rwandan
farmers, be they Hutu or Tutsi. As such, it does little to assist, and may exacerbate, the basic
legitimacy problems of the RPF government.

5) Assumption: Repatriation of refugees to countries of origin is the only viable political
Few refugee crises have been solved solely by repatriation. Most are solved by a
combination of voluntary repatriation, local resettlement, and third country resettlement.
Officially, only the Tanzanians have even discussed this fact (briefly in late 1994) with respect to
the Great Lakes crisis. Meanwhile, the international actors continue to chase the elusive
"voluntary repatriation only" policy which resulted in the chaotic and violent disintegration of
the Zairian/Congolese camps, and the forced repatriation of almost 400,000 refugee from
Tanzania to Rwanda.
Other refugee crises in the region (including the Rwandan crisis of the 1960's, Burundian of
1970s, and to a lesser extent the Mozambican crises of the 1980s) were resolved through
combined programs of voluntary resettlement, along with local and third country resettlement.
The Indo-chinese refugee situations of the 1980s were solved through a combination of second

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70 I Waters

and third country resettlement, voluntary repatriation, and in the end some forced repatriation.
Premature repatriation to Afghanistan resulted in the emptying and refilling of camps in
Pakistan. Post World War Two refugee policies in Europe also reflected a combination of
second country resettlement, third country resettlement, voluntary repatriation, and forced
Given these precedents, it is a good assumption that when the dust of Central Africa's wars
has settled, Rwandans and Burundians will have been scattered across eastern and central
Africa with the assistance of the international community. It is only a question of how much it
will cost, and how many will die in the process.

6) Assumption: Intervention by an international military force could have disarmed the violent
elements in the refugee populations17.
Disarmament would have involved enforcing a perimeter around the refugee
concentrations, isolating all males, and then doing a systematic hut to hut search. Weapons
would undoubtedly have been found. Given that the primary weapon, the machete, is also an
agricultural tool, most weapons would necessarily be returned. Assuming that this was feasible,
it would have done nothing towards enhancing the legitimacy of the RPF government in Kigali
among the refugee populations. In fact it would have done just the opposite by intensifying
refugee resentment toward the government and international community.

7) Assumption. There are no more Hutu and Tutsi in Rwanda, only Rwandans.
This is the official policy of the current Rwandan government. It is of course an appealing
policy to pursue. However, stating that this is so does not necessarily make it so.
Institutionalized discrimination based on any number of status markers (race, ethnic group,
language skills, accent, economic status, etc.) are persistent all over the world, despite laws to
the contrary. Indeed, virtually every country in the world does have a minority which study
after study shows is discriminated against.
While the identities of Hutu and Tutsi are remarkably malleable18, there is an obvious
warning for those who take their claims of ethnic homogeneity at face value19. In Burundi, a
policy of "we are all Burundians" was maintained between the mass murder of Hutu there in
1972-3 until the present. In the process, unlike Rwanda, ethnic distinctions were eliminated
from national identity cards; indeed for a number of years in the 1980s it was illegal to speak of
Hutu and Tutsi in Burundi. These policies did not of course stop political parties from asserting
a Hutu-Tutsi distinction in the 1990s.


I think that part of the problem with the "conventional wisdom" described above is rooted
in the nature of emergency management. Three factors of emergency management make the
type of over-generalizations described here more likely in emergencies than in other endeavors.
First is the speed with which emergencies happen. By definition, emergencies are
uncommon events, and as a result considered to be unique, particularly by staff in remote field

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Conventional Wisdom and Rwanda's Genocide I 71

sites isolated from locals, refugees, and their own societies. As a result, new "frames" tend to be
developed for each emergency without reference to the broader social situation of the refugees,
or even that of past refugee emergencies. Thus, the April-July 1994 genocide continues to be the
basis for how Hutu social movements are evaluated. In this process, experience-based views
developed early in a crisis were given widespread dissemination by a wider world hungry for
sensational news. These views, which are often developed on fragmentary information for
fund-raising purposes or the press, can become dogma.
The second problem is the emotional appeal which donors necessarily make to meet the
high set-up costs in emergencies. In an emergency, crisis management in the initial phase leads
to mistakes which in turn lead to a crisis in a second phase. Oftentimes these errors are
magnified when the press focuses on quick and easy solutions. These solutions are seemingly
obvious during the intense early days, but more problematic when the complexities of the
situation begin to be revealed. In such situations, because little analysis has been done, the
general conclusion is that more of the same should be tried. For example, the faith in military
peacekeepers as a means of separating refugees and Interhamwe probably emerged in this
fashion. The first mistake was violating international conventions by permitting refugee camps
on borders. This policy emerged because it is well-known that politicized refugee groups often
use border proximity to mount cross-border raids. In Goma, this "mistake" was made for good
reason: the size and health status of the refugees required it in mid-1994. Nevertheless, despite
the initial justification, rebel forces mounted cross-border raids into the camps from Zaire,
destabilizing relations between Rwanda and Zaire. The obvious "big picture" solution to this
problem would have been to move the camps away from the border once the health situation
stabilized, and press for this solution in diplomatic channels. However, by that time, the idea
that the problem was Interhamwe, not camp location had become dogma, and the call for
"separation" of refugees and Interhamwe had become more insistent20. The Western press beat
this drum particularly loudly.
The third issue is the very complexity of response required to deal with caseloads
involving two million people and six countries, as was the case in the Great Lakes crisis. The
combination seems to mean that a premium is placed on large volumes of quick information
which is rarely analyzed before attention is refocused by the next series of incidents. The quick
information is useful; as my citations show, I am an avid reader of ReliefWeb. However, it is too
easy to use this over-abundance of information, much of which is focused on hearsay from the
many interested parties, and thus avoid identifying the longer-term trends of which any
particular day's events may or may not be a part21
Misconceptions and poor social analysis have characterized many of the interpretations of
the Great Lakes crisis. More precisely, "conventional wisdom" seems to be a hazard of the
manner in which complex emergencies are handled. In the case of Rwanda, this was due to a
commendable hope that a quick solution could be found to what is one of the most horrifying
events in modern history. Were it that easy, answers would have been found long ago.
Continuing to insist on the viability of such conventional thought is a poor substitute for well-
informed commitment to long-term social and political analysis.

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72 I Waters


1. In a normal bureaucratic setting, such conventional wisdom is often subject to checks by
auditors, analysts, fixed contractual relationships, procurement procedures, and other
forms of administrative oversight. In the inherently quick changing nature of the
Rwanda emergency, there were few such administrative checks. This is both because
there were perceived to be few precedents for the situation, and also because
emergencies themselves are fast-changing. As a result, claims that analogy and
comparison were not relevant became easily validated. In turn, conventional wisdom
rooted in fleeting impressions fixed by an unusual time and place became the basis for
decision-making far longer than it would normally. Particularly for expatriates working
in the emergency, the "boiler room" society of high staff turnover, public relations
officers, press attention, high adrenaline, and reliance on verbal transmission of culture
(e.g. verbal handover reports) meant that experientially based conventional wisdom was
fixed without reference to the broader social context. This is why it is so easy to speak of
an "agency culture" for the UNHCR, CARE, Red Cross, and other emergency-focused
agencies. See also Hugo Slim (1995) The Continuing Metamorphosis of the
Humanitarian Practitioner; Some New Colors for an Endangered Species. Disasters. June
2. See William Shawcross 1984. The Quality of Mercy: Cambodia, Holocaust, and Modern
Conscience. New York: Simon and Schuster, p. 13.
3. Ruane, Janet M. and Karen A. Cerullo 1997. Second Thoughts: Seeing Conventional
Wisdom through the Sociological Eye. Thousand Oaks: Pine Forge Press.
4. See IRIN Special Feature 1/97, 19 February, 1997, This is also a theme in the Medecins sans
Frontieres publication Populations in Danger, 1995. Also, The International Response to
Conflict and Genocide: Lessons from the Rwanda Experience, v. 2, Executive Summary,
March 1996, US News 28/7/97 p. 17 indicates
that this is a strongly held view of US Secretary of State Madeline Albright.
5. Destexhe, Alain 1995. Rwanda and Genocide. New York: New York University Press. p.
6. Ian Smith who led the often brutal fight for white minority rule in Zimbabwe continues
to farm in Zimbabwe. He continues to write unrepentant books about the subject. See
The Economist review of The Great Betrayal by Ian Smith, April 19, 1997.
7. Amnesty International has implied that this is what is happening in Rwanda (Amnesty
International, April 8, 1997, Grave Doubts about Fairness of the First Trials ReliefWeb
http://www.reliefweb.int. Gerard Prunier "Rwanda: The Social, Political, and Economic
Situation in June 1997, (Writenet UK),
http://www.unhcr.ch/refworld/country/writenet/wrirwa07.htm. Also Medecins sans
Frontieres, op cit., Human Rights Watch Africa, Newsletter, March 1997.
8. Foreign Direct Investment, Trade, and Aid: An Alternative to Migration, United Nations
Conference International Organization on Trade and Development for Migration,
Journal of Humanitarian Studies

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Conventional Wisdom and Rwanda's Genocide I 73

9. More careful assessments of the Rwanda crisis all share this emphasis on complexity of
causes. Unfortunately, there has not been a compensating emphasis on the complexity of
possible solutions.
10. See Alain Destexhe op cit.
11. See Mark Cooney 1997, From Warre to Tyranny, Lethal Conflict and the State, American
Sociological Review v.62, n.2, p.333 for a comment on the exceptionalism of the
Rwandan genocide relative to other examples of state-sponsored mass murder.
12. Sadako Ogata, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. See for example.
Statement to 1997 UNHCR Executive Committee Meeting, October 14, 1997.
13. See Reyntjens, Filip 1995. Subjects of Concern: Rwanda, October 1994, Issue 13(2):39 and
Gerard Prunier "Rwanda: Update to end of November 1994, Writenet (UK),
14. See Philip Gourevitch, "The Return," New Yorker January 20, 1997. Also Zarembo,
Judgment Day in Rwanda, 92, 312 genocide suspects await trial, Harper's Magazine,
April 1997, pp. 68-80.
15. Alain Destexhe op cit. is careful in making this distinction.
16. The Lutheran World Federation/Tanganyika Christian Refugee Service reported
removing 917 bodies from the Kagera River in Tanzania between June 1994 and May
1995. The majority of the victims were removed in the early months, and were most
likely killed in the genocide. However, 346 bodies were removed between November
1994 and April 1995. In the last month of the project (1995), 7 bodies were removed.
Many of the victims removed during this period had their hands tied behind their back,
and were killed by a gunshot wound to the head. See Feature Report and Final Report,
Kagera River Body Removal Project, Tanganyika Christian Refugee Service (Dar Es
Salaam and Geneva), June 1995, by Tony Waters. A memorial at the mass grave in
Tanzania was dedicated by LWF/TCRS in May 1996.
17. Medecins sans Frontieres op cit.
18. See Brain, James 1973. Tutsi and Ha, a Study in Integration, Journal of Asian and African
Studies 8(39), Waters, Tony (1995) The Social Construction of Tutsi in Modern East
Africa, Journal of Modern African Studies 33(2):343-48, Catherine Newbury, The
Cohesion of Oppression, New York: Columbia University Press, Rene Lemarchand
(1994) Burundi: Ethnocide as Discourse Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. For an
extended discussion of why ethnic identity is persistent in some situations, and not
others, see Tony Waters (1995) Toward a Theory of Ethnic Enclave Formation: the Case
of Ethnic Germans in North American and Russia. International Migration Review.
19. See Philip Gourevitch, "Letter from Rwanda" The New Yorker, January 20, 1997, p. 49.
20. Successive water crises in Benaco camp, Ngara Tanzanian 1994-6 were also of this
nature. There was a rushed water drilling program in the first two months of the camp.
This led to mistakes, and second crisis which led to essentially the same mistake, i.e.
water drilling without careful assessment of geological conditions. This led to further
crises, which meant that a river-based pumping station was funded before approvals

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74 I Waters

were received from local authorities. This led to moving to another site which then
needed a new road. In the end, the trucking station was not used when the planned for
water truck fleet was not funded for vehicles or diesel, even though $1,000,000 had by
then been spent on various quick solutions. The refugees themselves apparently
developed their own means to deal with the water shortages, and gastro-enteric disease
rates remained low as a consequence. I am sure that NGO and UN Staff who work in
other sectors of the emergency in Ngara will recognize this pattern.
21. Miskell and Norton Journal of Humanitarian Affairs (http://www
jha.sps.cam.ac.uk/a/a014.htm reported on 4 July, 1997) have commented on the nature of
this problem with respect to emergency contingency planning.

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 1, Issue 3 I 1997

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 1, Issue 3 I 1997


The Challenge of Southern African Regional Security: A Review of Peace and Security in
Southern Africa. Ibbo Mandaza, editor. Harare: SAPES, 1996. 183pp.

Sub-Saharan African politics is framed by the triple challenges of democracy, development,
and defense. In a context of postcolonial conflict, underdevelopment, failed states, and regional
insecurity, Africans are attempting to erect viable, stable, enduring, and legitimate
governmental structures that can ensure their citizens a reasonable quality of life. As a first
course, this requires a focus on the political, economic, and cultural dimensions of Africa's
security concerns in a systematic fashion paying attention to the peculiarities and continuities
wrought from the dynamic security environment in the region. Ibbo Mandaza's (editor) Peace
and Security in Southern Africa is a collection of five essays by Africa specialists that addresses
the challenges of internal and external security for Southern African states. This effort derives
from a larger research program of the South African Regional Institute for Policy Studies
(SARIPS). The authors attempt to provide an expansive definition of peace and security, a
discussion of the challenges to state building and democratization, an explication of the
enduring impact of colonialism and dependence on regional security relationships, and an
analysis of the prospects for regional cooperation and economic integration.
Mandaza's introduction lays out the scope of the project and is followed by Thomas
OhIson's lead essay on conflict resolution in Africa, which treads--often deftly--over familiar
territory for those acquainted with arguments favoring the expansion of the security concept for
analyses of post cold war states--especially those of the former "Third World" (e.g. Ayoob 1995,
Buzan 1991, Job 1992, Klare & Thomas 1994). OhIson recognizes -- as do the other authors in the
volume -- that development, democracy, and security are linked, and he insists that there are no
quick fixes for the region's security problems. He is emphatic that conflict resolution strategies
should emerge "from the people" and that these should reflect the local circumstances that
obtain in the region (p. 32). For OhIson, democratization, the emergence of a regional security
complex, and a conducive international environment are necessary precursors to regional
The central argument for OhIson is that Africa cannot copy the European experience as a
pathway to development, democracy, and regional security. Hardly a novel suggestion
(Henderson 1995), it has recently been echoed by African leaders such as Museveni who
maintains that "We are building Afrocentric, not Eurocentric countries" (McGeary 1997, 40).
OhIson maintains that regional insecurity is likely to emerge from the diffusion of internal
conflicts, tensions borne of interdependency, and asymmetries in economic and military power
(p. 24). Assigning a dominant role to South Africa in regional development, he argues that the


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ISSN: 2152-2448


prospects for such developments are proscribed by the need for socioeconomic reconstruction
(p.27), a restructuring of South Africa's security apparatus (p. 27), and the adoption of
compromise strategies among the major actors in South African politics.
While cogent and straightforward, this essay--like most of the essays in this volume--covers
little new ground. A glaring omission in OhIson's work that is symptomatic of most of the
essays in this volume is the absence of both a theoretical framework for the emergence of
cooperation among Southern African states in the region and a programmatic rationale for the
development of interstate cooperation. What Ohlson and others put forward amounts to a
functionalist inspired "wish-list" of African needs that are to be met as a result of some
unspecified process that emerges "from the people."
These shortcomings are also evident in Tiyanjana Maluwa's article entitled "The Refugee
Problem in the Quest for Peace and Security in Southern Africa." After acknowledging the impact
of the proliferation of refugees on the security of Southern African states, Maluwa calls for a
regional "Marshall Plan" to alleviate the refugee problem in the region (p. 139). It is not clear
whether Maluwa favors a donor-driven strategy (p. 141)--which is highly unlikely anyway--or a
regional effort focusing on the OAU and the SADC (pp. 143-4) or both. Nonetheless, beyond its
desirability, it is not clear how this Marshall Plan is to be developed and instituted. Moreover,
in "Emancipating Security and Development for Equity and Social Justice," Winnie Wanzala's
argument that "[c]onfidence-building measures should ultimately aim to delegitimize the use of
force" is laudable, but the mechanisms for such developments are unspecified. Beyond
promulgating neologisms such as "multilogues" between various "NGOs, children's groups,
student and youth groups, unions and women's groups" (p. 98), Wanzala offers a litany of
ostensible policy prescriptions that are as ambiguous as they are untenable. For example,
among the guidelines for developing a comprehensive security strategy there is the following
"The imperative to address forms of violence engendered by prevailing development and
security approaches and alternatives, by identifying and encouraging awareness about the
sources of direct, structural and cultural violence, and by encouraging questioning of socially
designated boundaries and the dualisms they inhabit [original emphasis]" (p. 98).
These vague meanderings can hardly serve as effective templates for security policy.
Among the authors in the volume, Wanzala comes closest to offering policy prescriptions
for Southern African regional stability that extend beyond primarily normatively driven "wish-
lists" (e.g. p. 43). It is not that normative arguments are unimportant; clearly, any student of this
region is immediately confronted with the atrocious human rights abuses that have plagued the
citizens of the former Frontline States. Nonetheless, in the postcolonial era, citizens of Southern
Africa require a program of action that attends to the priorities and tradeoffs that are necessary
in any plan for development, democracy, and defense. There are unavoidable asymmetries that
will accompany the reconstruction and reorientation of states such as are occurring in the
region. The promulgation of utopic wish lists simply will make a difficult situation even more
difficult as expectations rise and frustration mounts in the face of real scarcities in the internal
and external environment of these states. In such contexts, even physical security is threatened.
It follows that security analysts should pose paradigms that reflect the strengths and
limitations of Africa's newly democratizing institutions of governance without marginalizing

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the aspirations of the peoples in the region but at the same time taking into account the very
real scarcities that are unavoidable in nation-state building. While the authors are obviously
concerned with the issues of Southern African security, they collectively fail to engage the core
issues that would allow for theoretical consistency in their arguments and provide them with a
point of departure for meaningful policy prescriptions. For example, OhIson, asserts that, inter
alia, asymmetries in economic and military power militate against Southern African regional
development (p. 25-6). In Masa Sejanomane's analysis of the Lesotho Crisis of 1994, he, like
OhIson, decries the asymmetries of power and wealth in the region. Similarly, Sejanomane is
critical of the intervention of the leaders of Botswana, South Africa, and Zimbabwe in Lesotho's
succession crisis and suggests that even though their efforts appeared to decrease tensions in
the tiny state, there is little to be garnered from the Lesotho case to inform analyses of African
security (pp. 82-3). He is correct that Africans have yet to institutionalize a formal, effective (and
widely legitimized) process of conflict resolution in the region but his dismissal of the
"personalistic" attempts of the regional leaders to (even temporarily) resolve the conflict does
not even allow for the impact of "demonstration effects" of such intervention on other potential
"hot spots." This myopia is even more pronounced when we realize that it was the initiative of
this troika of leaders that led to the establishment of the Southern Africa Development
Community (SADC) Organ on Politics, Defense and Security launched in Gaborone in July of
1996 which is the linchpin of an incipient and indigenous Southern African regional security
Fundamentally, the authors in this volume fail to appreciate that the asymmetries in the
region are not simply to be decried in light of normative arguments but have to be utilized to
provide a degree of stability in the region. Campbell's contribution suffers from these
limitations as well (p. 153). Although, he correctly challenges the problems of the privatization
of violence in the hands of former security elements associated with the notorious South African
Defense Forces (SADF), especially the mercenaries of Executive Outcomes (p. 154), his
wholesale condemnation of the defense industry of South Africa dislodges his analysis from the
realities of regional development. To be sure, Southern Africa has the potential to develop as a
zone of peace, stability, and development; however, such is not likely to occur unless there is a
degree of executive and personal security borne of institutional legitimacy, economic stability,
and intercultural cooperation. The fear of coups in newly democratizing countries and
retrenchment from deposed autocrats should be checked by regional collective security
arrangements. The development of such collective security institutions will ensue, largely, as a
function of the efforts of the regional military and economic power. This role obviously
devolves to South Africa. Once apartheid-era white supremacists are expunged from the
military leadership, a democratic South Africa will have to assume the mantle of "regional
stabilizer." Clearly, regional security efforts are more likely to be successful when they are
dominated by a preponderant power that can establish multilateral security regimes that
provide collective goods, reduce transaction costs among members, engender trust among
states, and check rogue state leaders. This argument is consistent with hegemonic stability
models (Keohane 1984, Gilpin 1987) that posit that the presence of asymmetries in the
distribution of material and economic capabilities among states in a region is often more
conducive to regional stability (e.g. Weede 1976) wrought from the preponderant power's (or

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hegemon's) establishment and maintenance of international regimes to coordinate interstate
activity in some issue areass. With the preponderance of South Africa clearly established, it
would appear that Southern Africa is a candidate case for the emergence of hegemonic stability.
Although it is not clear whether the SADC is presently equipped to serve as the vehicle for
Southern African collective security coordination (see Hussein & Cilliers 1997), it appears to be
progressing toward that end (Cawthra 1997).
Not only does hegemonic stability reduce elite insecurity but it can also lead to the
amelioration of health and welfare concerns in the region. For example, in a hegemonic stability
system, the provision of a security umbrella obviates the pursuit of arms spending among states
and thereby reduces the likelihood of arms races and the conflicts they might spawn. Further,
the presence of an international security regime might prevent states from wasting newly
acquired capital on military expenditures. Botswana's recent purchases of Leopard tanks are
instructive in this regard. Beyond the security concerns that such purchases cause in the region-
-especially in Namibia which is involved in a border dispute with Botswana over an island on
the Chobe river--these expenditures would be more efficiently targeted to human capital
formation, housing, and health care. In this way, a regional hegemonic stability arrangement
might also lead to the creation of some of the more normatively inspired aspirations espoused
by the authors in Peace and Security. However, Campbell's condemnation of the historic role of
South Africa's security apparatus (which I largely concur with) seems to blind him to the
potential developmental role of a transformed South African military establishment in a post-
apartheid South African democracy. Moreover, South Africa's defense assets presently serve as
an important source of income for the state and the region though under a security regime the
resources of the South African arms sector can support African multilateral forces in
peacekeeping roles. Such arrangements might afford poorer democratizing states the
opportunity to begin to stand down their engorged military establishments and devote greater
effort (and resources) to socioeconomic development.
One comes to appreciate these possibilities once one moves beyond the critique of the
historic atrocities of the apartheid SADF and begins to address the opportunities provided by
the transformations underway in South Africa. This is not meant to minimize the apartheid
government's brutality but only to recognize the mechanisms in place that should be utilized to
promote growth, democracy, and security in the region. These are sometimes brutal realities
that scholars, policymakers, and practitioners must confront without glossing over the
difficulties associated with development, democracy, and defense. Such points seem to be lost
on the contributors to Peace and Security.
The failure of the scholars in this volume to engage the theoretical work--and much of the
empirical evidence--on the development of regional security regimes leads them to parrot one
another in decrying the asymmetries in Southern Africa instead of recognizing the possibilities
that arise from these arrangements, specifically, the conflict dampening impact of such
arrangements in light of hegemonic stability arguments. In fact, in a departure from the other
essays, Maluwa argues for the imposition "upon the body politic of the region such structures as
are necessary to ensure the existence of viable autonomous, self-sustaining political and
economic entities which can satisfy the varied needs of the citizenry and eradicate the factors
which compel nationals to flee their countries of origin"(p. 143). This "top down" approach is

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akin to hegemonic stability perspectives, but the author does not appear to recognize the
theoretical implications of his own arguments. The reader is left with a conceptual hodgepodge
of amorphous strategies and ambiguous and untenable policy prescriptions when Southern
African security challenges require much more.
All told, Peace and Security attends to some pressing issues in the region but does little to
point the way forward toward regional stability. To be sure, the authors' suggestions that
solutions should emerge "from the people" and that these solutions should be aimed at
resolving issues of security, broadly defined, has some currency. Nonetheless, bereft of a
theoretical rationale to explicate the situation as it stands, their proscriptions are largely
gratuitous. We are left with the need to construct a security framework for Southern Africa that
attends to the changed post cold war international environment and the opportunities provided
by the asymmetries in the region (which clearly are not going to "go away" in the near future). I
contend that the asymmetries that the authors decry should become the building blocks for
regional stability. In its zeal to suggest how Southern Africa "ought to be", Peace and Security
fails to adequately attend to Southern Africa "as it is".


Ayoob, M. 1995. The Third World Security Predicament: State Making, Regional Conflict, and
the International System. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner.

Buzan, B. 1991. People, States, and Fear, 2nd ed. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner.

Cawthra, G. 1997. "Subregional Security: The Southern Africa Development Community."
Security Dialogue 28, 2:207-218.

Gilpin, R. 1987. The Political Economy of International Relations. Princeton: Princeton Univ.

Henderson, E. 1995. Afrocentrism and World Politics. Westport, CT: Praeger.

Hussein, S. and J. Cilliers. (1997) "Southern Africa and the Quest for Collective Security."
Security Dialogue 28, 2:191-205.

Job, B. 1992. The Insecurity Dilemma. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner.

Keohane, R. 1984. After Hegemony. Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press.

Klare, M. and D. Thomas, eds. 1994. World Security: Challenges for a New Century, 2nd ed.
New York: St. Martins' Press.

McGeary, J. 1997. "An African for Africa" TIME 150, 9: 36-40.

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Weede, E. 1976. "Overwhelming Preponderance as a Pacifying Condition Among Contiguous
Asian Dyads, 1950-69." Journal of Conflict Resolution 20:395-411.

Errol A. Henderson
Department of Political Science
The University of Florida

Mokoko, the Makgoba Affair: A Reflection on Transformation. Malegapuru William
Makgoba. Johannesburg: Vivlia Publishers, 1997. XXIV+243pp.

Arguably the premier academic institution in South Africa, the University of the
Witwatersrand--popularly known as Wits--in Johannesburg, a bastion of white, Anglo-Saxon
liberalism, prides itself in having practised "academic non-segregation" (i.e. admitting black
students on merit) before the government's 1960 Extension of University Education Act forced it to
comply with apartheid. Indeed, many African intellectual luminaries such as Chabani
Manganyi, Vincent Maphai, Ezekiel Mphahlele, Njabulo Ndebele, Sipho Seepe, Robert Sobukwe
and Herbert Vilakazi each studied or taught there at one time or another. Yet, between October
1995 and March 1996, what became known as "The Makgoba Affair" pitted the then newly-
appointed Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic Affairs) and world-renown medical scientist, M.
William Makgoba (an African), against thirteen of his liberal colleagues (all but one of whom
were white) led by historian Charles van Onselen in a vicious and deadly power struggle for
control of the agenda for change at the University and, ultimately, for the hearts and minds of
its students and staff. It is the fascinating story of this epic battle between thirteen "conservative
Eurocentric" scholars and a lone "Africanist Afrocentric" scholar (p. xxi)--in effect, a modern
"remake" of the Battle of Makgobaskloof between his illustrious ancestor Chief Makgoba and
the cattle-farming Boers of June 1895--that is chronicled in painstaking detail by and from the
perspective of Makgoba the latter in Mokoko, The Makgoba Affair.
There are in fact two scripts, or sub-texts, to the book's main story. One is an intellectual
autobiography of Malegapuru William Makgoba, admittedly a perilous exercise for someone
who is only a few months shy of his 45th birthday. The other is a highly personal account of the
recent process of transformation occurring at Wits written by one of its main actors-turned-
victim. While the latter is to some extent informed by the former, the two sub-texts can be read
separately as two distinct scripts. This confusion des genres is one of the book's main flaws and
accounts for this reader's uneasiness in attempting to disentangle objective reality from opinion,
and fact from fiction.
By any standards, Makgoba's academic credentials are impeccable, and his scholarly
achievements most impressive. A graduate of the University of Natal's Medical School (then
reserved for Blacks), Makgoba went on to study biochemistry and to research for a D.Phil. in
human immunogenetics at Oxford University on a prestigious Nuffield Dominion Fellowship.
After a stint as lecturer in Medicine at the University of Birmingham (1983-1985), he was
selected to the National Institutes of Health's visiting scientist program in Bethesda, Maryland

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 1, Issue 3 I 1997


(1986-1988). From there, he moved to the Royal Postgraduate Medical School in London as
senior lecturer in molecular endocrinology. Finally, in October 1994, Wits, who had "head-
hunted" him for some years, made him an offer that he could not refuse: Deputy Vice-
Chancellor (Academic) and Professor Ornamentarius (meaning "ornamental"?). William
Makgoba spends an inordinate amount of time (and book space) expounding on his
outstanding academic achievements, and has a full chapter (Chapter 11, pp. 142-170) which is
nothing but an exhaustive resume detailing the numerous research grants and fellowships,
honours and distinctions gleaned during his short, but eventful carrier. He even finds it
necessary to throw in dubious distinctions, such as those conferred (usually for a price) by the
International Biographical Centre or the American Biographical Institute.
Makgoba is justifiably proud of his considerable achievements as an African scientist, but
the overkill leads him to sound intellectually pompous and arrogant and utterly self-centered, if
not downright egocentric, as the following statement clearly indicates: "I am today a
sophisticated man (...) who has earned accolades from some of the world's best and leading
institutions, mainly because of my unquestioned brilliance as a scholar and pioneering
achievements as a medical scientist, with few equals in my field and even fewer superiors" (p.
46). After all, he is not the first or the most prominent African geneticist (professor Pascal
Lissouba preceded him in this field, but went astray as president of the Congo), nor the only
world-renown African scientist (the achievements of Cheikh Diarra, a Malian-born American
scientist at NASA who supervised the Mars Exploration Program and conceived and directed
the recent Pathfinder Mission, comes to mind). What sets Makgoba apart from his fellow
African scientists is the South African environment from which he originates and in which he
must now operate, an environment pregnant with the legacy of apartheid in which
considerations of race and color still prevail over intellectual prowess and academic
achievement. It is because his thirteen colleagues had questioned his credentials, that he is
forced to overstate his accomplishments in order to set the record straight, once and for all. That
he has done so successfully is beyond question.
What is questionable is his resort to some unorthodox--and, possibly, unethical--methods
of struggle, such as his surreptitious access to his adversaries' personal files and resumes (as he
himself admits on pp. 123-126), or his consultation of traditional healers for "protective
medicines" designed to scare his enemies (recounted in minute detail on pp. 137-139), a most
intriguing practice coming from a world-renown medical scientist. There is also a distinct
paradox and inherent contradiction in the fact that on the one hand Makgoba craves for
international recognition as "a first rate, world-acclaimed African scientist" (p. xix) trained in
"some of the world's best and leading institutions" (p. 46), while on the other hand he advocates
a distinctly Afro-centric vision of South African education which, in his view, "must take into
account the primacy of Africa and what it embodies in its history, philosophy, identity and
culture" (p. 206).
The second sub-text of Makgoba's story relates to the debate around the process of
transformation occurring in South Africa's institutions of higher learning in the new political
dispensation of the post-apartheid era. Organised within "Transformation Forums" representing
all the stakeholders--students, lecturers, top administrators, as well as general administrative
and technical support staff--this process is supposed to progressively change the structure,

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 1, Issue 3 I 1997


composition and orientation of all tertiary institutions so that they adequately reflect the
interests, priorities and needs of the African majority in the country. Starting from a Pan-
Africanist position grounded in the Black Consciousness Movement, Makgoba claims, with
justification, that the liberal lobby within Wits--epitomized by the "Gang of thirteen"--was hell-
bent on slowing down and derailing this transformation process in order to maintain their
power and privileged status within the system. Indeed, Makgoba clearly implies (as on pp. 172-
173) that it is because he was perceived as a potential contender for the top job of Vice-
Chancellor (soon to become vacant) that he had to be destroyed by the still-powerful
conservative lobby within Wits. While the ultimate settlement of the dispute through legal
mediation resulted in Makgoba staying on at Wits as ad hominem professor of molecular
immunology, it effectively put him out of the race for the top job.
While the author's argument is morally, legally and politically sound, the rather inelegant
and shoddy manner in which it is put forward is highly questionable. Throwing together a
series of articles on the subject of transformation in South African higher education written
between 1995 and 1997 (Chapter 12) with minimal editorial work leads to tedious repetitions
and results in a severe lack of focus and clarity which considerably weakens the overall
argument. Likewise, the author's crude and uninspired broadsides against Marxist ideology
confirm the overall impression that if he is indeed a reputable medical scientist, he is a rather
mediocre social scientist. For whatever else may be said of Marx, he most certainly was not "(...)
a distorter, misrepresenter of information and facts"(p. 101), "reputed to have cooked (sic) his
facts to construct his theories" (p. 55). And no political historian in his right mind would dare
venture the view that "The great Marxist disciples, Mao Tse-Tung and Stalin, have both
provided the world with unquestionable evidence of the limitations and fallacies of Marxist
theory." (p. 55). We are left to surmise what that "unquestionable evidence" might be...
Based on solid moral and legal grounds, Makgoba's rather vague and ill-defined Afro-
centric approach also happens to be politically correct in the sense that it adequately and
genuinely reflects the views of the formerly excluded and marginalised but newly-empowered
majority African population in post-apartheid South Africa. Who, for instance would take issue
with his view that
"The African university must not pursue knowledge for its own sake, but for the sake of,
and the amelioration of, the conditions of life and work of the ordinary man and woman. It
must be fully committed to active participation in the social transformation, economic
modernisation, and the training and upgrading of the total human resources of the nation" (p.
Herein lies the book's greatest strength and its intrinsic value as a significant piece of
evidence to be added to the already voluminous dossier currently being compiled by various
educationists on the subject of transformation in higher education in South Africa.
As a sad footnote to this story, one should mention the fact that after a grueling selection
process, Wits appointed a renown U.S.-based South African political scientist, Sam
Nolutshungu as Vice-Chancellor-designate on October 27, 1996. In January 1997, already
suffering from the dreadful multiple myeloma that would take his life on August 14th, 1997
Nolutshungu politely declined the offer. Barely a week after Noluthungu's death, Wits officially
announced that Colin Bundy, Deputy Vice-Chancellor at the University of the Western Cape

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 1, Issue 3 I 1997


and radical scholar of some repute, had been selected as the University's next Vice-Chancellor.
Is this a case of history repeating itself? As the French saying goes plus ca change, plus c'est la
meme chose!

Guy Martin
School of Government
University of the Western Cape

Religious Pluralism and the Nigerian State. Simeon 0. Ilesanmi. Athens, OH: Monographs
in International Studies (Africa Series, No. 66), 1997. 299pp.

The overlay of global missionary religions such as Christianity and Islam on the traditional
religious map of Africa has evolved in the face of two major contradictions. One is geo-political.
Here global and traditional religions, which had a regional presence, now find themselves
contained by the boundaries of modern nation-states. The second is legal. Religions, global and
indigenous, with their own institutional and legal histories, must now negotiate their presence
and activity within the framework of national law, which with its pre-colonial conceptions, is
grounded in a secular vision that sees religions as occupying a distinct sphere, separate yet
regulated by the state.
Nigeria, as Simeon Ilesanmi points out in this study of the role of religious pluralism and
modern politics, offers a multi-layered context for analyzing these contradictions and their
historical consequences for the relationship between religion and state in Africa's most
populous country.
In choosing to address the issue, he takes the view that religious perspectives and concerns
cannot be divorced from public life, that to dichotomize religion and politics would be to create
an untenable polarity. His own approach and conclusions are intended to lead to an applied
ethic, which aims at reconciliation of diverse points by creating a public philosophical discourse
as part of Nigeria's effort to create unity. This discourse, combining theological insights against
an interdisciplinary perspective, offers a kind of world-view that links political and religious
life for the goal of "civil amity."
The first two chapters set out the theoretical perspectives and review existing scholarly and
theological perspectives on religious pluralism, politics and the state. The author's main
reference points, as laid out in the beginning of Chapter Two (p. 55) are the works of well-
known scholars and theologians such as Murray, Penny, Lovin and Reinhold Niebuhr. All their
work, however, is primarily in a Christian and Western context. Their general theoretical and
practical insights are probably very useful, but some larger context, including more detailed
references and background on theological and political issues in Latin America, the Muslim
world, and Africa might have been much more useful as a framework for looking at Nigeria's
particular situation. The "dialogic" process emphasized by the author needs to be a global one
and not driven exclusively by theoretical assumptions located within one cultural matrix of
scholarship and theological concerns.

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 1, Issue 3 I 1997


In a section dealing with the so-called Sharia debate, Dr. Ilesanmi clarifies the contradictory
attitudes that the debate has generated by masking deeper questions related to the role of
religion in public life. It is useful to remind ourselves that the discussion among Muslims in
Nigeria is influenced to a great extent by two factors: the internal diversity of Muslim opinion
and the impact of similar debates going on in other parts of the Muslim world. The assimilation
of the whole of Islam into the limited context of the Sharia debate suggests that among
Nigerians, Muslims and others, a greater awareness of the broader context of Muslim life,
public and private, needs to be developed. This complements prescriptive religious life and
enlarges the world of Nigerian Muslims, whose own specific make-up can then be viewed in
the wider context of a pluralistic religious landscape in the region as a whole, not to mention
Nigeria itself. The same situation applies to Christianity as indeed to the indigenous religions
and their overlap with Islam and Christianity in the lives of many Nigerians.
Pluralism still remains the great hope of most emerging African nation-states after the
demise of Communism. This study provides a good starting point toward identifying the
connection between religion and pluralism as a key factor in the reconstruction of public life
and common political discourse in Nigeria.

Azim A. Nanji
Department of Religion
University of Florida

Discourses on Democracy: Africa in Comparative Perspective. Julius E. Nyang'oro, editor.
Dar es Saalam: Dar es Saalam University Press, 1996. XV+311pp.: 111.

Julius E. Nyang'oro's edited volume, Discourses on Democracy: Africa in Comparative
Perspective, makes debates about African democracy available to African students and scholars.
In his introduction, the editor correctly points out that discussions about democracy in Africa
take place largely in the universities and academic journals of Europe and North America, fora
outside of Africa that rarely invite participation by the mass of Africans that are the subject of
these discussions. Published by Dar es Salaam University Press, thus presumably widely
available in the English-speaking university community in Africa, this volume helps fill the gap
between African and Western scholarship and is likely to have a seminal effect on discussions
of democracy, especially among young African scholars. A compilation of classic works about
African democracy from the late 1980s and early 1990s, the volume serves as an introduction to
the subject of African democratization valuable both to the "African University Students," to
whom the volume is dedicated, as well as to First World scholars who will appreciate the
breadth of the discussions included in this single volume.
There is no doubt that Discourses on Democracy is valuable as an introductory text, but
that said, it is also important to point out that, in bringing together a wide range of opinion and
observation, Nyang'oro neither synthesizes or priorities the arguments he presents, nor does
he make any contribution to the "cutting edge" of scholarship. Scholars who are abreast of the

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 1, Issue 3 I 1997


most recent research on African politics will find nothing new here, although the volume's
juxtaposition of theories and arguments may serve to reinvigorate old debates.
The most important contribution made by Discourses on Democracy is that it assembles in
a single volume the whole range of the debate about democracy in Africa, from the liberal
mainstream, to critiques of the currently dominant liberal paradigm. Authors such as Samir
Amin, S. N. Sangmpam, Yusuf Bangura, and Ken Post point out the difficulties of instituting
democracy at the same time as capitalist economic development is creating conditions of
extreme inequality on both domestic and international economic fronts. These authors give
pride of place to economic relationships in their analyses as they advance the notion of
"popular" democracy in Africa. Other scholars, such as Richard Sandbrook, Michael Bratton,
Naomi Chazan. and Daryl Glaser, by and large accept the vicissitudes of capitalism in Africa's
democratic equation, while they concentrate their analyses on issues of individual rights, legal
frameworks, and political process associated with "liberal" definitions of democracy. In his
introduction, Nyang'oro draws on the work of Issa Shivji to describe these two poles of
scholarship and effectively uses the tension between "popular" and "liberal" authors to enhance
the debate.
The inclusion of the "African Charter for Popular Participation in Development and
Transformation," as well as the work of Ken Post, who, in Nyang'oro's own words is "one of the
few remaining diehards who see no prospects for democratic development on the continent
under the guidance of capitalism," suggest that Nyang'oro is more intent on establishing the
limits of debate in terms of "popular" democracy than he is on communicating the dominant
liberal position. Indeed, if the volume lacks any important point of view, it is probably that of a
die-hard liberal-capitalist. Daryl Glaser's emphasis on the importance of individual rights for
democracy is as far as Nyang'oro permits the debate to go in the liberal direction. However,
considering the reality of political and economic conditionalities enforced by international
finance in Africa, it is likely that Nyang'oro's principal audience (the African intellectual) is
already all too familiar with unrepentant liberal-capitalist ideology.
Nyang'oro also includes several articles that lie outside the popular vs. liberal theoretical
framework. Richard Sklar's contribution, the oldest piece in the volume, provides a historical
backdrop to discussions of African democracy in the 1990s and serves to remind readers that it
was not long ago that scholars were calling for researchers to take up the topic of democracy in
Africa. In 1987, when Sklar's piece was first published, his was a lonely voice, but only a few
years later, his perspective appeared prescient, a testimony to the enduring appeal of
democracy in Africa and the multiple research agendas available to students of democracy.
George Sorensen's contribution concerning the role of the state in economic development is
certainly liberal in terms of theoretical assumptions, but his use of examples from the Far East
serves to critique the application of liberal economic theory in Africa. Another article which
does not fit neatly into the popular vs. liberal framework is the piece by anthropologist Maxwell
Owusu. Perhaps reflecting his disciplinary roots, Owusu focuses his analysis at the grassroots
of politics suggesting African democratization should be linked to the practices of direct
democracy that are commonly found in village level governance throughout Africa.
Because it touches upon so many aspects of the democratic debate, Discourses in
Democracy is a welcome addition to the African democratization literature. Let us hope that

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 1, Issue 3 I 1997


this important summary of a critical topic will be made widely available to its intended

Dan Ottemoeller
Department of Political Science
University of Florida

Federal-State Relations in Nigeria's Second Republic. Joseph Okoroji. London: V.O.R.
Publications, 1997. 72pp.

A common theme expressed in publications that examine the political fortunes of post-
independence Sub-Saharan Africa is frustration -- frustration that an area with such great
potential continually deflates the best-laid plans of visionaries and practically-minded
administrators, planners, and constitutional experts alike. Perhaps nowhere is this sentiment
more often expressed than in commentaries on Nigeria, a country blessed with a large,
relatively well-educated population, such abundant natural resources, and so many natural
advantages that it would seem to place in the upper tier of world nations. Instead, Nigeria
seems to always fall below the expectations of the world community. In the past thirty years,
three separate constitutions have been crafted and launched amidst much fanfare and
international acclaim. Each time, however, political forces have appeared to be out of control
and civil disorder threatened, providing ready-made excuses for the military to intervene.
Joseph Okoroji's relatively slim volume (just 72 pages) contributes to the already vast
literature on Nigeria with a rather narrowly pitched study of the trials and tribulations of
federalism during the Second Republic (1979-1983). While he never makes a clear statement
about his purpose, Okoroji seems to have two reasons for undertaking this study. Like a
number of others who have examined this subject, Okoroji seeks to determine why this second
constitutional framework failed to provide the glue required to hold Nigeria's notoriously
divided population of over 200 ethnic groups together. To this end, the author describes several
informative episodes that illustrate the non-cooperation which bedeviled the Second Republic
almost from the very beginning. These include the federal-state confrontation over the
construction of the Nnewi-Afikpo road, the struggle for control over the single national police
force, suspicions surrounding the appointment of Presidential Liaison Officers, and arguments
over reaching an equitable revenue allocation formula for the distribution of federal funds to
the nineteen states. All of these add substance to several previous articles on Nigerian
federalism that typically are long on rhetoric but short on detail.
Another purpose to this book is the author's intent to demonstrate that, in certain respects,
the Second Republic constitution actually did provide some minor successes in mitigating
conflict between rival ethnic groups and political units in the federation. It is in this latter
endeavor that we see some real contributions; so few have acknowledged these strengths since
the Second Republic fell with such a resounding crash in the last months of 1983. This point is
illustrated with a look at the federal-level Council of State, the workings of state liaison offices

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 1, Issue 3 I 1997


in state capitals, external borrowing, inter-state relations, and the way in which the "federal
character" principle was implemented in Anambra state. Unfortunately, these examples are not
described with enough detail to make them anything more than brief overviews. The author
would have done us a greater service by focusing on one or two of these cases and devoting
more analysis to them.
While I certainly wish to acknowledge the insights the author provides through the case
studies, I would be very hesitant to recommend this slim volume to any save those who are
already well initiated in the inner workings of Nigerian politics. The author does not seek to
provide any detailed background in which to center his detailed study. As a result, the reader is
confronted with a whole series of political personalities, parties, associations, and institutions
that would only be familiar to the most seasoned observers. A chapter on the colonial
experience with federalism and another on the First Republic would have been helpful in this
regard, especially since the political, social, and economic dynamics of the Second Republic
were certainly set in place long before 1979. Indeed, the politicians and leading political
movements that shaped the Second Republic were almost identical to those of the First
Readers who are already familiar with the study of Nigerian politics will find the author's
treatment of constitutional theory, institution-building, and the wider literature on Nigerian
federalism to be frustratingly inadequate. Apart from B.O. Nwabueze's 1983 work on the
Second Republic constitution, and two or three woefully out-dated pieces from the early 1960s,
the author cites no other works on the subject. As such, he ignores a rather voluminous
literature that has arisen based on the efforts of both Nigerian and foreign academics to cover
the span of three separate constitutional eras. Another problem is that the author limits his
theoretical treatment of federalism only to aspects of structural design. This leaves the
theoretical underpinnings of the book open to much criticism. For example, there is no
consideration given to the large literature on state-society relations and political culture that
could give additional insight as to why the level of constitutional choice has been so ineffective
in resolving deep societal divisions in Nigeria. Also ignored is the even more extensive
literature on Nigerian political economy and incipient class formation.
In the final chapter, the author muses about a particular model of federalism that might be
preferable for Nigeria, especially given its past history. A brief analysis is offered of the
applicability of the federal constitutions of Germany and Canada, but ironically, no mention at
all is made of the Third Republic constitution that was brought into existence by the Babangida
military government in 1989. This is an egregious oversight for a book published as late as 1997!
The Third Republic constitution offered some new modifications to the Second Republic model,
especially in the realm of federalism, and the author should have devoted some attention to it.
All in all, I find little useful in this book to recommend beyond the details provided in the
brief case studies.

Donald C. Williams
Department of History
Western New England College

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 1, Issue 3 I 1997

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