■ Turner, Thomas, 2007. The Congo Wars: Conflict, Myth and Reality. London: Zed. 243 pp. ISBN 9781842776896

Published date01 January 2008
Date01 January 2008
Subject MatterArticles
issues in researching violent societies, held at the
University of Ibadan, Nigeria, in 2002. The work-
shop was organized by INCORE (International
Conflict Research) at the University of Ulster in
Northern Ireland, where two of the editors are
based. Five of the twelve contributors are African
scholars based in Africa, reflecting a deliberate
decision to counter ‘the unfortunate trend in
African studies that allows researchers on the con-
tinent to be bypassed and ignored in the produc-
tion of knowledge about their societies’ (p. 4). The
first chapter, by Marie Smyth, discusses the
distinction between ‘insider’ and ‘outsider’ re-
searchers in violent and divided societies. This is
a very valuable analysis that provides an additional
perspective on the case-study chapters. This is fol-
lowed by a thought-provoking reflection on the
role of the researcher in preventing and managing
violent conflict, written by Albrecht Schnabel.
The seven case studies cover various types of con-
flict settings in West, Central and Southern Africa.
These chapters are, to a varying degree, focused on
ethical and methodological issues. The quality of
the case-study chapters is highly uneven, testifying
to what was probably a challenging process of five
editors trying to produce a coherent volume from
a heterogeneous set of papers. As a result, the book
is not quite the authoritative volume suggested by
the title Researching Conflict in Africa. Its focus on
practical research issues can make it useful to grad-
uate students, although some guidance might be
Jørgen Carling
Robb, John, 2007. Brave New War: The Next
Stage of Terrorism and the End of Globalization.
Hoboken, NJ: Wiley. xiii + 208 pp. ISBN
John Robb has written an interesting and thought-
provoking book that lives up to its preface, which
warns of its ‘almost too many’ ideas. The book starts
with a cogent analysis of the insurgency in Iraq.
Robb correctly highlights two salient factors: that
the insurgency is made up of a plethora of disparate
groups who loosely cooperate and develop tech-
niques; and that some of their most important
attacks have been upon the country’s economic,
political and public service infrastructures. In add-
ition to body counts, the true measure of that con-
f lict is in homes without electricity or water, lost oil
production, and costs of private security. Robb then
describes how the Iraqi model of insurgency is being
used across the globe – he cites examples in Nigeria,
the Caucasus and Pakistan. He then concludes that
all liberal democracies are very vulnerable to attacks
against their political and economic infrastruc-
tures – and that they will soon suffer critical attacks
by ‘global guerillas’ which will subvert democracy
and globalization. It is with this apocalyptic turn
that the book reveals its faults. Robb tends to be
very uncritical of evidence that supports his case –
for example, he repeats estimates of the economic
damage caused by city-wide power cuts and terrorist
attacks. However, many of these costs are accounted
for by ‘lost income’, but such sales may just have
been deferred rather than permanently lost. More
importantly, he fails to address why Iraq is not
a unique phenomenon. Iraq is probably a perfect
environment for such an insurgency – it has
endured dictatorship, three interstate wars and
a crippling economic blockade – rather than the
shape of things to come.
Nicholas Marsh
Turner, Thomas, 2007. The Congo Wars:
Conflict, Myth and Reality. London: Zed. 243 pp.
ISBN 9781842776896.
Thomas Turner provides a convincing and succinct
evaluation of the factors which led to the deaths of
over three million Congolese. Testament to the
multifarious aspects of the confl ict, a multitude of
levels of analysis are employed to understand how
‘half a holocaust’ transpired in this central African
country. Whether or not such a phrase is appropri-
ate to depict the two wars (1996–97 and
1998–2002), Turner does elucidate that the blood-
iest confl ict since World War II is less a matter of
hyperbole than basic fact. The author insightfully
outlines the historic, cultural/anthropological, eco-
nomic, social, political, ethnic and international
themes which resulted in the conflict. What is clear
is that previous texts have often neglected the com-
plexity and fl uidity of the situation in the
Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). While
the conclusions could be more substantive, Turner
manifests a compelling case for understanding and
therefore resolving the crisis. The closing chapters
highlight the roles of both the United Nations and
the 2006 elections and provide a useful point of
departure to assess the DRC’s post-conflict future.
The book, by the very nature of any publication,
provides a somewhat static interpretation of con-
fl ict resolution. This is especially so in a highly
capricious and dysfunctional state like the Congo,
whose period of postwar transition and reconcili-
ation is far from complete. Even after the recent
elections (when Turner’s analysis finishes), the
DRC has been mired in controversy. These very
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