Explaining the Failure of Democracy in the Democratic Republic of Congo

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This work traces the remote origins of Congo’s current national predicament and the people’s protracted quest for democracy and social justice. The first part of the book provides an account of the political history of modern Congo which sets the context for the second part, an in-depth discussion of the interplay of internal and external forces in Congo and their impact on the politics of democratic transition in the country from 1990 through the early 2000s. Arguing that recent popular resistance against political dictatorship in Congo builds on a long-standing tradition, the author offers critical analysis of post-Cold War configuration of pro-democracy forces (or the appearance thereof) inside the country and at the global level, which compelled President Mobutu to inaugurate political reform in April 1990. Against this backdrop, he assesses the roles played by the Sovereign National Conference (SNC), the transitional institutions established by the SNC, and the Sacred Union of opposition, all of which emerged during the early 1990s in response to the government’s decision to lift the ban on partisan political activity. With particular reference to the 1996–97 war, which toppled Mobutu’s regime, and the 1998–2003 war against the Kabila regime, the author analyses the events leading up to internationalization of Congo’s transition crisis and the roles played by principal actors from the country’s rival political factions and their international allies in the two conflicts. The book concludes with cautious optimism about the prospects for democracy and sustainable economic development in the post-Mobutu Congo and an overview of some of the practical steps that must be taken by the Congolese people and the global community in order to realize these objectives.


“It is rare to find, in English, such a succinct explication, synthesis, and analysis of Congolese Politics and History. Dr. Afoaku takes the reader through four hundred and seventy-eight years of foreign interference and exploitation of the Congolese people ... [and] gives a chronology of the ill-rule, non-rule and misrule by indigenous Congolese political actors beginning with the brief rule and sad annihilation of Prime Minister Lumumba and his government by the CIA and local Congolese agents, the senseless brutalities of the corrupt dictator. Mobutu, and the undemocratic but short-lived governance of Laurent Desire Kabila ... This work also lucidly demonstrates, without a doubt, the ripple effects of the Cold War and its aftermath on the Congo ... it also elucidates the historical connection between the Congo and its surrounding geo-political zones and the Cross-Atlantic Slave Trade ... Like many African countries, autocracy, colonialism, political misrule and fragmentation, economic slavery, as well as greed and theft have left an indelible dent on Congolese polity and economy. No other scholar discusses and synthesizes this fact better than Dr. Afoaku. There is no doubt that this gem by Dr. Afoaku acts as a confluence of politics, history, anthropology, sociology, and international relations.” – Professor Samuel Gyasi Obeng, Indiana University

“Dr. Afoaku has provided us with a book that will facilitate our understanding of this troubled country. He introduces us to the country with a cogent analysis of its problems … This book has fulfilled its aim of analyzing the Congo’s political history and the checkered fate of its people’s struggle for democracy and social justice in recent years. Readers will also find insightful analysis on the solutions to move the country forward ... The optimism of Dr. Afoaku, his passion for history as well as politics, and his belief in the future of the Congo deserve both our praise and support. We praise him because he has devoted his time to remind us of a tortuous history.” – Professor Toyin Falola, University of Texas at Austin and Fellow of the Nigerian Academy of Letters

“The author succeeds in providing readers with an excellent excursion into several aspects of Congolese politics, with particular emphasis on the dynamics of autocratic rule and political dissent in post-independent Congo ... Scholars, the world over, must be grateful to Professor Afoaku for finding the time and the energy to research and provide us with a very useful publication in the English language, especially since most of the previously published books on the Congo, although also useful, were written in the colonial language, French.” – Professor A. B. Assensoh, Indiana University

Table of Contents

1. Introduction
2. Autocracy and Dissent in Colonial Congo
3. Cold War and Personal Rule
4. The Rise and Fall of the Sacred Union
5. The 1996–97 Rebellion and Mobutu’s Fall from Power
6. The Anti-Kabila Revolt and Its Consequences
7. Summary and Conclusions

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