Ripe for Rebellion
...Number 51 in the Africa@War series, from Helion & Company, via Casemate
Title: Ripe for Rebellion
Author: Stephen Rookes
Publisher: Helion & Company
This one reaches number 51 in Helion's Africa@War series, subtitled 'Political and Military Insurgency in the Congo, 1946-1964'. An 80-page soft-cover book, in the usual style for the series. The first of two volumes to look at the crisis that took place in the newly independent state of the Congo, in the early 1960s.
As with any historical story, it isn't simply the chronology of events that happened but a lot of background and context that contributed to the wider story. It begins with the history of the region from the early 1900s, a time when there were 'Imperial' ambitions for many of the countries of Western Europe in particular. In this case that was specifically Belgium. The Congo not only has good, fertile soils, but beneath them there are also a number of valuable mineral resources, in large quantities. The history of exploitation of the country makes for depressing reading when judging things by todays' standards, though life was very different in the early 1900s. Eventually, under Belgian control, there were efforts to improve education and involvement of Congolese nationals but when in 1960 they handed over power to an independent state, things quickly became chaotic. The book explains these events, including the internal differences between different regions within the country and also tribal differences, let alone the rivalry between individuals seeking power. That led to the assassination of the initial Prime Minister and a number of violent, armed rebellions. Massacres of civilians, especially European ex-pats, led to deployment of UN peacekeepers, and later Belgian troops to protect Europeans and try to bring peace. If that wasn't enough, there was involvement of other nations, trying to bring Congo under their sphere of influence, so Russia and the USA among others.
This first volume is fascinating, it shows just how complex (and difficult) it is to get agreement on government by the various interests, both internal and external. In the Congo it involved some violent conflict. Among these events the work of secretive organisations such as the CIA, Russian arms support, and the various armed groups within the country do not generally keep detailed written records, so piecing this kind of history together is not an easy task. Add the archive photos, original artwork, including maps, and though there is more to the story, this is not the end of it but even by itself, this makes for interesting reading.
Thanks to Helion Publishing, and distributor Casemate UK for our review copy.