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Book Review by Ifedinma Dimbo

Last update - Saturday, February 15, 2014, 02:43 By Metro Éireann

Congo By Thomas Turner(Polity Books)

Being an adjunct professor of Political Science at Virginia Commonwealth University and a specialist on the DR Congo for Amnesty International, Thomas Turner is well poised to provide the readers with the facts on the ground in the Congo region, such a hot spot of problems today.
With his book delving into this “perennial” trouble zone, Turner delineates the various academic debates that offer insights into what may have brought on the conflicts that remain a thorn in the flesh of peace, with no foreseeable end in sight.
According to Turner, the region’s first colonialist, King Leopold of Belgium, is seen as the architect of Congo’s ruin. But as I read through his Turner’s text, a question surfaces and refuses to go away: can it be said that the people of Congo are inherently unruly and violent, but needing the likes of King Leopold as a catalyst to activate these weaknesses?
The problems in Congo have no easy answers, observes Turner, and as such he adopts the option of dispassionately discussing the numerous issues involved, which, he hopes, may provide the way towards resolution.
It’s when he gets to his fourth chapter that he offers his most remarkable insights into the core of what appears to be the real issues of Congo’s turmoil, where a combustible mix of a failed state, invasion by neighbours, the vastness of the country and the impossibility of governing it, ethnically tinged (identity) conflicts and the curse of abundant natural resources keeps the fires of greed burning.
Congo the book, Turner claims, is “an effort to synthesise what is known about the perennial conflict that has torn apart Congo since the days of Leopold’s Congo Free State.” And his closing narrative seems to sum it all when he says “in short, DRC remains a hot spot, simmering on; there is perennial danger of a flare-up producing another major conflagration.” This remark more than defines the helplessness that is strangling the Congo region.
Being from Nigeria, another country with rich mineral resources and its own share of conflict, I could not help but ask how Congo’s wealth became such a burden? The tragedy that is Congo appears too unwieldy and apparently difficult to contain by the government, exploitative western powers and do-gooders alike, making me wonder, will these problems continue till the nation is torn apart?
Technically speaking, however, the text falls down. Turner tries to present his study from a variety of perspectives, but there seems to be so much going on that it may come across as too incoherent for the average reader to grasp, despite being a slim volume of barely 200 pages.

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