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Operations ‘Leopard’ and ‘Red Bean’ - Kolwezi 1978

Operations ‘Leopard’ and ‘Red Bean’ - Kolwezi 1978 Book Review

By David L. Veres

Date of Review March 2019 Title Operations ‘Leopard’ and ‘Red Bean’ - Kolwezi 1978
Author Daniel Kowalczuk Publisher Helion
Published 2019 ISBN 9781912390595
Format 80 pages, softbound MSRP (USD) $29.95


With Angola and Mozambique succumbing to Marxism in the mid-1970s, Western leaders sought to contain Africa's communist contagion – the same quest that, ironically, fueled their involvement in the continent's first great post-colonial conflict: Congo's civil war.

That's the background to Operations 'Leopard' and 'Red Bean' - Kolwezi 1978: French and Belgian intervention in Zaire – 32nd in Helion's terrific "Africa@War" series.

Available in North America from Casemate, author Daniel Kowalczuk's annotated, picture-packed coverage broadly divides into three sections – all with informative sidebars, tables, and commentary.

The first sets the stage with four illuminating background chapters:

  • History of Congo-Zaïre
  • The Zaïroise military
  • Foreign military participants – French, Belgian, and African
  • Angola and the "Katangese movement"

The second respectively charts 1977 and 1978 Shaba province fighting in two chapters. Chronologically coursing through all major actions, text recaps key Zaïroise, insurgent, and international personnel, formations, deployments, weapons, and equipment. And the neatly balanced commentary notes, for instance, atrocities against civilians by both Zaïroise and Katangan forces.

A final "conclusions" chapter constitutes the book's third part. But with substantial help, the outcome seemed pre-ordained: Zaïre's Mobutu Sese Seko continued his despotic kleptocracy for two decades more.

The lavishly illustrated effort sports dozens of photos, 12 aircraft profiles, three military vehicle profiles, maps, and – in, I think, an "@War" first – three color uniform plates.

Extended, explanatory captions accompany all. And abbreviations, biographic sidebars, four appendices, bibliographic notes, and tables further supplement the study.

Needless repetition, however, occasionally taints text. Within just a few pages, for instance, Kowalczuk mentions FAZA christening MB.326GBs "Sukisa" and expanding the Italian-run 13th Training Wing in very similar language.

I'd also hardly list the Nigerian Civil War among Africa's post-colonial "minor conflicts". And that's a DC-6 – not a DC-8 – on page 53. So are DC-8s in body text really DC-6s?

Quibbles all.

This illuminating "Africa@War" installment superbly summarizes these Cold War conflicts. On so many levels, Kowalczuk's slim study neatly covers key issues of post-WWII African political and military history.

It's an effective introduction to these. And I loved it.

My sincere thanks to Casemate Publishing for this review sample!