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Ripe For Rebellion

Ripe For Rebellion Book Review

By David L. Veres

Date of Review May 2022 Title Ripe For Rebellion
Author Stephen Rookes Publisher Helion
Published 2020 ISBN 9781913336233
Format 88 pages, softbound MSRP (USD) $29.95


Stephen Rookes deftly distills “Political and Military Insurgency in the Congo, 1946-1964” in Ripe For Rebellion – 51st in Helion’s superb “Africa@War” range.

Cold War history remains rife with proxy wars between East and West – many in emerging “Third World” settings. And 60 years ago, the Congo – then Africa’s second largest country – captured world headlines, dominated international debate, and spurred events that tragically resonate today.

Rookes’ primer competently captures the nascent nation’s tumultuous formative years across eight chapters spanning 88 picture-packed pages:

  • Congo pre-independence
  • Congolese political development, 1946-1959
  • From Independence to Crisis
  • Political insurgency in Stanleyville, 1960-1961
  • Political and military insurgency in Katanga, 1960-1963
  • The Chinese Method in Africa: the Kwilu Rebellion
  • The Kivu Rebellion
  • Counter-insurrection in the Congo, 1964

Charting both domestic and international influences, coverage chronicles events, conflicts, personalities, politics, and economics. And revelations abound.

Did you know that Belgian Congo possessed “the highest developed educational system in tropical Africa by 1958”? And did you know that three years earlier, the colony boasted the highest, sub-Sahara per capita income?

Neither did I.

Rookes’ lavishly illustrated effort sports dozens of rare photos. Maps put commentary into geographic perspective. And 18 color plates – seven military vehicles by David Bocquelet, nine aircraft by Tom Cooper, and six uniforms by Anderson Subtil – proffer potent project potential.

A helpful abbreviations and acronyms glossary, robust selected bibliography, and extended captions nicely conclude contents.

Unfortunately, occasional gaffs and gremlins stalk this otherwise commendable chronicle.

In February 1961, Egypt was not a distinct entity apart from the United Arab Republic. And names of those posh Stanleyville avenues reflect local flora – not “fauna”.

Additionally, de Havilland Vampires were hardly considered “bombers”. Accounts of Hubert Fauntleroy Julian, the so-called “Black Eagle of Harlem”, frankly remain as reliable as those of Jerry Puren. And English doesn’t require apostrophes to form plurals – as in, for instance, “Harvard’s”.

Faults and flaws aside, Ripe For Rebellion conveniently captures the Congo’s early upheavals. As Rookes acidly observes, it “had witnessed a quasi-permanent state of war between one warring faction or another” since 1961.

Little has changed over six decades since independence: the Congo remains a political, economic, and social wreck. For a helpful handbook on this Cold War hot spot, grab Rookes’ enlightening effort.


With thanks to Casemate Publishing for the review copy!