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Modern African Wars (4): The Congo 1960–2002

Modern African Wars (4): The Congo 1960–2002 Book Review

By David L. Veres

Date of Review April 2014 Title Modern African Wars (4): The Congo 1960–2002
Author Peter Abbott Publisher Osprey Publishing
Published 2013 ISBN 9781782000761
Format 48 pages, softbound MSRP (USD) $17.95


Remember "Cliff's Notes"?  The perennially popular study guides helped countless American students course the almost cabalistic conundra of classical literature.

Teachers shunned them.  But Cliff's Notes provided proverbial "big pictures", letting readers acquire details for themselves.

Such is the case with this convenient, compact history from OSPREY.

The Congo 1960–2002 – fourth in the publisher's occasional "Modern African Wars" titles, and no. 492 in its popular "Men-at-Arms" series – skillfully summarizes the military structures of opposing forces in this appallingly endless African tragedy.

It's all here: government forces, separatist elements, indigenous insurgents, and UN and international interventionists.  Familiar names surface, too: Mobutu and Mulele, Schramme and Tshombe, CIA and Simbas.  And while coverage concentrates on land participants, author Abbott also references – here and there – air and naval assets.

Contents chronologically course through the total tale.  Photos, extended captions, maps and an index augment the account.  A handy glossary lists principal abbreviations.  And 24 excellent color plates nicely recap 50 years of colorful Congolese combat uniforms.

Nitpicks?  Some.  Given their scope and sweep, Congo's recent wars frankly merit, in my opinion, a separate volume.  Mobutu's backing of the FNLA (Frente Nacional de Libertação de Angola) – not UNITA – propelled Angola's support of Katangan gendarmes during 1970s Shaba incursions.  The few annotations simply reference other Osprey titles.  And, surprisingly, Abbott includes no selected bibliography.  So for additional references, you're on your own.

Still, for a primer on Congo's murderous military history, get this concise chronicle.  And make it your launchpad to further study of this chronic conflict.


My sincere thanks to Osprey Publishing for this review sample!