The First and Second Congo War saw upwards of 6 million people killed between the mid-1990s to the mid-2000s, and involved armed forces and militias from across the continent. How are we to understand this horrific and protracted war?
From Gerard Prunier’s Africa’s World War: Congo, the Rwandan Genocide, and the Making of a Continental Catastrophe (2009):
…the expression “Africa’s First World War,” used by the Africans themselves, is only partially correct. Yes, Rwanda and the Congo experienced in several ways the anger, the fear, the hatred that were evident in Belgrade, Paris, and Berlin in 1914. But in the case of Angola, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Burundi, and Namibia the pattern of conflict was much older and prenationalistic: it was more like the Thirty Years’ War that had ravaged Europe between 1618 and 1648. For most of the African countries involved, as had been the case for seventeenth-century Sweden, Poland, France, and Lithuania, the war took place purely because of the princes’ ambitions, prejudices, and security fears. And the Congo, like Germany in the seventeenth century, was their battlefield. The violence and the meaninglessness were the same. In Burundi and Angola, already ravaged by civil wars of their own, projecting troops into the DRC had just been an extension of internal conflicts, and in Zimbabwe and Uganda, where the Congolese intervention was highly unpopular, it was perceived as an elite strategy that had nothing to do with the ordinary lives of ordinary people. For the really peripheral actors, such as the Sudan, Chad, Libya, and the Central African Republic, the populations were barely aware of their country’s involvement in the Congo; if and when they were aware, they saw it as their leaders’ political calculations about domestic problems, having almost nothing to do with the Congo itself. None of the nationalistic fervor that was such an essential feature of the First World War was in evidence in any of these countries. This set Rwanda and the Congo, where the mass of the population deeply cared about the war, in a category apart. (285-6)
…”Africa’s First World War” will probably remain a unique phenomena, but one that was, here again like the Thirty Years’ War in Europe, a transforming moment in the history of the continent. Albeit in ways that are quite far from the international community-approved ways, Africa has now entered the modern age. Following its own rocky road. (364)
A recent NPR Marketplace segment covered an expansion of government-backed student financial aid to include for-profit “nontraditional training and education programs”, many of which are geared toward technology work; the featured company is a coding bootcamp that produces software engineers via an intensive 3-5 month course.
We can expect these kinds of changes to the national education system–away from traditional avenues of university-centered higher education, toward more rapid, industry-centered schools — to accelerate as the economy becomes more and more dependent on software and programming. This will be driven both by increased demand from workers who are looking to gain skills for entry into a world of relatively high wages, and by corporations looking to fight these high wages by increasing the supply of labor. And as this process accelerates, we can expect an intensification of the attacks on subjects, fields, and departments that are not geared toward producing workers (i.e. ethnic studies, history) — attacks that have already been underway with the seemingly inexorable privatization of public colleges and universities that started back in the early 1990s.
How will leftists on the campuses respond? I’m not particularly optimistic; for the past couple of decades, the student movement seems to be stuck in a reactive, defensive position that continually fails at influencing the general direction of how higher education is funded and run. This is probably because of the class and social position of students and other people in academia; its far too easy to abstract campus struggles away from the rest of society, and without any concrete connections to movements outside the ivory tower, student/academia struggles are impotent against administrators, who have many friends in government and industry.
Off-campus, the growing “tech-ification” of the workforce points toward a future where tech workers face proletarianization, and lose their ability to negotiate high wages and maintain a professional and upwardly-mobile status. Radical leftists should take stock of this emerging trend in the recomposition of capital and class, and begin right away to try to influence and organize leftist and progressive engineers, scientists, programmers, etc. One important task is to investigate what kinds of ideology are being produced by new forms of tech education (presumably, some kind of libertarian and professional mindset), and how to intervene against it.