Congo and Africa’s World War: Crash Course World History 221

Congo and Africa’s World War: Crash Course World History 221

Hi, I’m John Green, this is Crash Course World History,
and today were going to talk about the Congo. Mr. Green! Mr.Green! We’re gonna to talk about
the Conga? No, Me From the Past, you idiot, that is a
dance. However, your epic, epic ignorance does indicate that perhaps we don’t do a
particularly good job when it comes to talking about African history in world history classes. So today we’re gonna look at what happened
to the Congo after decolonization but in particular what happened during the 1990s and early 2000s
as Congo, or Zaire, or the Democratic Republic of Congo was embroiled in what some people
have called Africa’s World War. European colonization in Africa was generally
pretty, you know, bad. But it was particularly terrible in the Congo. There’s a great book
about it called King Leopold’s Ghost, which details the brutality of life under Leopold’s
Congo Free State, and the international efforts to improve things there. Leopold essentially
owned Congo, and he ruled it as his private fiefdom from 1884 until 1906, when he was
forced to turn over the colony to the Belgian government. From 1906 until independence in
1960, the territory was known as the Belgian Congo and while the Belgians were far less
brutal than Leopold’s agents had been, life for the Congolese under Belgian rule was also
not good. And then there was this sudden decolonization in the Congo and in a lot of ways the region
was unprepared to become an independent state, like the Congo’s new leaders didn’t have much
formal education or leadership experience. There weren’t many trained experts in, really
anything, there were very few college graduates, no one had the skills to run an army or a
government or an economy. But I wanna be clear: that wasn’t the Congo’s fault, it was because
there weren’t educational or leadership opportunities available to Congolese people. In 1965, a former army sergeant and journalist
named Joseph Mobutu staged a coup and seized control of the government. Now, he turned
out to be a terrible leader, but in his first decade in charge, he did some good stuff.
For instance, he hosted The Rumble in the Jungle, arguably the greatest heavy-weight
boxing match of all time between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman, featuring the famous
rope-a-dope. Stan says he did some actually important things
and that boxing isn’t actually important. Okay! From 1965 to 1975, Mobutu was able to
build the economy based on this huge copper boom. And then he destroyed the economy by
appropriating most of the local businesses and turning them over to his cronies. He built
the first hydroelectric dam in the region as well as hospitals and, most importantly
for his rule, a state television system that could broadcast national pageantry that celebrated
Mobutu and his family. Mobutu also changed the name of the country in 1971 from Congo
to Zaire and he changed the names of many colonial cities like Leopoldville became Kinshasa,
Stanleyville became Kisangani, Elisabethville became Lubumbashi. And initially his coup
was seen as a positive by many Congolese, but pretty early on it became clear that this
wasn’t going to be like a peaceful open government. And Mobutu’s Zaire was also really corrupt,
like the underlying source of Mobutu’s power was his ability to grant favors to his friends,
a strategy known as clientelism or cronyism and Mobutu was great at it. And in order to
keep his cronies happy, Mobutu raided the National Treasury again and again, he actually
stymied development, in order to get more foreign aid, which he then used as an alternative
source of income. And then there was this huge crash of commodity prices, including
copper, that followed the Vietnam War and that plunged Zaire into debt. In 1975 Zaire’s
foreign debt totaled 887 dollars. The next year, the IMF launched its first
stabilization plan for Zaire, a loan of 47 million dollars. In exchange for that loan,
Mobutu agreed to cut public spending, devalue the currency, raise taxes and put the country’s
financial house in order. Needless to say, that did not happen, there was a need for
more and more and more loans, and by 1990 Zaire’s total national debt topped out at
10 billion dollars. But even as Mobutu drove Zaire into decline,
there were no serious challenges to his power, because opposition was incredibly risky, critics
of the regime faced arrest, torture, exile — at times murder. And in the end it was
outside forces that forced Mobutu from power. So the Rwandan genocide of 1994 is familiar
to many Americans, often as an example of the impotence of America in the face of post-Cold
War problems, and also because it was horrific. But less well known is the role that these
events played in the disintegration of the Congo. So conflict in Rwanda between Hutu and Tutsi
people probably pre-dates Rwanda’s independence from Belgium in 1962. But the path to genocide
began in 1990, when the Tutsi-led Rwandan Patriotic Front began to cross the border
into Rwanda from their bases in Uganda. Between 1990 and 1994 approximately 20,000
people were killed and 1.5 million displaced in this conflict.
And then in 1994 the plane of Rwanda’s Hutu president was shot down and Rwandan Hutus
began murdering Rwandan Tutsis, killing between 800,000 and a million people in three months. This did not stop the Rwandan Patriotic Front,
which in fact increased its attacks on Rwanda and then under leader Paul Kagame, they succeeded
in taking over the country, leading to more than 2 million people fleeing, most of them
to Eastern Zaire. Almost 850,000 people crowded into refugee camps around the city of Goma
in Zaire. Kagame desperately wanted to hold the Hutus
living in those refugee camps accountable for crimes against Tutsis, but in order to
do that, he would have to invade a sovereign territory, so he helped to set up the Alliance
des Forces Démocratiques pour la Libération and yes, I did take three years of high school
French. The AFDL or ah-eff-deh-ell for us French speakers,
was made up of Zairians and would do the dirty work of killing Hutu refugees for Kagame,
and to outside eyes, it would appear to be a domestic uprising against Mobutu. So on May 29th, 1997, the victorious AFDL
leader Laurent Kabila was sworn in as president of the newly renamed Democratic
Republic of Congo. Mobutu fled to Morocco and died there four months later. And that’s
where the story should end, with the fall of the dictator and the rise of a new nation
that lives up to the “democratic” in its name. But that did not happen. Between 1997 and 2000, everything in the Congo
fell apart and the country descended further into chaos. Kabila’s rapid conquests of Zaire
and the ouster of Mubutu along with the killing of hundreds of thousands of Rwandan refugees
was what some call The First Congo War. The Second Congo War was the revolt against Kabila
that lasted from 1998 to 2002. Kabila proved inept and authoritarian and an astonishingly
poor head of state, but his biggest mistake was expelling the Rwandans who had helped
put him into power, which is what started The Second Congo War. Like a lot of conflicts,
this isn’t a straightforward good versus evil thing, and it’s also not a thing with just
two sides. There are also a lot of initialisms involved, which makes it a little bit hard
to follow, but its basic contours are relatively straightforward. Let’s go to the Thought Bubble. So Rwanda invaded the Congo and nearly took
Kinshasa, but Kabila was able to put together a coalition of other countries that saw Rwanda,
Uganda, and Burundi as a threat. This coalition which included Angola and Namibia stopped
the Rwandan advance and the fighting, leading to the Lusaka peace agreement, which, as you
might suspect, did not last. The fighting instead shifted to the eastern part of the
DRC, especially the rich mining regions of Kivu and Katanga, and pretty quickly, the
cause of the fighting turned from politics to profit. Kabila’s government supported local
militias who fought the Rwandan and Ugandan armies, and then eventually each other over
control of the valuable gold, diamonds and other resources there. Fighting provided a
sense of purpose, and also one of the only ways to make a living in a failed economy.
It was also incredibly brutal. According to one man who participated in the horror, “A soldier is like a dog. If you open the
gate, he causes damage. In the morning, before we were sent out, our leader would say: ‘Go
out and do something foolish.’ We ransacked houses, we took cell phones, money, and gold
necklaces from people.” There was also widespread rape and murder.
The war continued so long because it was so profitable, but a turning point came when
Laurent Kabila was assassinated by some of his own child-soldier bodyguards in January,
2001. African diplomats negotiated a ceasefire, largely in South Africa, and the resulting
peace accord required a two-year transitional period monitored by the largest UN peace-keeping
force ever assembled. Thanks, Thought Bubble. So, this transitional
government continued the Congolese pattern of corruption. According to historian David
Van Reybrouck, “They emulated the abuses of Mobutuism with
a zeal that would have startled Mobutu himself.” In the absence of an effective central government,
non-profit organizations and local civil society agencies including Pentecostal churches stepped
in to provide some of the services that governments usually provide. And then on July 30th, 2006,
The Democratic Republic of Congo held elections for president and parliament. Now, no single
presidential candidate won a majority and in the runoff election on December 6th, Joseph
Kabila, son of Laurent Kabila became Congo’s first democratically elected president since
1960. What kind of democracy elects family dynasties?
The Adams, the Roosevelts, the Bushes, we tried to do the Kennedys, but they kept getting
assassinated. Sorry, this isn’t a particularly funny episode.
Even the jokes are dismal. The DRC created a new constitution with checks
and balances, a new parliament, and a constitutional court. On paper it looked good, but Kabila
proved to be a ruler in his father’s mold. He used violence to silence his main rival
and had little control over most of his soldiers. The parliament voted salary increases for
themselves while shirking most of the other responsibilities of governing. By 2009, only 5 countries scored lower than
the DRC in the UN Human Development Index. Today, 30% of the population is illiterate
and 54% have no access to clean drinking water. Now, for many westerners, this is continued
proof of Congo’s backwardness, perhaps even hopelessness. And it’s true that this
region has had tremendous struggles in the 50 years since Europe left more or less over
night. Having created an infrastructure that was designed not for a nation state, but for
a colony, whose resources were to be extracted for the wealth of the colonizer. But these days, there is a new player in the
world of international economic development – China. And this is one of the most interesting
stories in the world today. Initially, the first Chinese investors in the DRC were private
traders willing to gamble on the wild west aspects of Congolese capitalism, but in 2007,
the DRC negotiated a huge deal with the People’s Republic of China. China would invest 9 billion dollars in the
DRC’s infrastructure in return for future revenue from DRC resources. Now, to many,
this looks a lot like neocolonialism – we’ll help build your country if only we can extract
your resources. But at least so far, the biggest complaints
have come not from the Congolese people, but from the IMF and other western financial institutions
that stand to lose the only leverage over the DRC that they still possess. So this is a very complicated relationship,
like, for instance, Congolese women are taking advantage of new commercial relationships
with China to start their own businesses. And that’s really cool. On the other hand,
cheap Chinese textiles are destroying local manufacture in the DRC just as they are almost
everywhere. And it’s far too soon to say whether this is going to be great for the people of
the DRC or will be just another example of large powers using less powerful countries
as, like, pawns in some big geopolitical game. Americans tend to have very negative views
about Africa, which they tend to imagine very monolithically. But Africa is huge and it
is also hugely diverse. Seven of the ten fastest growing nations in the world are in Africa.
The DRC is not one of them, precisely because of the instability that it has seen in the
last 50 years. This is one of the largest nations in Africa — probably the richest in
natural resources. It’s a magnet for Chinese investment, which will certainly be one of
the most important stories in coming decades. And it’s played a pivotal role in Sub-Saharan
African history in the last 50 years. Conflicts in the DRC also led to the largest UN peace-keeping
intervention to date, the first joint European Union military action, and the first arrests
and trials of The International Criminal Court. So this is a vital place in the world to understand
and to study and to pay attention to. The events of the past 50 years in this part of
the world are important for Congolese people who have suffered through them, but they are
also important for the rest of us. As David Van Reybrouck argues, “Congolese history has helped
to determine and form the history of the world.” Thanks for watching. I’ll see you next week. Crash Course is filmed here in the Chad and
Stacey Emigholz Studio in Indianapolis and it’s possible because of the support of our
Subbable subscribers including our lead sponsor,, which is a magazine
and bookstore dedicated to poetry, literature and art, you can check them out at the link
in the dooblydoo. Thanks to all of our Subbable subscribers
and thanks to you for watching. As we say in my hometown – don’t forget to
be awesome.

100 thoughts on “Congo and Africa’s World War: Crash Course World History 221

  1. Worth adding was France's role in all of this. France remained diametrically opposed to Kagame and the RPF, and provided financial and military support to the Hutu government before, during, and after the genocide. France's unwavering support of the regime emboldened them an convinced them that they could get away with genocide, which they more or less did. Worst of all, as the RPF seized the capital in June 1994 and ended the genocide, France deployed forces to Rwanda and demanded the creation of the 'Turquoise Zone' in Zaire for the protection of refugees and deposed government officials from the genocide (It violates international law to establish refugee camps along international borders; France ignored this). Due to international pressure, the RPF had to agree. At this point, most of the refugees were people who had participated in the genocide and feared retaliation. This included virtually all the remaining extremists that planned the genocide, and the Turquoise Zone became a haven for the perpetrators to hide, rest, recruit, and plan a counterattack, all cloaked in a legitimate humanitarian crisis. Some humanitarian groups realized the camps were full of racist militias and actually withdrew from the Turquoise Zone. Why was France so committed to preserving the Hutu Regime that they turned a blind eye to genocide? According to some declassified memos, it was because the RPF leaders were trained in Uganda, (former British Colony) and France did not want 'Anglo-Saxon influence' to spread into Rwanda. Way to go, France.

    All this info comes from Stephen Kinzer's book "A Thousand Hills".

  2. That opening remark about not talking about Africa enough in world history classes made my heart jump and i almost shed a tear. finally someone gets it!

  3. You should avoid saying the Rwanda Genocide; It is better to call it the Tutsi Genocide' cuz otherwhise you are not acknowdeling the fact that it was organised to only kill the Tutsi

  4. The Rwandan Genocide an example of American Impudence? Don't you mean the impudence of the UN? Just like in Cosovo, Sudan, and just about anywhere else that UN troops just allow civilians to be slaughtered because the UN is entirely powerless?

  5. when you brutalize a people for generations, it leaves a mark. trauma studies are emerging that show being exposed to or experiencing sustained violence rewires the way our brains work and distorts both behavior and cognition in frightening ways – its called historical unresolved trauma and it f**Ks people up in the worst ways imaginable.

  6. Also the first deployment of the Irish Army was due to the Congolese Conflict. In 1961, 150 Irish troops of A company, a virgin army, held out against over 3000 Belgian, French and Congolese mercenaries & soldiers for 6 days. Not a single Irishmam was killed, around 300 oppositional soldiers died. The Irish sustained 5 injuries, the enemy recorded over 1000.
    After exhausting all ammunition and other supplies the Irish surrendered. Upon return to Ireland they were treated as cowards. Only in 2005 were they acknowledged for their valour. Their commander, Pat Quinlan passed away in 1997. He never lived to see the recognition he deserved. His tactics in holding a perimeter are now taught in military academies across the globe.
    In 2016 the incredible events of A Company's fight were immortalised in the film, The Siege Of Jadotville.

  7. Your information on the cause of Rwanda's genocide is wrong. You forgot to mention that there have been systematic killings of people identified as tutsi since 1960s, and that the reason RPF was in Uganda in the first place was because the government was displacing and killing them and they had to grow up in refugee camps

  8. Kisangani is my hometown. I was born and grew up during those war. I lost many family members and friends because of those war. My worldview is completely shaped by those events. To blame Africans alone will be an understatement, and to keep saying it is fault of the West is also immature. The truth is in the middle: Incompetent local leadership which has been manipulated by Western countries-especially France and Belgium- for so long. The stoicism (passivity) of the local population does not help either.

  9. with every episode the jhonatan eyes looks a little bit saddest. let him talk about trade instead of disease famine and war please.

  10. Oh lá lá, son français 😂 great video, thank you i didn't know a lot of this before! I really want to know more about african history!

  11. Its pretty brilliant that the aweful theme song is less than 10 seconds so you cant skip it. Poison! smh 🤬

  12. King Leopold II held a massive genocide in Africa larger than Hitlers genocide of Jewish people in Germany

  13. I don’t know if you are doing these histories for fun or not
    But really it’d be better if you start from the kings of Kongo and the battle of MBANDI KASI( where Portuguese got defeated and forced to return back all the Kongolese slaves)

  14. I think its a bit unfair to ignore the incestuous relationship with the Western powers at the height of the cold war, and avoiding the collective responsibility for Lumumbas death shows that in fact these conflicts are heavily directed by Western forces. Its like discussing the war in Syria without discussing the War on Terror and US regime change policies.

  15. This Video should be concluded by asking sorry to Congolese people How the USA & Belgium are the ones who created all this Mess and until now they will ensure that country will never have peace by keeping the large ever troops of UNs robbers not for peace purpose but to facilitate further looting of the country,,,

  16. How about discussing the great empires that existed in Africa before 1492 like: Monotapa, Benin, Songhai, or Kemet?

  17. Guys it takes a lot of work and research to make this video so shut up about Patrice lamumba you go try making an video as good as this one and you will see

  18. Basically, just Blame the White Man! He is behind everything that is happening negatively around the World! That's a fact!!

  19. Africans are a violent race and not very intelligent. If they ever get nukes they would destroy the world.

  20. As a Belgian I can add that neither me, my sister or my parents ever learned about Congo in school. Until recently, my mom didn't even know our country abused the native people of Central Africa.

  21. Dude obviously a pawn in some political name. China is obviously abusing it and it will certainly break down, then it will literally develop into literal colonialism.

  22. If it’s all Europe’s fault why did asian colonies build themselves up so quickly? India? Pakistan? So tired of soft smarmy bugmen blaming Europe for African failure. They’ll miss Europeans I think after some Chinese control, and i wish them luck.

  23. Africans quality of life has always been and always will be best under colonization. They can’t create working societies on their own. It is what it is, but don’t lie about it.

  24. I was saddened, as a fan of @crashcourse, and continually impressed by their great work, that they completely skipped Patrice Lumumba, albeit a single photo of him and never mentioning him by name. You could have done better, there.

  25. "Until the lion learns how to write every story will glorify the hunter" . As Africans we must start telling our own stories.

  26. Of course all their problems are white people's fault. Good thing the precious Chinese communist are have come along to "help" them. Sigh.

  27. Is this right as a summary??
    1. Congolese dictatorship
    2. Rwandan Genocide
    3. Congolese Civil War
    4. Second scramble for Africa

  28. I literally created this new account to watch this,
    the pursuit of knowledge and wisdom/curiosity is greater than all else.

  29. In seventh grade our social studies teacher showed us this video while we were studying the history of Africa. My friend, who sat next to me, looked up from her copy of The Fault In Our Stars to whisper "This is boring. I don't really like this guy." to me.
    What followed was the most personally satisfying conversation I've ever had.

  30. The biggest lie in European history.

    King Leopold's rule never fully extended over the whole Congo and a majority had merely been claimed or barely colonised.

    During the entirety of Leopolds rule there never were more than 50.000 Troops stationed in the Congo, each of those members would have to kill 200 men in order to reach the estimated ten million.

  31. Ok, so you've talked about Congo and didn't mention Patrice Lumumba. Instead, you focused on Mobutu's dictatorship and conveniently forgot to say that his government had always been actively supported by the West. Then, you mention the "impotence of America" to deal with Rwanda crisis, as if the USA really wanted to get involved in such a mess in the first place… Come on, are you really that naïve?

  32. There is also the issue of international trade and commodities prices who are not fixed by producers (especially African countries). The USA, Canada and Australia are extension of the United Kingdom (at some point) they can open a mine of whatever mineral anytime and provoke a decline of price on the international market because their land mass combined is incredible and natural ressources are easy to access. For African nations to acquire money to boost technology acquisitions and essential imports it become almost impossible than to get directly into the trap or the other solution is to deal with Russia with acceptable terms

  33. If during the American revolution, the British had plotted with some loyalists and assassinated Georges Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin and a few other Founding fathers, there would have been no America today. Those few brilliant minds were the heart and soul of the american revolution.
    That's exactly what Patrice Lumumba was to Congo. And he was Assassinated at age 35 after just a few months in office.
    The dirty job was carried out by stupid Africans ( as usual ) but it was ordered and planned by a conglomerate of several secrete service agencies from Belgium, France, and the US. This is no conspiracy theory. These people are on record in several documentaries proudly telling the tales of their macabre achievement.
    Lumumba was the only candle in the dark "jungle" of Congo and you chose to ignore him in your course.
    🙂 Good effort tho.

  34. U folks tell stories from your point of view n forgetting that the Belgian did alot damage psychological n economical etc…..

  35. As noted by others, no Lamumba, but also failed to mention that Joseph Kabila had already taken power years before he was "elected." Also funny how you rightfully point out that he didn't make many financial decisions that benefited the Congolese, but somehow take his side when the IMF and other independent organizations say that the China deal was terrible.

  36. There were zero Universities, doctors, technocrats etc in the Congo before colonisation but far more after Colonization. Why is the improved situation the 'fault' of the colonisers but the starting point not the fault of the population of the Congo?

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