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The Ethnic Conflict Research Digest

1999, Vol. 2 No. 2 .

Africa's New Leaders: Democracy or State Reconstruction?
Marina Ottaway

(New York: Carnegie Institution for International Peace, 1999)
138pp. Pb.: $10.95; ISBN 0-87003-134-1.

Marina Ottaway has written an excellent study, largely targeted at policy circles, on the group of 'new leaders' in Africa, including those in Ethiopia, Eritrea, Uganda, and Rwanda (Kagame). The regimes and their leaders have common qualities: friendliness to US policy concerns; countries torn asunder by ethnic fratricide and civil war; leaders who have emphasized the need for state reconstruction and opposed the pressures of external donors for creating multiparty democracy; success in re-establishing state institutions, and the economy (less so Rwanda); and aggressiveness in foreign policy, a readiness to use force and support others to secure their own interests and intervene in the internal affairs of neighboring states. Ottaway is sympathetic to the needs for state reconstruction and critical of the simplicity of U.S. pressures for democracy. She argues that understanding the leaders and their policies is key in countries where institutions are weak. After a chapter on state collapse, Ottaway devotes a chapter each to Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Uganda, setting out clearly progress and problems in the domains of rebuilding the state (power, authority, administration) and economy and relevant steps to engage popular participation. Ottaway also devotes a chapter to Rwanda and Congo/Zaire, arguing how Rwanda resembles the 'new leader' states and the multiple failures of Kabila exclude the Congo from the concept. Ottaway seems to trace Congo's current problems primarily to Kabila's inabilities, whereas in other chapters the intractability of the problems the leaders face is highlighted. Ottaway also devotes a chapter to the current context, where international institutions have failed to deal with Africa's problems, a chains of crises has engulfed east-central Africa, and the new leaders have cooperated in interventions not only for their security but to rebuild the entire region. This is new but unregulated by adherence to any major principles, which may have contributed to the useless, costly Eritrean-Ethiopian war since June 1998.

Ottaway devotes particular attention to how the new leaders have dealt with ethnic and other social conflicts that created government collapse in these key states. The discussion on building ethnic federation in Ethiopia, Museveni's attempts to create broad ethnic/regional support for Uganda's government, and the intractability of the ethnic hatred and fear in Rwanda is particularly good. Ottaway assesses carefully if current policies are creating conditions for future democratization in these three distinct countries in an excellent final chapter.

Jon Kraus
State University of New York - Fredonia

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