The Katangese Gendarmes and War in Central Africa

The Katangese Gendarmes and War in Central Africa

Fighting Their Way Home
Erik Kennes and Miles Larmer
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 07/04/2016
Format: Paperback 10 b&w illus., 2 maps
ISBN: 978-0-253-02139-7
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Erik Kennes and Miles Larmer provide a history of the Katangese gendarmes and their largely undocumented role in many of the most important political and military conflicts in Central Africa. Katanga, located in today's Democratic Republic of Congo, seceded in 1960 as Congo achieved independence and the gendarmes fought as the unrecognized state's army during the Congo crisis. Kennes and Larmer explain how the ex-gendarmes, then exiled in Angola, struggled to maintain their national identity and return "home." They take readers through the complex history of the Katangese and their engagement in regional conflicts and Africa's Cold War. Kennes and Larmer show how the paths not taken at Africa's independence persist in contemporary political and military movements and bring new understandings to the challenges that personal and collective identities pose to the relationship between African nation-states and their citizens and subjects.

Author Bio

Erik Kennes is Research Associate at the Royal Museum for Central Africa in Tervuren, Belgium and at the Institute for Development Policy and Management of the University of Antwerp, Belgium.

Miles Larmer is Associate Professor of African History at the University of Oxford. He is author of Rethinking African Politics: A History of Opposition in Zambia and Mineworkers in Zambia: Labour and Political Change in Post-Colonial Africa, 1964–1991.


“A major contribution to our understanding of postcolonial politics in Africa more broadly and sheds light on the survival of militias over time and forms of subnationalism emerging from regional consciousness.”
 — M. Crawford Young, University of Wisconsin, Madison

“A fascinating story which is tied to the colonial development of Katanga province, cold war politics in Central Africa, the crisis of the postcolonial state in the Congo, and the interregional politics in the Great Lakes area.”
 — Georges Nzongola-Ntalaja, University of North Carolina

“Erik Kennes and Miles Larmer have written an important and extraordinarily well-researched book.”
 — Journal of Modern African Studies

“[T]his is a groundbreaking study that will appeal to historians and political scientists alike who are keen on understanding the drama that has wreaked havoc in central Africa in the wake of the Cold War and continues to afflict the entire area. ”
 — American Historical Review

The Katangese Gendarmes is a welcome, timely and necessary addition to the body of studies dedicated to war and conflict in Central Africa and an exemplary effort in historical conflict studies underpinned by a rigorous conceptual background on statehood, nationalism and conflict in postcolonial Africa. . . . Kennes and Larmer’s book offers unparalleled testimony of key stakeholders in the entire region’s recent political history. For anyone interested in such issues, and students of Angola and the Congo in particular, this book should have a prominent place in libraries and on syllabi and bookshelves.  ”
 — Africa

The Katangese Gendarmes and War in Central Africa deserves a wide reading among scholars of nationalism and decolonization in post-colonial Africa.”
 — African Studies Review

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Table of Contents

List of Abbreviations
1. Becoming Katanga
2. The Katangese Secession 1960-63
3. Into Exile and Back 1963-67
4. With the Portuguese 1967-74
5. The Katangese Gendarmes in the Angolan Civil War 1974-1976
6. The Shaba Wars
7. Disarmament and Division 1979-1996
8. The Overthrow of Mobutu and After 1996-2015

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