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Divided ArmiesInequality and Battlefield Performance in Modern War$
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Jason Lyall

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780691192444

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: September 2020

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691192444.001.0001

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African World Wars

African World Wars

Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of Congo on the Modern Battlefield

Chapter:
(p.321) 7 African World Wars
Source:
Divided Armies
Author(s):

Jason Lyall

Publisher:
Princeton University Press
DOI:10.23943/princeton/9780691192444.003.0007

This chapter extends the argument to the modern era by comparing the battlefield performance of Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) during two of the most destructive conventional wars in the post-1945 era: the Second Congo War (1998–2002) and the Ethiopia–Eritrea War (1998–2000). Despite remarkably similar traits, these belligerents, separated by a substantial 0.32 difference in military inequality, had sharply different wartime outcomes. The DRC's army, riddled with ethnic contradictions, nearly collapsed as a coherent fighting force at the war's outset, leading military commanders to augment regular units with a motley collection of mercenaries, child soldiers, militia, and forces from neighboring Zimbabwe and Angola. For their part, Ethiopian forces waged some of the largest mechanized battles of the post-1945 era and displayed increasing sophistication over time. Mechanized units not only repelled Eritrea's initial invasion but cracked its defensive system in a series of grueling offensives reminiscent of World War I's trench warfare. Though casualties were high, Ethiopian forces displayed a high degree of cohesion and tactical innovation on their way to capturing nearly one-quarter of Eritrea.

Keywords:   military inequality, Congo, Second Congo War, Ethiopia–Eritrea War, modern wars, wartime outcomes, post-1945 era, mechanized units

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