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Congo’s Inescapable State

The Trouble With the Local

Supporters of the Union for Democracy and Social Progress, an opposition party, running through a cloud of teargas in Kinshasa, November 2011. Finbarr O'Reilly / REUTERS

In a recent essay in Foreign Affairs, Séverine Autesserre argues that the international focus on the drama surrounding President Joseph Kabila’s attempts to cling to power in the Democratic Republic of Congo distracts from the country’s more pressing problems (“What the Uproar Over Congo’s Elections Misses,” March 1, 2017). Poverty, unemployment, corruption, and local matters such as poor access to land, justice, and education, Autesserre argues, are at the root of Congo’s longstanding violence. Only by shifting the focus from the crisis in Kinshasa to local actors can peace and prosperity be brought to Congo. 

Autesserre’s call for research and interventions to pay more attention to local dynamics offers a welcome challenge to traditional state-centric approaches to peacebuilding. But when it comes to Congo’s current troubles, her emphasis on local solutions to local problems is misguided.

Global, regional, and national processes—from international laws on

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