The Right Way to Build Peace in Congo

Elections Are Not the Only Way Forward

Congolese soldiers near the border with Rwanda,  June 2014. Kenny Katombe / REUTERS

In “What the Uproar Over Congo’s Elections Misses”(March 1, 2017), I argue that Congo’s violence has many causes beyond the country’s political crisis, so it is misguided to focus on elections as the main solution to Congo’s troubles. Local actors and bottom-up peacebuilding can also help stop the fighting. Jason Stearns, Koen Vlassenroot, Kasper Hoffmann, and Tatiana Carayannis reject this argument and suggest instead that only elections and top-down institutional reforms can solve Congo’s problems (“Congo’s Inescapable State,” March 16, 2017). Because global, regional, and national tensions drive the ongoing violence, they argue, local, bottom-up conflict resolution is largely unnecessary. 

There are many mischaracterizations of my analysis in Stearns, Vlassenroot, Hoffman, and Carayannis’ response. I do not argue, for example, that local peacebuilding is the only solution to Congo’s problems, that grassroots conflicts are the primary causes of violence there, or that local issues in the

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