This sprawling collection of essays is the first book-length English-language study of the Central African Republic. Such neglect is predictable given that the landlocked CAR is desperately poor and boasts virtually no natural resources. But the CAR’s history of failed state building, instability, and civil violence, which has led to a succession of international peacekeeping interventions since the mid-1990s, is very much worth examining. A sharp essay by Stephen Smith places the current instability in historical context. Greedy national elites have always preferred to appropriate public resources for their private use rather than grow the national economy or govern effectively. Today, they view international peacekeeping efforts as merely another trough at which to feed. Yet the book’s chapters on the international community’s woefully inadequate interventions also help explain the lack of local buy-in. The need for more effective international engagement is obvious, but the book is frustratingly silent on what better interventions might look like.
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