The Trouble with the Congo: Local Violence and the Failure of International Peacebuilding

In This Review

The Trouble with the Congo: Local Violence and the Failure of International Peacebuilding
by Séverine Autesserre
Cambridge University Press, 2010
344 pp. $28.99
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Over a decade old, the United Nations Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUC) is now the biggest multilateral peacekeeping effort ever, with close to 20,000 troops and civilian personnel and an operating budget over a billion dollars. Cycles of extreme violence in the country have led to some criticism of the UN’s efforts, and Autesserre’s book provides a unique ethnography of the organization in the Congo, the outlook and values of its staff, and its operational logic. The author’s main argument is that the internal culture of the UN and the socialization of its diplomats have blinded the MONUC from properly emphasizing the local causes for the conflict in eastern Congo. Favoring a top-down approach -- the kind for which diplomats are trained -- the international community has focused on national agreements and processes such as elections, ignoring the peace-building efforts that are necessary at the local level to mediate the festering conflicts over identity and land. Autesserre’s arguments are clearly stated and compelling, even if her policy prescriptions, implying a larger and more intrusive international presence in conflict zones, need more detail to be fully convincing.