Too Focused On Democracy?

Andrew Sullivan —  Sep 13 2010 @ 9:04am

Texas In Africa reviews Séverine Autesserre's book, The Trouble with the Congo: Local Violence and the Failure of International Peacebuilding:

Autesserre is also interested in the question of why the international community failed to address local-level conflicts in the Kivus and other areas when negotiating peace. Her conclusion is that the culture of international peace building doesn't allow for consideration of local conflict. In other words, it never even occurred to most of the myriad of diplomats, politicians, and other international actors involved in the process that they needed to worry about it. This was true despite solid evidence that many of the conflicts in the Kivus predated not only the civil and international wars that rocked Congo from 1996-2003, but also the Rwandan genocide, which prompted much of that violence.

In this sense, Autesserre's book is a valuable read for anyone involved or interested in international peace processes. As Autesserre notes in a study of cases from around the world in the book's conclusion, effective peace building in today's conflict situations only works when actors at all levels are involved. She notes that there is a need for both an internationally-driven, top-down effort alongside a grassroots-driven, bottom-up effort if other regions are to be spared the destruction and devastation that the citizens of the eastern Congo have endured for so long. The international community's post-Cold War obsession with writing a constitution, organizing and holding elections, and certifying the country as democratic – despite the fact that violence continued in the east – was incredibly harmful for the people of the DRC in many ways, and it's obvious that the same path didn't work in Iraq, won't work in Afghanistan, and seems highly unlikely to help in Sudan.