"An absolute must for anyone interested in the Congo wars"

International Affairs

The Trouble with the Congo

Local Violence and the Failure of International Peacebuilding

The Trouble with the Congo suggests a new explanation for international peacebuilding failures in civil wars.


Drawing from more than 330 interviews and a year and a half of field research, this book develops a case study of the international intervention during the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s unsuccessful transition from war to peace and democracy (2003–2006).

Grassroots rivalries over land, resources, and political power motivated widespread violence. At the same time, a dominant peacebuilding culture shaped the intervention strategy in a way that precluded action on local conflicts, ultimately dooming the international efforts to end the deadliest conflict since World War II.

Most international actors interpreted continued fighting as the consequence of national and regional tensions alone, and diplomats and United Nations staff viewed intervention at the macro levels as their only legitimate responsibility. The dominant culture constructed local peacebuilding as such an unimportant, unfamiliar, and unmanageable task that neither shocking events nor resistance from certain individuals could convince international actors to reevaluate their understanding of violence and intervention. Through this in-depth analysis, The Trouble with the Congo proposes innovative ways to address civil wars in Africa and beyond.


“Autesserre’s extensive study provides a crucial window into the blunders of international peacebuilding efforts and paves the way for a potentially more successful method.”


“It should be standard reading for those interested in international peacebuilding in the DRC, Africa, and elsewhere.”

Journal of Peace Research

“This study is essential reading for anyone interested in modern Africa and the failure of international peacebuilding in the past two decades.”

African Conflict and Peacebuilding Review

“A brilliant book on peacebuilding in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). It has already won a major academic prize, and easily deserves the further accolades it is sure to garner.”

Perspectives on Politics

“[Autesserre’s] book is an absolute must for anyone interested in the Congo wars.”

International Affairs

“Autesserre’s book provides a unique ethnography of the [UN] organization in the Congo, the outlook and values of its staff, and its operational logic. . . Autesserre’s arguments are clearly stated and compelling.”

Foreign Affairs

“A brilliant new book by Barnard Professor Séverine Autesserre”

Foreign Policy

“A book that aims to challenge and change peacebuilding orthodoxy.”

Stephen John Stedman, Stanford University

“A major contribution to our understanding of the roots of conflict in eastern Congo and the failure of the UN Mission in the Congo (MONUC) to effectively restore peace.”

René Lemarchand, Emeritus Professor, University of Florida

At once a gripping account of war and failed peace in the Congo and a strikingly lucid and original examination of the causes of peacebuilding failure in civil war.”

Stathis N. Kalyvas, Yale University

“[A] magnificent accomplishment and [a] must-reading for anyone interested in whether, why, and how the international community might be able to reduce the cases of violence around the world.”

Michael Barnett, University of Minnesota

“I just finished Séverine Autesserre’s excellent book, The Trouble with the Congo. If you have any interest in peacebuilding, conflict, the DRC, or the UN, then I highly recommend you read this.”

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More Information

1. The peacebuilding world
2. A top-down problem
3. A top-down solution
4. A bottom-up story
5. The defeat of bottom-up solutions
6. Beyond the Congo
Appendix: Chronology