"Africa is, indeed, coming into fashion." - Horace Walpole (1774)

9.29.2010

guest post: UT-Austin Africa Conference

Today I'm pleased to have a guest post from University of Texas at Austin graduate student Jessica Achberger. Jessica is running the university's annual Africa Conference next spring and extends an invitation to you here:
First of all, I would like to thank Texas in Africa for allowing me to guest post on her blog. It is very much appreciated and I hope that it encourages a wide variety of interest in our conference.

Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Jessica Achberger and I am PhD student at the University of Texas at Austin. Each year at UT we hold an Africa Conference the last weekend in March, dedicated to a different theme in African studies. This upcoming March 25-27 I will be co-coordinating the 2011 UT Africa Conference 'Africa in World Politics,' with my colleague Charles Thomas. The three-day conference will feature panels, round tables, and discussions related to various topics within this theme.

In the past, the conference has largely been made of up of scholars from different disciplines and from around the world. However, this year we hope to take it a step further by putting scholars into conversation with activists and policy-makers who are actively involved in the actual political process. We hope that this multi-faceted approach will allow a better understanding of how different groups approach similar topics and how these approaches can be used together.

I invite you to check out our website for more information, to see the call for papers, and find out how you can become involved. If you are not interested in presenting a paper but would still like to be part of a discussion, please let me know. There will certainly be opportunities to participation in round tables or chair panels that do not require the submission of an abstract for registration.

And, of course, if you have any questions, please feel free to email me. We look forward to seeing you in Austin in March!
Just to add to Jessica's encouragement, a few personal notes as to why you should consider attending:
  1. This is one of the few conferences I know that garners consistent participation by a significant number of African scholars who are based on the continent.
  2. Opportunities for policy makers and activists to engage with scholars of the continent are often few and far between, or so selective as to be meaningless. This conference provides you with an opportunity to hear from a wide variety of scholars with very different opinions on a range of topics.
  3. You get to hang out in Austin for a few days in the springtime. Enough said.

9.28.2010

everything new is old again

I've been thinking for several days about how to sum up my experiences at UN/MDG Week, but, well, everything that needs to be said has pretty much already been covered. Saundra of Good Intentions are Not Enough has done a marvelous job of collecting various posts and articles on the MDG's, the Clinton Global Initiative, the UN Summit, and TEDxChange; you should definitely check out her list. A few final thoughts:
  • As many others have noted, the ideas of the week seemed mostly recycled, but in many cases were touted as new and innovative. The Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, announced with great fanfare by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, is a prime example of this. When she announced the project, the row of bloggers in which I was sitting started tweeting, "Hasn't this been done? Like, since the 1940's?" But anyone in the audience who wasn't an expert on the minutiae of the history of foreign aid wouldn't have had the slightest idea that cook stove projects have failed time and time again for the past 70 years, because the project was presented as a solution to all the world's environmental, women's, and health and safety problems among the poor. Alanna Shaikh brilliantly parses the discussion and the idea over at Aid Watch.
  • Caffeinated high-fructose corn syrup will save the world. Or so you'd think from everything that Melinda French Gates had to say last week. Her entire TEDxChange talk was about lessons we can learn from Coca-Cola's business model, and private-public partnerships were touted over and over again as the key to development. While I'm not as cynical about Coca-Cola as some of my colleagues (they do make self-employment possible thousands and thousands of women in the developing world), I am always hesitant to believe everything that huge, multi-national corporations tout about their corporate social responsibility activities worldwide. Why? Because ultimately, a corporation's responsibility is to its shareholders, not to those in need. If ever a situation arises in which the needs of the poor are contradictory to the growth of the stocks, which do you think the company will choose? Regardless, there is much to be learned from Coca-Cola's relentless analysis of sales data and its tailoring of the marketing of its product to local circumstances and cultures.
  • Highlight of the week for me? A chat with Ory Okolloh, one of the founders of Ushahidi and blogger extraordinaire. She is just as amazing in person as you'd imagine and getting to talk with her was a treat. This was followed at a close second by the Tuesday night ICTinNY Tweetup, which was attended by a ton of awesome people, so many so that I'm afraid to list them here for fear of forgetting someone.
  • My fellow aid bloggers are awesome. Penelope Chester (who writes for UN Dispatch) and Karen Grepin of NYU and I hung out at TEDxChange, where our attempts to have a picture made with Hans Rosling (of Gapminder fame) were futile in the face of an aggressive New York Times reporter. At the CGI, I was at various times blogging alongside Penelope (who got to interview Mary Robinson), the ever-mysterious @laurenist, the fantastic Elmira Bayrasli, Aid Watch's Laura Freschi (whose post on attending summits you must read because it's hi-la-ri-ous), and, of course, the great Alanna Shaikh. These women are smart, insightful, and just as funny in real life as they are on the internet. I feel fortunate to have gotten to enjoy their company.
  • A particular thanks to Mark Leon Goldberg of UN Dispatch, who's the reason I got to attend all these events in the first place. If you're not reading his daily insights on and analysis of the UN's work, you're missing out.
  • Finally, a note for organizations wanting to host us new media types: bloggers are not like traditional press. I think it's super-cool that we were invited to attend these events, but if you want bloggers to write about your event, you need to have a setup that makes blogging 1) possible and 2) hassle-free. No one understood this better than the team at TEDxChange hosted by the Gates Foundation, who had a dedicated conference room set aside for bloggers that was equipped with more than adequate power strips, a strong wifi signal, and ample big screen projection systems. I particularly appreciate that the Gates Foundation provided us with access to the event's speakers; we got to ask questions of Melinda French Gates and Graca Machel, and Mechai Viravaidya and Hans Rosling brought us condom keychains and Gapminder maps, respectively.

9.27.2010

could recognition be next?

Don't count on it. Still, this is an encouraging sign of a new, more realistic attitude in US policy towards the Horn of Africa:
The United States has decided to work closely with semi-autonomous Somaliland and Puntland states in Somali as a means to defeat Islamist extremists.

The initiative represents a substantial policy shift and a step away from dealing with Somalia only through the weak transitional government in Mogadishu.

The Obama administration’s top diplomat for Africa Johnnie Carson said the U.S would send more aid workers and diplomats to Puntland and Somaliland and support the governments of both regions, in the north of Somalia, with development projects.

This new policy by the U.S is expected to aid the fight to fend off extreme Islamist insurgents in those parts of Somalia that have "been zones of relative political and civil stability". According to Mr. Carson the U.S. believes the zones "will in fact be a bulwark against extremism and radicalism that might emerge from the south".

9.25.2010

this & that

9.23.2010

cfp

Some of you may be interested in this call for papers from UNESCO:

CALL FOR PAPERS, Violence against Women, Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo, February 2011

Within the framework of UNESCO‟s actions to combat violence against women and
enhance women‟s rights and empowerment, and building on its central objective of
promoting research that supports evidence-based decision-making, the Social and Human Sciences Sector in collaboration with the University of Hull, U.K., is currently undertaking a program of research on men and violence against women, gendered poverty and legalsocio-cultural factors influencing women‟s access to freshwater.

The aim of this program of research is to develop policy recommendations on violence against women, and more specifically men and violence against women, gendered poverty and women‟s access to fresh water. The second in this series of research meetings will be held in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo, in February 2011. It will build upon the success of the previous meeting, held in Pretoria in August 2007 on "Women‟s Rights for Peace and Security in post-Conflict democracies in sub-Saharan Africa," which formed the basis for a productive dialogue with Ministers at the Forum of Ministers of Women‟s Affairs of the Great Lakes Region in Mombasa in 2009, and for a series of policy papers and policy briefs, now available on the UNESCO website.

For the meeting in Kinshasa, researchers specializing in gender-based violence (GBV) are invited by UNESCO to prepare papers on the following research themes, situated within the framework of UNESCO‟s actions in favor of women living in post-conflict situations: Men and violence against women ; Gendered poverty and access to freshwater.

Abstracts of no more than 500 words, in English or French, should be submitted for review to UNESCO to gender.SHS@unesco.org no later than 30 September 2010. Contributors will be informed whether their paper has been accepted as soon as possible after this date. In order to ensure timely circulation to all participants, first drafts of research papers accepted must be submitted to UNESCO no later than 15 December 2010.

UNESCO, in accordance with its standard operating procedures, will provide around trip economy-priced ticket and daily subsistence allowances for researchers to attend the research meeting. Researchers chosen to attend the Forum of Ministers in 2011 will have costs met similarly.

9.22.2010

what's missing

I’m headed home from a couple of days at UN Week in New York, where I was fortunate to get to attend several events relating to a review of the Millennium Development Goals. I’ll have a lot more to say about that debate, TEDxChange with the Gates Foundation, the Mashable/92Y Social Good Summit, and the Clinton Global Initiative in the days to come. The summits and meetings are covering a huge range of topics, some of which are being honestly debated and discussed and others of which have been reduced to a series of feel-good talking points backed by questionable statistics and assertions.

This week’s events brought home one very clear fact for me: Western thinking about development is elite-driven. Almost entirely. It’s partly understandable; the primary goal of the Clinton Global Initiative, for example, is getting the rich and powerful to make commitments to save the world in various fashions. While this work is targeted at the poor, their voices are absent in the conversation. While there is a lot of discussion of the need to capture human capital in developing countries, we didn’t hear from anyone who had actually lived the experience of escaping poverty. We didn’t learn how families survive on $1 a day from people who have no choice but to make it work.

There’s something very discomfiting about sitting in a hotel ballroom full of rich people talking about the best ways to help the world’s poorest people when almost none of the latter are present.

Don’t get me wrong: I enjoy hobnobbing with influential people as much as anybody. I love getting to hear people like Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Grameen Bank founder Muhammad Yunus speak and am still astonished that I got to go. But just as there are limits to what I can tell you about life in central Africa, there are limits to what elites from developing countries can describe about their countries as well. Rich and poor, privileged and not – the contrasts are rarely clearer than at events like these, where the presence of the poor is limited to pictures in slide shows while wealthy people hobnob over cocktails and abundant buffets.

Am I the only one who would rather hear about what life as a poor woman in Ethiopia is like from an actual poor Ethiopian woman? Wouldn’t she give listeners more insight and perspective than yet another celebrity who’s been “touched by Africa” (and it’s always “Africa,” never the specific country) on a two-week trip organized by an NGO and a PR firm? Couldn’t leaders of small-scale civil society organizations in Pakistan tell us more about their struggles to provide services, promote democracy, or build peace than the experts who supposedly know them well? Doesn’t a woman who’s managed to find foster families for hundreds of orphans in her Congolese community know more about accomplishing tasks on a shoestring budget than most of us ever will?

The world’s poorest people aren’t often welcome in these forums. Not really. It’s too bad, because ignoring the expertise of the poor – or only considering it when translated by the famous for the masses – hasn’t served them or us very well thus far. I don’t know what keeps them out of the discussion – culture, language, visa restrictions, or just being overlooked. What I do know is that talking about development while excluding from the conversation those who need it most is a mistake. We need the voices of those we want to help.

Badly.

9.21.2010

live from CGI's women & girls plenary

live from CGI opening plenary

Take 2:

live from the clinton global initiative opening plenary

yep

Thanks to the very alert Texas in Africa reader who sent in this gem. Because, dear goodness, you need to know Glenn Beck's thoughts on aid to Africa and pie.

9.20.2010

live from tedxchange

who didn't see this one coming?

Just a reminder that today I'll be live blogging from TEDxChange with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The event starts at 11am EST; you can watch the livestream here.

In the meantime, we've got a new topic for discussion: the independent Rwanda News Agency reports that Rwanda's Minister of Internal Security, Sheikh Musa Fazil Harelimana, has put forward a bill that would amend the country's constitution to end presidential term limits. This would, of course, leave the door open for President Paul Kagame to remain in power beyond 2017, when the current, 2003 constitution expires. If you didn't see that one coming from a mile away, well, you must've been looking the other direction.

9.18.2010

this & that

9.17.2010

next week

Next week is UN Week in New York, where the focus will be on the Millennium Development Goals. We're five years from the date at which they're supposed to be achieved, but there are a lot of questions about which goals will be met, which ones will be unmet, and the reasons for both. I'll be in town for part of the week for several related events and would love to meet Texas in Africa readers who'll be around:
  • Monday at 11EST, I'll be live-blogging from TEDxChange, an event sponsored by TED and the Gates Foundation. In addition to following here, you can watch a live stream of the event here, follow Tweets with the hashtag #tedxchange, or attend one of dozens of viewing parties happening in communities all over the world (and I mean all over the world - Soweto, Kibera, Accra, Abuja, and Lusaka are the sites on the African continent).
  • I'll also be around the Mashable/UN Foundation Digital Media Lounge at the 92nd Street Y to cover the Social Good Summit.
  • Tuesday, I'll be live-blogging from the Clinton Global Initiative, where I'll be attending sessions focused on empowering women and girls. The whole CGI will be webcast; you can watch it live here.
  • There's a Tweet-up of folks who are interested in international development on Tuesday night at Maggie's Place, 5:30-8:30. I'll be there for the first bit and would love to meet anyone who can come out. RSVP here.
Despite that fact that I'm in no way cool enough to be doing any of this (and have no idea what to wear), I'm excited about getting to hear from many leaders in the field and am hoping that some critical questions about the MDG's will be discussed over the course of the week. I'm particularly interested in the question of achieving the MDG's in extremely fragile states and thinking about new ways to improve public services in the absence of functioning state institutions.

I may also have the opportunity to ask some questions of these leaders directly, so if there's something you'd like asked, be sure to leave a comment here.

9.16.2010

raise your hand if you're anti-colonial

Newt Gingrich is in the news again, this time for picking up on Dinesh D'Sousza's comment in a Forbes article about President Obama having inherited his father's "anti-colonial" Kenyan worldview and using it to get himself some attention.

Setting aside the question of when being "anti-colonial" became a bad thing (especially here in the U.S. of - ahem - former British colonies), this whole kerfuffle is interesting to me because I'm pretty sure that I'm one of the few people out there who have actually seen Gingrich's dissertation, which is about Belgian education policy in colonial-era Congo. You can read the post I wrote about skimming it here.

For those of you who have better things to do on a Thursday morning, suffice it to say that I'm not surprised by any of this. Gingrich liked colonialism. Especially the Belgian variety, which limited the vast majority of Congolese to a sixth-grade education, taught children that God wanted them to obey the exploitative colonial authorities, and was the reason the country had fewer than 20 university graduates and no indigenous doctors at independence. Which was one of the reasons the country immediately erupted into chaos, which made it possible for Joseph Mobutu to take over, which allowed him to loot the public treasury for three decades, which caused a breakdown in public service provision, which kept Mobutu using public funds to manipulate patronage networks in his favor, which fell apart with the end of the Cold War when funds dried up, which laid the groundwork for the chaos that would erupt after the Rwandan genocide (which, let's not forget, was caused in part because of - you guessed it - Belgian colonial education policy that favored the Tutsis for educational opportunities, thus breeding resentment among the Hutu, which set off a chain of rounds of ethnic cleansing that led to the 1994 genocide), which spilled over into the Congo, which led to a series of wars, which were only partly settled in 2003 and that have, so far, caused more than 5 million deaths of perfectly innocent people.

Not all of this could have been known to Gingrich at the time he turned in his dissertation to Tulane's Modern European History doctoral program, of course. But he knew about the limited opportunities the Belgians allowed the Congolese. And I find it difficult to believe that he couldn't understand that falling victim to such policies might cause a smart young adult to be a little anti-colonial in mindset. In fact, it's pretty hard to believe that someone as well-educated as Gingrich doesn't know exactly what he's doing by calling Obama "anti-colonial."

And that's all I have to say about that.

9.15.2010

grassroots action in the DRC, part 2

Another profile of a Congolese leader doing great work to solve local problems:
In 2001, during the height of the violence in Goma, Christine along with nine other women saw a tremendous need for an organization that could meet the needs of the most vulnerable young people in eastern Congo. Each founder made either a financial or material donation to start the organization. They named the organization Children’s Voice in order to help children living in extreme poverty, including orphans, former child soldiers or sex slaves.

Nine years later, Children’s Voice has two schools and vocational training centers in Goma and are in the process of building a third. Christine has become a leading advocate for children in the DRC, and her efforts are paving the way toward a more stable and peaceful society.
Children's Voice partners with several international and local organizations, including UNICEF and World Vision. You can provide a scholarship for children in their schools by donating here.

9.14.2010

you're welcome

Many thanks to the alert Texas in Africa reader who sent in this Rwandan election gem.

9.13.2010

in which a grad student does a great public service

Logistics are among the biggest challenges one incurs when conducting research in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. There's not a guidebook.* Maps are few and far between, unless you can track down the cartographers in Goma and Bunia. Phone numbers and email addresses constantly change. It's virtually impossible to make hotel reservations in advance, such that you just have to cross your fingers and hope that there won't be a massive peace conference in town when you show up looking for a room. Security conditions change rapidly - what was a safe route one day might be completely dangerous the next, and there's little rhyme or reason as to where and when insecurity happens. Planning a move from one city to the next is exhausting and can take up inordinate amounts of time.

Enter Dan Fahey, a PhD candidate at UC-Berkeley who studies gold mining and its relationship to the war in Ituri. Dan was in the field this summer, and, while gathering data in the far north of North Kivu and Ituri, took the time to write down all the latest information for travelers to Bunia, Beni, and Butembo in a handy new PDF guide, available for free to anyone who wants to download it. It also includes information about the little things you need to know if you want to work in the region, like what currency to take, how to get onto MONUSCO flights, the least terrifying commercial flight options, where to shop for fabric (essential if you want to know the latest trends in local political commitments) and even where to find a swimming pool for those hot dry season days in Bunia. AND THERE ARE MAPS.

(For what it's worth, here are my thoughts on travel to those cities:
  • I'm a fan of the Centre Uhai Kikyo in Butembo. Kikyo is out of town a bit, but it gets you away from the dust in downtown Butembo. If, like me, you're allergic to just about the entire natural world, it's a lifesaver. And it's quiet. And they have wifi. And your room comes with a pleasant little balcony, where it's nice to sit and ponder the political organization mysteries of an ethnically homogeneous city that's controlled by a small cabal of business leaders.
  • The Hotel Beni is the best option in Beni, which isn't saying much, but it's tolerable and you can special order a pretty tasty spaghetti avec sauce tomate naturelle from the restaurant. Please note that an ice-cold trickle of water is as good as showering gets there. Think of it as an incentive to get your work done quickly.
  • And after you've been there for awhile, Bunia's New Cosmos Hotel seems like paradise. Even their cheap rooms have fans. And 24-hour hot water. And electricity all the time.
  • In all cases, you should try not to think about the fact that staying anywhere other than a church guesthouse means you're probably funding some rebel movement and/or illicit mining operation. That goes double for hotels in Goma.)
Needless to say, Dan has provided a huge public service to all of us who study the region. Kudos and many thanks to him.

*Okay, technically, there is a guidebook, but it's already hugely out of date, there aren't maps of most major cities, and half the hotel options, phone numbers, and email addresses are either not listed or are wrong.

9.11.2010

September 11


Calm is the morn without a sound,
calm as to suit a calmer grief,
and only through the faded leaf
the chestnut pattering to the ground;

Calm and deep peace on this high wold,
and on these dews that drench the furze,
and all the silvery gossamers
that twinkle into green and gold;

Calm and still light on yon great plain
that sweeps with all its autumn bowers,
and crowded farms and lessening towers,
to mingle with the bounding main;

Calm and deep peace in this wide air,
these leaves that redden to the fall,
and in my heart, if calm at all,
if any calm, a calm despair;

Calm on the seas, and silver sleep,
and waves that sway themselves in rest,
and dead calm in that noble breast
which heaves but with the heaving deep.

- Alfred, Lord Tennyson, In Memoriam A.H.H., 11

9.10.2010

oh, for heaven's sake

I can't wait to see Enough's press release on this one:
Mining in three provinces of eastern Democratic Republic of Congo has been banned on the orders of the President Joseph Kabila.

President Kabila ordered the indefinite suspension during a visit to the mining hub town of Walikale.

The president said he wanted to weed out what he called a "kind of mafia" involved in the mining industry.

Control over mining minerals like coltan and cassiterite has fuelled conflict between rebel groups.

The minerals are used in mobile phones and computers.

The ban covers the provinces of North Kivu, South Kivu and Maniema.
So many questions, so little time. But here are a few:
  • How does Kabila think his government/army/police will enforce this ban? The national army can't and won't do it, MONUSCO's not capable of (or mandated to) monitor border traffic in the ways this ban would require, and the border police are still very much engaged in the practice of augmenting their meager incomes with bribes from whomever will pay them.
  • Or, perhaps more importantly, why does Kabila think anyone with even the slightest knowledge about the eastern DRC would believe that such a ban is even remotely enforceable?
  • What happens to the hundreds of thousands of people in the Kivus and Maniema whose primary or sole source of income is mining?
  • And does Kabila think he'll get their votes in next year's presidential elections by taking this course?
  • What about mining in areas of the provinces that are at peace? Ituri's off the hook. Why not other non-militarized mines?
  • Who's about to get really, really, really, really, really, really, really mad at Kabila for threatening to cut off one of their sources of income? Many of these mines have prominent investors in the business and political sectors.

this & that

9.08.2010

grassroots action in the DRC

A DailyKos writer covers grassroots action to combat gender-based violence in the eastern Congo:
Mama Muliri responded to the threats by going to Lubutu herself and facing the tribal leaders eye to eye. As promised, they met her brandishing machetes and guns. They chanted threats, and they threw rocks at her. Still, she stood her ground, told them about the new constitution passed in 2006, and how the law now differed from the tribal customs. She demanded that they comply with the law, and asked them to attend a HEAL Africa conference on conflict transformation.

...Mama Muliri's act of defiance marked the beginning of a rich collaboration between HEAL Africa and the tribal leaders. They are now working together to create a new future for the Congo.

HEAL Africa and the ABA conducted three days of meetings where the tribal leaders were able to learn about the new DRC constitution and how traditional practices conflicted with the law. They worked together to address the conflicts near their villages, and worked on strategy to transform the regional conflict and protect their villages. The chiefs took to this process like fish to water, and saw what they'd learned as a better way for their communities. The chiefs collectively chose to enforce the new law, and they had a march through the city to proclaim it so.
I've met Mama Muliri; she is one of thousands of Congolese who work to find culturally-relevant, simple, inexpensive ways to combat the country's most pressing problems. To say that she is fearless would be an understatement. The international media rarely focuses on success stories like hers, but I'm convinced that it's this type of community-based action that will ultimately bring change to the region.

The program in which Mama Muliri works has helped more than 30,000 women and girls get appropriate medical and psycho-social assistance after they were victimized, giving them the tools to rebuild their lives. As a result of underfunding of UNICEF by UN member states, HEAL Africa has suffered severe funding cuts this year. You can donate to support Mama Muliri's work here; I don't know a better way to directly support community-based efforts to help rape survivors in the eastern DRC.

9.07.2010

read this: The Trouble with the Congo

"In the Congo, the violent transition to peace caused, directly and indirectly, 2 million deaths in addition to the 3 million victims of the generalized conflicts, and war resumption in 2008 produced tens of thousands more casualties. International interventions can help prevent such disruptions, but they often fail to do so. The dominant international peacebuilding culture often orients intervention strategies away from local conflict resolution and toward popular, but harmful, tactics such as the rapid organization of elections."
That's from Séverine Autesserre's brilliant new book, The Trouble with the Congo: Local Violence and the Failure of International Peacebuilding, out now from Cambridge University Press.

I get a lot of emails from blog readers who are looking for suggestions on essential readings on the DRC situation. While I think it's important to read a wide range of sources on the topic, I can't think of another book that better situates the current state of affairs in the eastern Congo than Autesserre's outstanding book. Based on more than 330 interviews with just about everyone involved in the DRC peace process that was supposed to stabilize the country once and for all, Autesserre examines the question as to why violence continues in the region. She argues that violence has continued to proliferate in the east due to the international community's failure to address peace building at the local level in addition to the national and international levels.

That focus will be of most interest to those who want to learn more about the Congo, but 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.

Whether you're a humanitarian actor working on community initiatives, a budding scholar of the Great Lakes region, or just interested in effective responses to conflict and violence, Autesserre's book is a must-read. Unlike most academic books, it's also quite accessible to non-scholars and non-specialists, who will appreciate the clear presentation of a well-researched argument in readable language.

I am pleased to be able to pass along a 20% discount code on the book if you buy it through Cambridge University Press (which makes it cost even less than Amazon's 10% discount off the list price). Enter the promo code E10CONGO at checkout.

(Full disclosure: Séverine is a good friend; we were in the field at the same time and often compare notes on the situation in the eastern DRC. That said, I'm not being compensated for this post in any way; I bought my copy just like everyone else. I just really think you should read this book.)

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9.06.2010

labor day

It's Labor Day here in the U.S. of A., and I'm recovering from a fantastic weekend at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association. More on that later. For today, you should read Rob Crilly's latest ode to George Clooney, entitled "It's not about you, George." Brilliant.

9.02.2010

so....

....there's no convenient Wifi at my conference hotel, which makes blogging a bit of a challenge. Lots going on and some very interesting papers from today - I'll be back on Monday.