Dangerous tales: Dominant narratives on the Congo and their unintended consequences

Autesserre, Severine

Explanations for the persistence of violence in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo blame the incendiary actions of domestic and regional leaders, as well as the inefficacy of international peace-building efforts. Based on several years of ethnographic research, this article adds another piece to the puzzle, emphasizing the perverse consequences of well-meaning international efforts. I argue that three narratives dominate the public discourse on Congo and eclipse the numerous alternative framings of the situation. These narratives focus on a primary cause of violence, illegal exploitation of mineral resources; a main consequence, sexual abuse of women and girls; and a central solution, extending state authority. I elucidate why simple narratives are necessary for policy makers, journalists, advocacy groups, and practitioners on the ground, especially those involved in the Congo. I then consider each narrative in turn and explain how they achieved prominence:! they provided straightforward explanations for the violence, suggested feasible solutions to it, and resonated with foreign audiences. I demonstrate that the focus on these narratives and on the solutions they recommended has led to results that clash with their intended purposes, notably an increase in human rights violations.


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Also Published In

African Affairs

More About This Work

Academic Units
Political Science (Barnard College)
Published Here
August 11, 2015


Preferred citation: Severine Autesserre, “Dangerous Tales: Dominant Narratives on the Congo and their Unintended Consequences,” African Affairs, 111 (443), pp. 202-222, 2012.