The ‘Failed-State’ Effect

Statebuilding and state stories from the Congo

Authored by: Kai Koddenbrock

Routledge Handbook of International Statebuilding

Print publication date:  March  2013
Online publication date:  September  2013

Print ISBN: 9780415677028
eBook ISBN: 9780203370377
Adobe ISBN: 9781135939946


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Foreign attempts at building the Congolese state require a circumscribed understanding of two things: the state and the Congo. Statebuilders need to know what they are building. This basic prerequisite plays out in interesting ways. Congo analysts, for example, like to question the Congo's entire existence in the opening phrase. ‘They call it a country, in fact it is just a Zaire-shaped hole in the middle of Africa’ (Economist, 1995: 37) and ‘The Democratic Republic of Congo does not exist’ (Herbst and Mills, 2009: 2) are two prominent examples of this. Rhetorical hooks pay reference to expectations of the public. Among this public, whether the Congo exists at all seems to be in doubt.

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