Enabling autocracy? Peacebuilding and post-conflict authoritarianism in the Democratic Republic of Congo

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Does peacebuilding shape the regime type of countries where international missions are deployed? Most peacebuilding missions take place in authoritarian contexts, and seek to overcome the legacies of conflict by overseeing transitions to democratic rule; however, most regimes that experience peacebuilding still retain some form of authoritarian rule. In this article, we examine the extent to which international peacebuilding missions contribute to the consolidation of post-conflict authoritarian regimes even when their stated aims involve the promotion of democracy. We argue that international peacebuilders can act as enablers of authoritarianism in host countries. We distinguish this category of behaviour from explicit ‘autocracy promotion’, which implies intentional support to autocracy. Instead, enabling is often an unintended consequence, and we identify two mechanisms through which enabling occurs: by building the capacity of incumbent authoritarian leaders and by signalling a permissive environment for authoritarian behaviour for national actors. We illustrate our argument with the case of the United Nations peacekeeping operation in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)698-722
Number of pages25
Issue number3
Early online date7 Jan 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2019


  • Authoritarianism
  • Democratic Republic of Congo
  • United Nations
  • governance
  • peacebuilding
  • peacekeeping


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