Departures Podcast with Peer Schouten, author of ‘Roadblock Politics: The Origins of Conflict and Violence in Central Africa’

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Throughout the global supply chain, there are chokepoints where states and stakeholders exploit an opportunity to extract rents – and this includes nearby the origin of critical minerals, diamonds, and other natural resources in relatively ungoverned areas of Central Africa.

Peer Schouten, who is a senior researcher at the Danish Institute for International Studies and who has spent years working in the DRC and the Central African Republic, has now published one of the first studies comprehensively documenting these roadblocks, how they are politically managed, and what they mean in terms of funding rebel groups and violent conflicts which have become such a high-profile geopolitical concern.

With more than a decade’s worth of field work, Schouten’s excellent book, “Roadblock Politics: The Origins of Violence in Central Africa,” challenges a number of longstanding Western presumptions about state formation and conflict in the region. His findings highlight connections between multinational corporations selling you cell phones and electric vehicles with the hyper local economies nearby mining sites, from women-run restaurants and bars to basic state services like healthcare and schools.

In this critique, Schouten’s book finds much to be desired with efforts by the donor community and foreign governments to restrict trade of goods associated with conflict, finding that rebel groups have easily circumvented such attempts to influence power dynamics.

International observers have failed to understand, Schouten argues, that logistics in the region is not characterized by chaos, but instead by “rather consistent rules and logics of control.”