Emory Report
December 8, 2008
Volume 61, Number 14

New name,
same acronym

The Institute for Comparative and International Studies at Emory has a new name — the Institute of Critical International Studies. The change reflects a new emphasis of ICIS: to engage in more grass-roots, practical approaches concerning developmental issues in the world’s major hot spots.
ICIS also has a new home, the historic Dickey-Jones House at 1627 North Decatur Rd., that provides a more collaborative environment.

For further details, visit



Emory Report homepage  

December 8
, 2008
Path to peace in Congo

By carol CLARK

Not a lot of good news comes out of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a country known for its sexual violence and the world’s deadliest conflict since World War II. That’s one reason why Patience Kabamba, a native of the Congo, decided to seek out what is working well in his country.

Kabamba recently received his Ph.D. in anthropology from Columbia University, and is a visiting scholar at the Institute for Critical International Studies (ICIS) at Emory. For his dissertation, he studied a group of successful traders, known as the Nande, who live in eastern Congo, near the border with Uganda.

“I wanted to learn why these people manage to prosper in the midst of conflict,” Kabamba says. “Not only are they in a haven of peace that is surrounded by war, they are booming in terms of trade.”

His research is coming in handy in his current role with an ICIS initiative known as States at Regional Risk (SARR). The four-year project, begun in 2008 and funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, addresses the causes and remedies of instability and strife, by cultivating dialogue between local policymakers, humanitarian practitioners and scholars. Kabamba is organizing a conference for SARR in June, which will bring together regional players that have a stake in the ongoing conflict in the Congo.

“Tense,” Kabamba says, summing up the state of relations between many people in the eastern Congo, and its neighbors, Rwanda and Burundi. Kabamba has worked hard to set the stage for fruitful dialogue between representatives of all three places, traveling extensively through volatile areas and building bonds of trust.
The eastern Congo is largely cut off from the capital of Kinshasa, which is located in the western part of the country. The eastern Congo enjoys rich reserves of gold and fertile farmland, but also has endured more than its share of regional upheaval.

“Just as many economic, social and military issues don’t stop at borders, the conflict in eastern Congo is directly related to issues in Rwanda and Burundi,” says Bruce Knauft, executive director of ICIS. “If you don’t have a regional perspective of a path to stability, then you have a much lower likelihood of success.”

The June conference, which will likely be held in Burundi, will strive to take a long-term view of issues involving the eastern Congo and its neighbors. The participants will focus mainly on local models of good governance, instead of external ones.

“There are many millionaires among the Nande,” Kabamba says. “They travel to Dubai, to Hong Kong and Taiwan for business, but they come back home to invest, despite the war.”

Although the Nande are primarily Protestant, they work closely with the local Catholic Church to support the development of schools and hospitals in their main town of Butembo. “The Nande are not perfect,” Kabama says, noting that some of their practices help fuel the conflict. “But it is important to look at what the Nande are doing right, and how that could be duplicated. Maybe we could build on that.”

He is encouraging conference participants to come armed with such positive examples from their own communities, and a long-term, regional vision for peace and prosperity. Their ideas will be assimilated to create possible roadmaps for success.

“We want to find alternatives to post-colonial states,” Kabamba says. “We need to think boldly about new ways of organizing, and make it dependent on the realities on the ground. It’s a global world now, but global influence should come with local understanding.”