Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Political Science


Irving Leonard Markovitz

Committee Members

Thomas G. Weiss

Herbert F. Weiss

Subject Categories

African Studies | Comparative Politics | International and Area Studies | International Relations


UN, peacekeeping, peacebuilding, Great Lakes, networks, MLC, conflict


Since 1996, the Democratic Republic of Congo has been the battleground for was within wars, where networks of conflict interact to produce patterns of local resource extraction and patterns of local and regional violence, resulting in one of the most devastating, yet surprisingly understudied, humanitarian disasters of our day. This dissertation explains the complex political sociologies of the three Congo wars and tests key assumptions in the new war literature through empirical observation of the wars and a case study of the Mouvement de Liberation du Congo (MLC), one of the principal rebel movements in these wars.

This project challenges the assertion that contemporary conflicts are exclusively intra-state (or civil war) phenomena. There is no neat dividing line between the external and internal dimensions of the three Congo wars, as actors are linked together in transnational networks of war, and the local is never truly local. This dissertation also argues that the discursive emphasis on the economic functions of violence and the economic agendas of actors—particularly non-state actors—to the exclusion of political grievance articulation against the state or rival groups, offers only partial and at times even faulty explanations. Political contestation in the Congo is being restructured into violent, networked insurgencies and proxy movements, and public authority is contested and reshaped by a multitude of actors, state and non-state.

The complexities of these wars have deeply challenged the United Nations and others in their efforts to end the continued violence. Interventions to end the violence have failed—not because local dynamics have been ignored in favor of national ones, but rather because the linkages between different scales of violence (local, national, regional, international) have been poorly understood. There is a need for new ways to conceive of and characterize what appear to be hybrid wars structured around complex, transnational networks linking a diversity of actors. This study thus represents an effort to develop a network-centered approach to explain contemporary war, in which the network is the primary unit of analysis.