Bruno Charbonneau, “The Imperial Legacy of International Peacebuilding: The Case of Francophone Africa


Par Bruno Charbonneau
Review of International Studies Vol. 40, No. 3,2014, pp. 607-630.

Comparisons of peacebuilding with historic practices of imperialism are common,
but these comparisons have sustained a hegemonic antagonism between humanitarian and
imperialist interpretations of international peace intervention. This article argues that this
common framing externalises the problem of intervention, romanticises local resistance, and
forecloses to investigation the articulation between militarised peace practices and trans-
national capitalist relations. To do so, the article analyses the case of Francophone Africa,
thus providing a context that has been left unexplored in peacebuilding debates. By bringing
back in the historicity of particular Franco-African imperial experiences into peacebuilding
research, the article reveals the militarisation of politics, transnational elite networks, and the
dominant intellectual predispositions that work to reproduce the legitimacy of hegemonic
practices of ‘peace’ interventionism. In the last section, the article analyses the debates over
the UN-French 2011 intervention in Co
te d’Ivoire to reveal the connections between the ethics
of humanitarian interventions and the political economy of imperialism. The article concludes
that the imperial legacy of peacebuilding is found in old capabilities, new organising logics,
and specific practices and power relations and that to focus on the humanitarian-imperialist
antagonism caricatures the relationships between ‘local’ and ‘international’ actors.

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