Ever since Joseph Conrad set his 1899 novel The Heart of Darkness there, Congo has struck many observers as a paradox. An enormous territory located in the very core of Africa, the Democratic Republic of the Congo is so rich in natural resources that it ought to be among the most prosperous countries on the continent. Yet, as historian Sarah Van Beurden explains this month, patterns of political repression, violence, and economic exploitation established in the 19th-century colonial era continue to shape dynamics in Congo today.


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