DRC: A Fragile Community-Based Confederation Undermined by Kinshasa’s Concentration of Power


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A confederation can be discussed as a union where states chose to hand over some of their sovereign competences and responsibilities, through international treaty, into the hands of common institutions. As states remain sovereign, decisions within common institutions have to be unanimously agreed. States have veto’s rights and they are allowed to leave the confederation if needed. Within a confederation, subjects are states rather than individuals; that is, confederation’s decisions are applicable to individuals via respective states.

The reader might also be interested in related concepts, specifically federation and decentralization. The differences of the latters versus confederation are worthy of attention; reason why the article would suggest that federalism seems to be the appropriate political and administrative system considering the context discussed of Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The blog will further elaborate on the choice of federalism instead of decentralization for a better management of what it considers as a confederation.

Facts show that DRC has more than 450 tribes; de facto, the country has roughly the same number of languages-dialects as well as political parties[1]. These dialects are grouped into four national languages, Kiswahili, Lingala, Kikongo and Tshiluba. National languages are likely distributed as follows, Kiswahili (39%), Lingala (25%), Kikongo (19%) and Tshiluba (18%)[2]. The percentage is an estimation that includes Kinshasa as Lingala speaking; while Province Orientale as Kiswahili speaking. There might slight changes even if the estimation considers some communities in Province Orientale that speak Lingala or the diversity of people living in Kinshasa as they come from different provinces. However, politics and power have made people believing that Congolese are mostly Lingala speakers to the extent many observers reduce Congolese diversity into Lingala.

A specific feature of the DRC territorial and administrative management is that entities are relatively community-based. Sometimes, it is common to find territories and their grassroots administrative structures under specific ethnic community control. Beyond administrative entities, political parties are slightly community oriented as it is easy to guess which community members would likely enroll and adhere to any political organization. In some circumstances, political partisans do blindly adhere and support any political organization due to ethnic representation than ideology. The leave of a representative affects the rest of his community to abandon.  Those who are familiar to the Congolese political arena will unlikely reject the whole argument.

The foremost characteristic of community’s role is that it constitutes the main connector to Congolese citizenship of origin[3]. That is, a Congolese of origin has once to belong to an ethnic community; thus assuring an ethnic citizenship. Though, the connector requirement through an ethnic community might be a unique, it shows how community appurtenance in DRC remains a determinant factor. It goes beyond normal feelings and territorial reconfiguration to the level of being anchored into fundamental law.

Additionally, informed reader will remind that community identities have been the cause of conflicts and armed confrontation between different ethnic groups. Most of armed groups in DRC, especially in eastern part are constructed on community ground. Congolese grip on community identities and one can guess that social Medias groups are community oriented even for those whose experience would have freed them from that. The question is why community’s appurtenance seems praiseworthy equally as belonging to the state.

Before answering the question, the article reminds some events that underscore the role of communities versus the state. In 1992-93, two Congolese provinces arguably composed by communities with political and ethnic ties have solely rejected banknotes and subsequent currency that followed these banknotes of five million during Mobutu’s regime. Whether justifiable or not, the rejection went strongly adopted in those provinces while others didn’t firmly oppose; expressing possibly ties based on community representation. In a similar vein, politicians with the support of “security services” instigated expulsion on an ethnic community. It was as cruel as citizens were called as foreigners in one province of the country. The same situation happened again in 1998

Furthermore, the country have recently faced different insurrections and rebellions grounded on community identities; some of them are calling for a secession of their provinces. It can even be stated that the current deadlock surrounding the promised government of national cohesion may be facing community interests’ divergences. Thus, community in DRC can be interpreted as a “state or an autonomous island” within a large country. Strikingly, it may be agreed that communities feel satisfied when they are represented into public spheres. Consequently, individuals are tied to community than the state. Why?

My take is community members are likely able to deliver and mutually support than does the state; notably, the community is the main switch to national or civic citizenship. Obviously, individuals find interests when belonging to a community afterward to the country. The reader would probably agree that most of opportunities in DRC are accessible through bribes and connections at someone’s disposal. It is unlikely easy to access a job if you are not represented within an organization, otherwise you must check your money-pocket. It has become a customary that the state looks less concerned with delivering services to its population and some would call it a failed state.

Most of public services are delivered by Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and community associations or networks. A relation between individuals and the state is seemingly weak, likely not existing. The state has seemingly failed to deliver social services while concentrating power into the central government hands. It is pretending to deliver more; implicitly meaning that it wants to control the power and exercising it to keep people into hostage. Unfortunately, it even struggles to respond to the basic needs as health, security etc.

Even though competences and responsibilities allocated to provinces under 2006 constitution are subject to debate from my viewpoint[4], the government has also failed to implement the new reconfiguration since 2006, while clearly stated into the constitution. Central government is less confident towards provinces and local entities to the extent that small section roadwork has to be approved by Kinshasa. The reader recalls that these entities, especially provinces need to serve millions of people whose socio-economic conditions are worse.

Therefore, as the state fails to deliver due to its gripping on power concentration, it likely undermines the existing feeble cohesion within the confederation. The article guesses that constitutional power sharing between central level and provinces, within federalism system, is the panacea to get the confederation building cohesion. The reason is simple; services delivery within federalism is likely to be effective and efficient as compared to what we’ve been experiencing. If you have a different opinion, I can’t claim holding the truth, let it be discussed.   

 

Ntanyoma R. Delphin

Twitter account @delphino12

Email: rkmbz1973@gmail.com

Blog: www.edrcrdf.wordpress.com  


[2] Estimation is based on considering that national languages in provinces are distributed as Kiswahili (Katanga, South-Kivu, North-Kivu, Maniema, Province Orientale); Lingala (Equateur and Kinshasa); Kikongo (Bas-Congo and Bandundu); Tshiluba ( Kassai Oriental and Occiedental).

[3] Article 10 of the 2006 constitution

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