DRC’s Decentralization Process: Katanga Peels Away to “Katanga”?


Honorable Gabriel Kyungu Wa Kumwanza is the president of Katanga’s Provincial Parliament. On 31st December 2014, during a provincial parliament session, he has challenged the national parliament over the territorial reconfiguration of Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) being undertaken within the ongoing extraordinary session of December-January. Amid the Katumbi enigmatic statement over a manipulated football match, Kyungu has clearly stated that Katanga province is not concerned by the territorial reconfiguration process as matter of fully implementing the decentralization program stipulated into the 2006 constitution. He called on members of the national parliament to be responsible over any decision of splitting Katanga into 4 provinces. It might have been so chocking on central level to have the Kyungu’s public announcement within the fragile socio-political context of DRC, especially within the inner circle of the power. And what does all this mean to Katanga? Peeling away?

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has been going through a complex series of crises since long ago. Though these crises are apparently clear and obvious, they require analyzing deeply their root causes. Their tackling needs also to consider comprehensive solutions on timeframe basis due to how some responses could take time to be implemented. Additionally, DRC socio-political and geographical characteristics like its size, provinces’ socio-cultural differences and specificities of some regions must also be taken into account for prescribing long term solutions. It is in this regard that 2006 DRC’s constitution initiated a territorial re-configuration[1] (decoupage in french) of 26 Provinces, Kinshasa city included. The constitution had defined decentralization as a political & administrative system that could enhance the country’s management. The unlikely less fitting model!

However, since 2006, neither territorial reconfiguration nor decentralization process as devolution of competencies and responsibilities had been fully implemented. Though both aspects would have had a positive effect on country’s management, its failure expresses likely that they were not contextual fitting. The article 2 of the constitution has been sounding as ‘pus’ within the infected wound. Observers would remind that the 2006 constitution was elaborated under pressure of belligerent aspirations during the African World War. Consequently, it presents some drawbacks due to how some of its clauses seemingly were not deeply considered. Observers and informed readers may unlikely disagreed that the possible stumbling block among politicians and country leaders lies on the territorial reconfiguration; hence delaying the decentralization process. The decentralization process suffers on way or another of the heating topic of breaking up the existing provinces into smaller ones, as a way of making closer public administration to local population.

Nevertheless, experience has shown that the stumbling block of territorial reconfiguration remains mostly heating as lengthy time has gone with few achievement in that domain. Nonetheless, one week after the formation of Matata II government of “National Cohesion”, decentralization emerged again as one of the priorities assigned by the president to Matata II. Consequently, it’s unclear if the extraordinary parliament session in the “Palais du Peuple” debating decentralization has coincided with the president speech during the “Nation’s Address”; or if it was a strategy to take the opportunity for introducing other heating topics such as constitutional revision. In any case, Katanga’s take on the territorial reconfiguration would inevitably inflame public opinions. The Kyungu’s position challenges again the legitimacy of the 2006 constitution establishing roles of the central and provincial competencies. On the other hand, it questions also the outcome of the extraordinary Minaku’s parliament session if it would decide to undertake quickly the decentralization process as ordered by President Joseph Kabila.

The contribution of the article reiterates in advising to parting Decentralization process and Territorial Reconfiguration. It likely sounds that decentralizing power is slightly complicating the move as does territorial reconfiguration. “Therefore, rather than being stagnant, the country can leave out the latter and implement the former. Simply because a territorial reconfiguration unaccompanied by power de-concentration in Kinshasa’s hand would be an empty mission given to provinces”. Strikingly, as stated by the article 204 of 2006 constitution, competences and responsibilities allocated to the future provinces render these administrative entities as much as vulnerable. Provinces remain hugely dependent to central government, thus falling into a masked centralized government. Provinces responsibilities and competences get diluted when analysis involves central level interferences stated by article 203 of the constitution. The reader recalls that these entities (provinces) are on average as large as Portugal (93,400 Km2).

Based on my viewpoint, territorial reconfiguration would take longer than 8 years more to get it fully implemented. It may even be predicted that reconfiguration will remain possibly unreachable as it has been incorporated into the constitution without deeply assessing its implications. Secondly, since 2006, incentives around decentralization such as 40% never get fully executed by the central government. That is, provincial levels have realized the empty missions given to them as stated into the constitution; though most of their governors are likely shy due power exercising in DRC. In addition, it looks like even informed local population wouldn’t approve again, if they were allowed to, such devolution of competencies and responsibilities of Provinces and Local Decentralized Entities. Therefore, pushing towards the reconfiguration may reversely bear fruits that were not intended for. The proof is the stake of Katanga’s province while it remains the powerful and rich province among others. To some point, when considering the way local population suffers from the lack of the state, the Kyungu’s stance may meet several supporters as nothing guarantees that what went wrong in terms of resources redistribution since 2006 was territorial reconfiguration.

As I am being a decentralization specialist, my reading tends to point out that country leaders need to reconsider and reinforce competences and responsibilities given to Provinces rather that sticking on territorial reconfiguration. Consequently, decentralizing power and decision making from Kinshasa’s hand would expand the possibility of creating competition among provinces and hence expecting from the latter to provide better socio-economic services to the public. Especially as social services constitute one of the missions assigned to Matata II as well as prior mission of any responsible government. Hence the alternative to the status quo might be keeping the current structure of province; while thinking about the possibility of implementing federal political system. The reason behind is that federalism wouldn’t require butchering provinces; though it brings closer the decision-making to local population with its specificities of avoiding central level interferences.

It can also be urged that there is a possibility of establishing decentralization within federal states. This is another advantage of achieving what was initially intended during the failed conception of 2006 constitution. Entities may be created within the same structure of provinces under decentralization process part of federalism. Additionally, as federalism appears to be an administrative and political system that considers sociocultural differences of Provinces, it can also be stated that it gives an opportunity to ease public management as well as reducing central level confrontation. Moreover, federalism allows province to constitutionally manage their specificities at the same time opening up competition among them. As result, DRC could grow economically while improving socio-economic conditions of its population who have been suffering for long time.

 Ntanyoma R. Delphin

Twitter account @delphino12

Email: rkmbz1973@gmail.com

Blog: www.edrcrdf.wordpress.com

[1] Article 2 of the constitution stipulates that DRC comprising Kinshasa city plus 25 provinces endowed by legal personality. The following were the expected provinces in 2006 constitution: Bas-Uele, Equateur, Haut-Lomami, Haut-Katanga, Haut-Uele, Ituri, Kasai, Kasai Oriental, Kongo central, Kwango, Kwilu, Lomami, Lualaba, Kasaï Central, Mai-Ndombe, Maniema, Mongala, Nord-Kivu, Nord¬Ubangi, Sankuru, Sud-Kivu, Sud-Ubangi, Tanganyika, Tshopo, Tshuapa

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