Friday, 31 January 2014

Reactivating the Masquerade blog

After a long period of inactivity, I am going to give a new life to this blog. The first reason is to announce the publication in French of Congo Masquerade, now available as Congo, la mascarade de l’aide au development at

I also want to let you know of a new book I am writing. The working title is Congo’s Environmental Paradox: Potential and Predation in a Land of Plenty. 

Future posts will be less about politics and more about the political economy of natural resource management.

Below is a summary.

Congo’s Environmental Paradox is about the political economy of natural resources - forests, minerals, land, water and oil. A land of plenty with the resources the world needs, DRC is a resource paradise for some, but an environmental nightmare for others. 

No other country in Africa, and few countries worldwide, has such an impressive concentration and diversity of natural wealth. Congo has over 1,100 mineral substances and is home to the world’s second largest tropical rainforest. Endowed with abundant arable land, rain and sunshine, Congo’s farmers could feed a billion people while also providing new sources of sustainable biofuels. More than half of Africa’s fish and water are located in this troubled nation, whose hydroelectric capacity could light up the entire continent. Congo has oil too, so as some major importers like the United States shift their dependency away from the Middle East, its geo-strategic significance as a petroleum producer could increase.

The book is original because it is will present Congo’s five strategic environment sectors in a holistic way and through an historic lens that tracks the major changes since Joseph Kabila has asserted himself as president. It will revise conventional political economy understanding of how power is structured in the DRC, analyzing how recent trends in globalization and elite politics have stimulated new power relations.

Congo's Environmental Paradox adopts a political economy approach to analyze the complicated interactions between power and natural resources and between the sectors themselves. There is little published information about the governance of Congo’s agricultural sector, water resources and oil. Whatever information does exist tends to be sector specific and lacks historic depth. But it is impossible to implement a viable forestry policy without making linkages to the energy and agriculture sectors. Artisanal mining has consequences on food production and industrial mining is thirsty for power – meaning it needs electricity. Oil production undermines protected area management. These are some of the interconnections to be examined through a holistic conceptual framework.