Thursday 28 April 2011

Masquerade électorale au Congo

L’actualité politique en RDC sera de plus en plus dominée par les débats autour des élections prévues pour la fin de l’année. Il s’agit, notamment, de la nouvelle loi électorale, le rôle du CENI, l’évolution de la composition de la famille présidentielle, le financement des élections (y compris la participation des partenaires internationaux), la sensibilisation des électeurs et comment l’opposition va pouvoir se positionner.

Or, il n’est pas inutile de rappeler que confondre élections et changement démocratique sera une grave erreur. Nous l’avons déjà vu en 2006 : gagner les élections et s’approprier le pouvoir ne se traduit point par l’amélioration de l’accès à l’espace politique des Congolais ordinaires. L’objectif du Président Kabila et ses alliés est la consolidation du pouvoir et non pas son partage.

Les élections vont avoir lieu, peut-être avec un retard, et Kabila sera probablement réélu. Mais cela n’est pas la question la plus intéressante. Le vrai débat c’est comment les élections pourraient contribuer aux changements positifs. C’est une question le plus souvent escamotée – et ça c’est la malheureuse masquerade.

Thursday 21 April 2011

Laurent au Congo

Prince Laurent's visit to Congo last month caused quite a political stir in Belgium – far more so than in Congo. He was criticized for promoting his personal activities under official cover. His brief meeting with President Kabila who paid for his mission, after the Royal Palace and the Government explicitly asked him not to undertake the trip, sparked new debate about the future of the monarchy.

His father, King Albert II attended the high-profile 50-year independence ceremonies in Kinshasa and was criticized for lending credibility to Kabila and thus supporting his electoral ambitions in the upcoming presidential elections.

Prince Laurent in Ibi village, DRC
Recalcitrant at first, Laurent finally accepted to respect his royal responsibilities – for the sake of maintaining his stipend. Indeed, the Belgian taxpayer provides him with 26,000 Euros every month.

A summary of the debate is available at:

Tuesday 19 April 2011

Congo at Kent State

The Ohio National Guard fired into a crowd of Kent State University demonstrators on 4 May l970 killing four and wounding nine.

This video about the shameless Kent State shootings is a must!

Students were protesting against the escalation of American involvement in Vietnam and Cambodia. The shootings caused a sentiment of national mourning and triggered a nationwide student strike that forced hundreds of colleges and universities to close.

The event instilled an ongoing sense of social justice at Kent State which is holding its 12th Annual Symposium on Democracy. This year, international Congo experts will examine war-related sexual violence, the resource curse and fragile agency in this troubled geography of political exclusion and violence.

Symposium programme available at:

Monday 18 April 2011

Smoke and Mirrors

'Smoke and mirrors' is the title of a new report that critically assesses the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF). The report highlights the lack of concrete results of this World Bank initiative to improve forest governance. The findings have policy implications for the DRC because of the ostensible efforts elaborated in partnership with Congo to improve New Environmental Services such as carbon trading. The report unveils a game of 'smoke and mirrors' with the World Bank and recipient governments colluding with each other to mask defects in FCPF operations. Public statements, policies and guidance notes pay lip service to forest peoples' rights and local benefit sharing. Yet there appears to be no real intention to put these principles into action.

See report at:

Friday 15 April 2011

Indigenous people's rights

Indigenous people achieved a political milestone in DRC.

Jérôme Bokele Bondenge, a 44-year-old Pygmy, recently entered the the Equateur Provincial Assembly as a provincial deputy. In the 2006 elections, he was runner-up (suppléant) to José Bankita who passed away earlier this year, leaving his seat vacant. Entering the Assembly is an important breakthrough in an environment where indigenous people are often marginalized.
Bokele says he will pay particular attention to the needs of forest peoples whose livelihoods are threatened by both industrial logging and protected areas.

Read more at:

Wednesday 13 April 2011

Jeroen Cuvelier’s  recently released report provides new insight and empirical data on the links between conflict and minerals in eastern DRC. The complexity of resource governance in a context of state fragility: The case of eastern DRC looks at the modus operandi of mineral trading networks, impacts on the local political economy and the militarization of the mining sector.

Recommended reading!


Masquerade may seem an insensitive term to associate with the Congolese social tragedy. But as this book will reveal, it is a title that makes sense. Masquerade refers to situations of disguise, trickery and concealment where actors make a show of being what they are not, where they can be both themselves and their opposites. Hypocrisy and the art of the unsaid are key characteristics of masquerade.

Masquerade hides the true human nature of personal and political intrigue. It is synonymous with the hidden agendas of development experts and political actors who have mutated into reform avatars. They are the forces that are contributing to the definition of Congo’s still uncertain process of becoming.

Congo is indeed on the move. But do we know where it is heading? Unlike the masquerade of the European Renaissance that contributed to comic reversal of social order, the masquerade being played out in Congo today appears far more tragic than carnivalesque...

Tuesday 12 April 2011

Run if you are rich

President Kabila and his allies are not taking any chances when it comes to their re-election. Earlier this year the constitution was amended, replacing the two-round presidential voting system with a single round system. This is a clear advantage for the incumbent. This week, a new law has been tabled: presidential candidates have to post a $100,000 non-reimbursable bond and candidates to both houses of Parliament, $5,000. If only the rich can run for public office, what is the prospect of renewing political actors and ushering in new leadership?

Sunday 10 April 2011

Welcome to the Congo Masquerade blog

The aim of this blog is to update and put into perspective the analysis provided in the forthcoming book, Congo Masquerade: the politics of aid inefficiency and reform failure (Zed Books).

This blog will provide updated facts and analysis that will track political change in Congo during this crucial year when elections are supposed to take place.

The Congo Masquerade blog should be a space where activists and experts on Congo can share views on the evolution of politics, elections, economy and security issues in one of Africa's most notorious failed states.