Escaping the Conflict Trap: Promoting Good Governance in the Congo
Escaping the Conflict Trap: Promoting Good Governance in the Congo
Table of Contents
  1. Executive Summary
The Boiling Regional Crisis in Eastern Congo
The Boiling Regional Crisis in Eastern Congo
Report 114 / Africa

Escaping the Conflict Trap: Promoting Good Governance in the Congo

The Democratic Republic of Congo’s strides toward peace could prove short-lived if the government and donors do not increase efforts to create a transparent and accountable government.

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Executive Summary

The Democratic Republic of Congo’s strides toward peace could prove short-lived if the government and donors do not increase efforts to create a transparent and accountable government. State institutions such as parliament, courts, the army and the civil service remain weak and corrupt. The national elections scheduled for 30 July 2006 risk creating a large class of disenfranchised politicians and former warlords tempted to take advantage of state weakness and launch new insurgencies. Donors must initiate new programs in support of good governance that include more funding to strengthen state institutions (in particular parliament and the various auditing bodies), as well as apply more political pressure to make sure reforms are implemented.

The Congolese state has suffered from corruption since independence. The logic of the 2002 peace agreement, which established the current political transition, has brought problems of governance into sharp relief. Senior positions in the administration and state-run enterprises were shared between signatories, and state resources were siphoned off to fund election campaigns and private accounts. Between 60 and 80 per cent of customs revenues are estimated to be embezzled, a quarter of the national budget is not properly accounted for, and millions of dollars are misappropriated in the army and state-run companies. The mining sector is particularly prone to corruption, with valuable concessions granted with little legitimate benefit to the state.

These governance problems have an immediate impact on the humanitarian situation. Unpaid soldiers harass and intimidate civilians. Factions within the army and government continue to fight over mines and control of border crossings. The displaced civilians have almost no health services to fall back on, and 1,000 or more die daily as a result.

While international attention has concentrated on elections, the other elements of a stable democracy are weak or missing, including the necessary checks on executive power. Parliament is poorly funded and divided, mirroring the weakness of political parties. Parliamentary inquiries lack necessary resources and expertise to be effective. The judiciary is deeply politicised and inadequately funded. Not a single official has been tried during the transition for corruption. Presidential and legislative candidates should have – but have not – presented detailed plans for addressing corruption in customs, public finance and natural resources.

The incoming government will offer new opportunities for improving governance. The president, parliament and local governing bodies will be democratically elected and in theory accountable to their constituencies. Twenty-six provinces are to be created out of the current eleven, each with locally elected provincial assemblies, and to manage 40 per cent of national revenues raised on their territories. Three new high courts will replace the current Supreme Court. But without international support and funding, these institutions will remain largely a shell.

Donors have treated corruption as a technical problem and emphasised data management systems, training programs and laws. They have shied away from the more political aspects, such as strengthening parliament, courts and anti-corruption and auditing bodies. They finance more than half the national budget and should do more to press charges against corruption suspects, make sure the government complies with the mining code and hold multinational corporations accountable for violating national and international norms.

A complete overhaul of the approach to good governance is needed after the elections, with much greater focus on strengthening institutions, especially parliament and courts. The Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper the new government is to publish later this year is already substantially prepared but it should be supplemented by more detail on anti-corruption initiatives and parliamentary capacity building. Major donors should then launch plans to promote governance over a five-year period and at the same time create a successor group to the International Committee for the Support of the Transition to coordinate their actions and their pressure on the incoming government to implement the promised reforms.

Nairobi/Brussels, 20 July 2006

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