Sunday, 28 August 2011

Congo Masquerade now available

I am pleased to inform you that Congo Masquerade is now available. Orders can be placed with Zed Books. Many thanks to everyone in Congo, Europe and the US who helped make this book possible.

Here is what the experts have to say.

'The Trefon volume is indispensable reading for all those interesting in post-conflict state-building. He provides a devastating critique of how the large international investment in this project in DR Congo has fallen far short, through the failings both of the external parties and the Congolese political elite.'
- Professor Crawford Young, University of Wisconsin

'Trefon's sweeping survey of reconstruction efforts in Congo, from bridge repairs to security sector reform, delivers a stinging indictment of both the Congolese government and its international partners, leaving no one unscathed. Sure to create controversy, this book makes for a compelling read and calls for an understanding of Congo and the Congolese on their own terms.'
- Professor Pierre Englebert, Pomona College

'Understanding the Congo -- formerly Zaïre -- is not easy, which explains why we tend easily to think according to clichés, old and new. If we are to move away from Manichean interpretations, including whether the Congo is or is not 'the heart of darkness', we need to rely on scholarship that is at once empirical and sensitive to the historical and cultural context of the country's present condition. Trefon's Congo Masquerade is an important contribution to such scholarship since it asks the right questions about why aid has failed to lead to the required reforms in the country. Focusing on the contemporary period, Trefon explains how state failure can be 'profitable' for those who control it and why the prevalent political culture prevents reform from taking root. Written in simple prose and short chapters, this book will provide a more convincing explanation of what is happening in the Congo than most other books available today. It should be mandatory reading for all those who are concerned with the country or are involved in efforts to reform the state and spur development.'
- Professor Patrick Chabal, Kings College London

'Trefon has written a compelling and well-informed account of the ever unfolding catastrophe that is the Congo; he ably chronicles the mixtures of incompetence, venality, and short-sighted selfish interests on the part of domestic and international actors that have been that country's undoing. This is an excellent introduction to the Congo's complex problems.'
- Dr Nicolas van de Walle, Department of Government, Cornell University

'An impressive piece of work. In 150 pages of concisely analyzed and carefully referenced data, Trefon covers the most salient features of the Congo's 'unending crisis'. There is plenty of blame to be shared, and Trefon evenhandedly identifies the tacit collusion that links the transnational networks of 'aid donors', INGO's, and local NGOs and Congolese actors. The combination of 'development aid' that 'neither aids nor develops with a largely impotent yet arbitrary state apparatus -the legitimacy of which has been in doubt for over fifty years- accounts in large part for the appalling gap between the Congo's potential and its enduring misery. In a nuanced yet compelling way, Trefon argues (as others have done for Liberia and Sierra Leone) for the need to 'put the state back in' and to reform it in such a way as to give it the capacity to deliver public goods. He also points out that, contrary to some Western stereotypes, the Congolese have maintained a genuine sense of national identity which (whether or not it represents a form of 'imagined community') suggests that the Congo is, in some ways, a nation in search of a state, and that 'state-building' may be a more urgent priority than 'nation-building'.'
- Edouard Bustin, Boston University

Monday, 15 August 2011

Kamerhe, Rwanda’s Trojan Horse?

Etienne Tshisekedi’s resounding success in Katanga and Kinshasa, where he filled the Stade des Martyres with over 80,000 followers, has given the Kabila camp good reason to worry. Only a few months ago, Kabila was riding high – the opposition was fragmented and there was cause to doubt the viability of Tshisekedi’s candidacy. Isn’t he too old and frail, intellectually diminished and unable to consolidate factions within his Union pour la démocratie et le progrès social ? His comeback has responded to those doubts.

If his success is a concern to Kabila, it is also a reason for Vital Kamerhe to rethink his strategy. It would make more electoral sense for Kamerhe, who has a relatively solid powerbase in theEast (but more in North Kivu than in South Kivu) to lend support to Tshisekedi in exchange for assurances to be appointed Prime Minister. Bemba hasn’t said much about what he thinks about a single opposition candidate, and his position counts (even though he currently sits in an International Criminel Court prison cell).

Though it seems rather far-fetched, some Congolese believe that Kamerhe is Rwanda’s ‘Trojan Horse’. The 'falling out' between Kabila and Kamerhe is seen as part of a Machiavellic scheme to destabilize the opposition. The rift they claim is a trick, master-minded by Paul Kagame who needs Kabila to stay in power so Rwanda can pursue its campaign to Balkanize the Congo.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Kinshasa voter frustration

Jardin Zoologique de Kinshasa
 32 million Congolese registered to vote in the operation carried out by the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) that recently came to a close. This is up from 25 million during the previous round five years ago. The process was highly politicized and took place despite major technical and logistical obstacles.

The registration situation in Kinshasa, where the population voted massively for Jean-Pierre Bemba in 2005 - and where President Kabila remains unpopular - was analyzed by Guy De Boeck in the Revue Dialogue n° 35. Although the expected figure was 3.5 million, 3.3 million people registered in the capital.

Four categories of problems were identified.
(i) Technical and logistical obstacles included the long distance some people had to walk to reach a registration center (up to 15 km), disorder in queues, delays in processing due to computer breakdowns or the lack of election kits and the issuance of cards that are not conform to standards.

(ii) ‘social’ problems: because electoral agents were not paid, they took excessively long breaks  and aggravated the waiting period. They also insisted on people paying for their voter registration cards, which is against the free and fair logic of the process.

(iii) establishing the real identity of voters was a major problem. Police officers served as electoral agents and there was poor communication about voting procedures.  Candidates anxious to boost votes in their constituencies bussed people to their voting districts outside of the Kinshasa city limits.

(iv) a host of psychological factors were also reported. People are frustrated by the lack of social and democratic progress since voting five years ago so are discouraged by the electoral process. They believe Bemba won in 2005 but was robbed of his rights.  Changing the rules of the game – going from two elections rounds to one – is perceived as a harbinger of fraud and manipulation. There is clear lack of confidence in the CENI.

Kinois do not have high expectations and are largely disillusioned by the electoral process. The CENI probably did not make it particularly easy for registration in Kinshasa given Kabila’s general lack of popularity there. In the probable event of a Kabila victory nationwide, the key question is whether or not they will transform apathy into mobilization. This will be determined largely by the mots d’ordre given by opposition leaders.