DRC : Historical and political sources of organizational chaos

Congo is huge with large variety of natural resources.  Belgian colonialists were endowed with all the powers of economic and social Congolese governance and, according to the fascist formula of  Benito Mussolini:” Everything in the State, nothing outside the State, nothing against the State ”. It was neither a republic nor a democracy. It was an amalgam of African peoples under centralized power and colonial administration. Successive governments in the DRC tried – in vain – to reproduce the colonial power in many ways. But in fact, it is no longer possible – today – to reproduce the colonial state model on people seeking for democracy.

1. DRC: Huge with large variety of natural resources

The area of Congo – Kinshasa, formerly Belgian Congo” and” now – officially -”Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)” – is 2,345,409 km2 or about 80 times Belgium its former colonial power (30,500 km2). This is an area equal to six times Germany, more than 4 times that of France, 1/13 of all Africa, 33 times larger than the Benelux (Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg), and a half times largest Quebec (Canada), or as large as the part of the United States located at the east of the Mississippi. This is the 12th state of the world by its size and the second largest country in Africa by area.

The DRC has 9,045 km of borders with its neighbors, namely the Congo – Brazzaville, Central African Republic (CAR), South Sudan, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, Zambia and Angola. Superimposed on the map of Europe, the city of Muanda (West) would be in Spain whereas Goma (East) would be in Ukraine and the city of Libenge (Northwest) in Denmark and the Sakania (Southeast ) Yemen Asia.

The Congo is a country of forests and savannas. It is a country with an equatorial climate and in part to the tropical climate in another part. It also has a temperate climate of the mountains in its eastern part. Congo is both a space plains, plateaus and mountains. It has rivers and huge rivers. Many rivers provide opportunities for construction of large and small hydroelectric dams.

The Congo River forms a great watershed and is a true boulevard navigation throughout the Congo. Among the currently known mineral resources, it can be noted include the following minerals and rocks: copper, cobalt, gold, diamond, corundum, uranium-radium, tin, tungsten, tantalum (coltan), niobium, manganese, cadmium, coal, oil and bitumen and various ores and rocks (hydrated aluminum silicates, barytes and barium, bismuth, cerium, kyanite, graphite, kaolin, lithium, palladium, platinum, lead, vanadium, ….).

In such a space, the order is a survival imperative, the order is essential to the proper functioning of society. Worldwide, the order implies a certain discipline that is to say, obedience to laws or regulations that govern a state. The policy presupposes – in fact – the existence of an authority (government, public authority) that is to say, in fact – is making a” power” or rather obey a coercive power through a set of organized and designed to operate in a particular territory elements. The order can be democratic or not.

2. Belgian Congo: Neither republic nor democracy

The Belgian Congo was neither a republic nor a democracy : it was not a state in which sovereignty belongs to the people through elected representatives. The Belgian Congo was a colonial order that is to say, an occupied and administered by a foreign nation which layed a considerable role at the cultural, political and social levels in this territory.

In the Belgian Congo, there were therefore no agreement (International Convention) between the Congolese people and the Belgian population to use this Territory of Congo as a colony of the Belgian king Leopold II nor the Belgian State. There were no consent (social contract important) between different pre-colonial nations united in the same territory by Belgians.

The colonial doctrine advocated for a systematic transformation of the territory into small geographic areas (”concessions”) to be economically exploited by European powers but – at the beginning of the colonization- Belgium were considered as a mere caretaker.

The main modality of management of the Belgian Congo reported to a” pure statism”, – hard and exogenous – by which the Belgian colonial state took all economic and social powers of governance. The implementation of this statist doctrine has a story,… a tragic story for the Congolese people because this statism were implemented according to the fascist formula of Benito Mussolini :” Everything in the State, nothing outside the State, nothing against the State”.

In his book on the history of Belgians , Henry Dorchy recognizes at page 268 :: “The colony were to provide to Belgium the necessary opportunities to its business and open new avenues to its cultural civilization” .Congo were used to civilize Belgium! Belgian ”civilizing mission” were for Belgians themselves, not for Congolese ! The colonial history of Congo taught at “school” in Belgium and presented in the aforementioned Henry Dorchy’s book is naturally different from the history of the practiced totalitarism in Belgian colonial state.

In general, colonial state were both “an entrepreneur among many others (…),” the true distributor of production factors, roles and generated wealth “and” the developer of environment, public order, ways of “communication” and general conditions under which colonial exploitation were called upon to effectively perform.) (see Sovereign National Conference, Report of the Commission of Economy, Trade Industry and Planning, Title IV, Appendix I).

3. Belgian Congo: African peoples under a unique administration

The Belgian Congo forced Africans of Congo to live a unique administration on same vast territory but extremely segmented into ”chiefdoms”’ designed as Bantustans. Chiefdoms were geographical portions in which were parked ”natives” of same language or same traditions and supervised by politico-administrative entities called ”Territories”, acting as ”confinement zones” without possibility for indigenous to move freely within their new country

Political and social expression of precolonial African peoples had been systematically stifled and their real historical or traditional leaders liquidated. Belgian Congo appeared in the eyes of colonized people as an amalgam of communities or nations. But – slowly -colonized African populations discovered each other and – more or less – coexisted between themselves.

Some communities have been fully absorbed in the current Congo (Baluba Bakuba …) but – in fact, the most have been only partially and now live along the Congolese borders (Bakongo, Lunda, Zande, Ngbandi, Congolese Banyarwanda (Tutsi and Hutu) – said ‘‘Rwandophones’’ to differentiate these Congolese from other Banyarwanda which are citizens of the current Republic of Rwanda,- …).

Those pre-colonial peoples are – more or less – tied to their historic lands. Each of these communities has – until today – its land, its history, its culture and its survival strategy within a new political system. This implies a fragile social system because of leaders always thinking about local economic interests at national political level !

In postcolonial period – political leaders are still struggling to get rid of some ”ancestral conscience” which is – one way or another – fueling a ethnic community bigotry – sometimes latent sometimes virulent and especially a kind of local patriotism and … xenophobic localism.

At each opening to democratic politics at the national level, political leaders operate a lot of manipulations by orchestrating ethnic divisions and carefully exploit those divisions as opportunities to their ”political survival.”

In the DRC, Pre-colonial identities are irreducible to a ‘one-dimensional” citizenship said ”congolité”. Pre-colonial identities appear to be a sociological invariant which should be taken into account in the practical political analysis of Congolese reality!

The current mode of the Congolese political elites is to organize themselves – on one hand – into powerful “tribal organizations” to enforce politically their communities and -on another hand- into “multiethnic bands” (political parties, humanitarian associations, churches,…) for a better control of resources by accessing to state power through elections or by keeping it within a strong mass support !

However, the ethnic form political alliances seem ephemeral and often limited to a pre-calculated” plunder” of resources or a specific political or economic need. The competition consists in a use of ethnicity as ”electoral bases” (constituencies) between sectarian political leaders which competition often breaks all possibilities to form broad and useful political fronts for radical change. But this does not mean that there is a tendency to” balkanization” of the territory. It is much more a question of national unity, irreducible to only one aspect of the territorial unit of the country.

The slow and continuous evanescence of the Congolese state inherited from the colonial order can’t be explained by itself. After colonization, Congolese political elite should had preserved the state structures while changing its political purpose by generating a new utopias or setting up a new and coherent policy practice in relation with poplar concerns. Still now, we have to find a new social value to sustain the new nation by a new state structure within Congolese society.

4. Belgian Congo: A centralized colonial administration

For colonial state, the first public administration’s role were to ”frame” all populations. It has been trained some ”elites” in lower level education to obtain auxiliaries to the colonial administration such as typists, teachers for school primary, nurses, medical assistants, auxiliaries to Justice. The real academic education were excluded during a long time. in 1958, it was designed two years before independence of Congo Kinshasa.

There was a central metropolitan government in Brussels and colonial and local government in Leopoldville. Although Belgian Congo had had a distinct personality from that of the Belgian metropolis, however, Belgium had assured the exercise of its sovereign rights over the colony directly from 15 November 1908.

The Belgian government activity had been governed by Belgian Constitution whereas the Belgian Congo were by the provisions of the Colonial Charter. But Belgian law intervened in any matter : the Colonial Charter were itself an offshoot of the Belgian law and not a sovereign law done by Congolese themselves.

A key feature of the colonial charter was: when he had lost his powers in Belgium becoming a constitutional monarch, the Belgian king was mighty Congo. • The legislative power were exercised in Congo Belgian by king decree but countersigned by the Minister of Colonies. The draft legislative decree – prepared by the Minister of Colonies – should had been submitted to an advisory body – the Colonial Council -composed of 14 members, eight appointed by the King of the Belgians and six by the Belgian legislative chambers (lower house and Senate).

Executive power were exercised in Congo by the Belgian king by means of regulations and orders given by the Minister of Colonies. The Minister of colonies were part of the Council of Ministers within the belgain Government where was deliberated Belgian interests in Congo.

Each year, an administrative report on Belgian Congo was presented to the legislative chambers and on behalf of the King of the Belgians. The table below gives an indication of powers of the Governor General of the Belgian Congo.

Table 1: Powers of the Governor General of the Belgian Congo

Administrations under authority of Governor General
Composition of the Council of Government in Congo
  • Police Force
  • Security Services
  • Government’s Secretariat
  • Commission of ‘‘Ten Years Plan’’
  • Departments :

-   Political, administrative and judicial Businesses. 

-   Indigenous and Social Affairs

-  Budget, Finance and Customs

-  Economic Affairs

-  Lands, Mines and Geology

-  Agriculture and Colonization

-  Veterinary Service

-  Public Works and Communications

-  Medical Services

-  Public Education and Religious Affairs

-  Geographic Institute

Members of law
  • Governor general
  • Two deputy governors general
  • Secretary General  to Government
  • Attorneys General
  • Provincial governors
  • Commander of the Police Force
Members (for 3 years)
  • 9 members from Limited companies
  • 9 representatives of the middle classes
  • 9 representatives of Employment
  • 9 Notables
  • 19 representatives of rural areas.

Sources: A. Michels and N. Laude: Belgian Congo and Ruanda-Urundi. The Universal Edition AG Brussels, p.228

The Ministry of Colonies was the hyphen between the Belgian Congo and Belgium, but – on behalf of the King of Belgium -. His role was to let the Governor General pay attention to the policy to be followed and to be considered in all colonial affairs that required its response. The opinion of the Belgian king administration heavily relied on this!

The Ministry of Colonies was the legislative and executive link between the King of the Belgians and Belgium itself through the administration of the Belgian Congo. The Governor General of the Belgian Congo had had power to act legislatively by ordinance-law or temporarily suspend an existing order for a period of six months. He exercised the executive power by ordinance.

The Governor General of the Belgian Congo was installed in Leopoldville (now Kinshasa). He had represented in Belgian Congo the Belgian authority at the highest level and in the highest form: all the powers should converged to him through his senior administrative and military staff.

Later, Joseph Kasavubu, Joseph Mobutu, Laurent Kabila and Joseph Kabila wanted – too -all state powers to be converged to them and only them – alone- ! Sad legacy ! As if they were the new colonial governors of the DRC.

5. DRC, a model of reproduction of colonialist political power

To fully understand the current state failure in the DRC, we must return briefly to the political atmosphere of successive political regimes from 1960 to the present day and this, with respect to the Lumumba’s ideal of a State serving people.

The Belgian colonial state was totalitarian. But around the year 1948, the colonial government built a paternalistic policy called” Native Policy” which was to put forward the concept of ” Belgo-Congolese Community”.

And in 1955 in Leopoldville, King Baudouin stressed human contact by merging interests through ”solidarities” between whites and blacks. However, the Belgian colonial state could not yet say to black people – in the words of Friedrich Nietzsche- : ” I , The State, am the people.” This ”state” was not for ”Congolese people”” because it’s was used- primarily – as an instrument of repression against Congolese people … in Congo

The State of the Belgian Congo had remained a ”Monster” – coolly lying – and its paternalistm’ was just a lie that crawled out of his mouth. Later, Congolese leaders had realized that the colonial state was not a Congolese state for Congolese people ! Then, they expressed their ideological break with the colonial system of oppression. Patrice Lumumba had openly denounced the colonial system and condemned it as a humiliating slavery imposed to the Congolese by force.

Later, the failure of the first Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba lay in the fact of not having been able to organize a strong political movement which could help him to get a broad support of masses – inside and outside – of the state . ”The State was not the people and it could not serve people only through its Government to resist to sectarian or personal ambitions of people … The Cold War between the USA and then the USSR didn’t facilitated things!

With its successors, the formula of Friedrich Nietzsche ” I, the state, am the people “was gradually replaced by the formula of Louis IV, that says :” The State is Me ”. First by Joseph Mobutu, then by Laurent Kabila and finally Joseph Kabila.

With its successors, the formula of Friedrich Nietzsche ” I, the state, am the people “was gradually replaced by the formula of Louis IV, that says :” The State is Me ”. First by Joseph Mobutu, then by Laurent Kabila and finally Joseph Kabila.

Between 1965 and 1973, Joseph Mobutu became the ruler of Congo with his friends of the famous ”College of Commissioners” – more or less modified – because extended. In 1973, Joseph Mobutu created a State-Party. Putting the state in a political party as State-Party, it was as if Joseph Mobutu wanted to put Atlantic Ocean in a basin to better observe and regulate at his will. By bais, Joseph Mobutu sought to achieve a goal, that of being the only Chef through a doctrine of his own name – the Mobutism-. He remained in state power until 1997, 32 years after his second coup. He would had said : ”The State is Me”

Joseph Mobutu relied more on family members and ethnicity because of fear of treachery in his own camp. The Louis IV formula became for Joseph Mobutu -:” The state is for My family ”.

In fact, the Mobutu dictatorship had managed to privatize the state and public administration. Mobutu transformed them into mere private property and exclusive use for the despot and his biological family. He had managed to put at the service of the pack of courtiers and craftsmen. (….). Mobutu had reproduced the colonial model by trying to imitate Leopold II. Mobutu had -essentially – based its political regime on ” deprivation’ by confiscating civil liberties and fundamental rights human of people ” (By Joel Asher Levy-Cohen:” Balkanization” or ”Confederation” : What  viable solution for the Democratic Republic of Congo ?  Internet consulted on 26 October 2012)

Americans-in the context of end of the Cold War – had become new and fierce advocates of human rights on the international level. Joseph Mobutu considered all internal forces for change like forces against him or his own political system.

The fall of Mobutu in May 1997 following the Liberation of Congo against his dictatorship by a Congolese coalition – backed by Rwanda, Uganda and Angola – brought to power Laurent Desire Kabila. Against all expectations, Laurent Desire Kabila arrogated all executive and legislative powers by presidential decree of 18 May 1997. He became a halt to a long struggle for the democratization of society.

Laurent Kabila wanted to control all political power in a rather evanescent State and where the shreds – organizational and human – of its public administration had nothing to do with the famous Belgian Congo that – him, Laurent Kabila – had known before fleeing 1961 … to take refuge in Burundi, Congolese bush, Uganda, Tanzania and … before returning to Kinshasa by the will of the leaders of Rwanda. He had had rather be a broad political front to block the road to Mobutu’s reaction and rebuild the state. He did exactly the opposite !

Again, we could go back to the formula of Louis IV by saying – Laurent Kabila:” I – Laurent Kabila – I am the State ”. Those who had seen in his regime an opportunity to make the Lumumba approach that ” The State is the people” were bitterly disappointed by his will for the establishment of a cult of personality in his favor but crypto-communistic version of Lumumba!

Instead of attracting tshisekedistes and various supporters Lumumba in a new ”Sacred Union” to rebuild a State for the Congolese people, Laurent Kabila chose those who could serve as his henchmen to the cult of personality. Again, It was time to redo everything by fighting for the democratization of society!

Laurent Kabila created within his internal power and civilian opposition in Kinshasa, a formidable enemy – Mobutu’s partisans – and on external side – his former AFDL allies reorganized within ”RCD” and some of his traditional enemies, grouped ”MLC”. . Laurent Kabila had acted as ”a dizzy sawing the tree on which it sits.”

At the death by assassination of Laurent Kabila in January 2001, he was succeeded by his son, Joseph Kabila. The political power of the latter was literally riddled of Mobutists inherited from his father. Later, Mobutists had said that he was their ”Moral Authority” to flatter him and caress him in the direction of hair by eliciting – as usually – the same thing: public money! This is where we hold them, too!

During peace negotiations in 2003 and the agreements that resulted, the weight of Mobutu increased in institutions from the Transition from 2003 to 2006. A former supporter of his father – Mwenze-Kongolo had said that Joseph Kabila’s leadership was a Mobutist one under a cover of Lumumba speech. Watered Mobutu doctrine !

In fact, it is as if Joseph Kabila seeks to navigate an Atlantic Ocean in a small motorized canoe and surrounded by other canoes from which he had removed all engines and but related to the first motorized canoe. It sails on a dangerous sea without proper doctrinal equipment!

Joseph Kabila’s entourage consists not only in Mobutists. There is also some ” Lumumbists’’ from a former lumpenproletariat of European and American Diaspora which had spoofed the AFDL’s Liberation. Ideological confusion is such that many-opportunistic looking for easy money and strong political feelings – regularly converge to Joseph Kabila’s political power.

Around Joseph Kabila, there are – today – people, especially tired of fighting for political or humanitarian reasons without tangible results in terms of personal material gain. there are – in fact, real traitors of causes to which they had had spent much energy . Result: Congolese state has been replaced by ”networks”. With this inertia related to the passivity of the political leaders and activists of forgotten ”noble causes”, Joseph Kabila must – probably – say to himself: ” I, Joseph Kabila, I am the State ”,

Jean Munyampenda, Economist

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