P020 – Contest and Collusion: Local Adaption to Externally Induced Policies and Practices in Eastern DRC
10 July, 14:00-15:30

Vogel Christoph / University of Zurich
Marijnen Esther / Free University of Brussels


The Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has lived through two decades of violent conflicts. The past years – often under the buzzword of ‘stabilisation’ – experienced a series of attempts to induce profound governance changes in several areas, notably artisanal mining, nature conservation, security provision, state-building. While international agendas focus on the whole of DRC, the Kivu provinces provide the most salient showcase for this trend.
Multiple interventions have launched externally-led frameworks that aim at inducing policies that entail neo-liberal approaches to institutional reform, economic regulation, etc. Many of these do not seem to match local arrangements & every-day practice in the respective areas. Moreover, the induced frameworks are rarely directly implemented but often depend on a range of other actors & it is important to take local organisational autonomy into account. Often, the result is neither complete adoption nor full refusal – rather do hybrid systems or ‘politics of the mirror’ result from the entanglement of the induced practices into existing public authority structures. The panel seeks to reflect how such approaches intermingle with eastern DRC’s patterns of negotiation & diffusion of authority in various fields. We welcome submissions analysing how structures of public authority enter into contest or collusion with practices aligned to these imported frameworks & what (un-)expected types of ‘real governance’ result from the latter.

Contestation et collusion : l’adaptation locale aux politiques et pratiques induites en RDC de l’est
L’Est de la RDC a vécu deux décennies de conflits violents. Pendant les dernières années – sous le slogan de stabilisation – la région connaît une série de tentatives d’induire de profonds changements de gouvernance dans plusieurs domaines clés, notamment l’exploitation minière artisanale, la conservation de la nature, la provision de sécurité et renforcement de l’État. Bien que l’ordre du jour international met l’accent sur l’ensemble de la RDC, les deux provinces du Kivu constituent la vitrine la plus saillante de cette tendance. Multiples interventions – menées par des multilatéraux, des charités, ou des organismes économiques depuis l’extérieur – lancés des politiques visent à induire des approches ‘occidentales’ aux réformes institutionnelles, à la régulation économique, ou d’autres domaines. Tous ne semblent pas correspondre aux pratiques quotidiennes dans les domaines d’intervention respectifs. Souvent, le résultat n’est ni complète adoption ni complet refus – plutôt des alternatives hybrides ou des «politiques de miroir» émergent des conflits initiaux entre le «local» et l’«externe». Ce panel vise à informer des discussions sur le mélange des ces approches avec les réalités à l’est de la RDC en ce qui concerne la négociation des règles et de l’autorité qui se produit. Il accueille des soumissions qui analysent comment la gouvernance existante entre en concours ou en collusion avec des politiques importées et quels types (in-)attendus de «gouvernance réelle» résultent.


Paper 1

Lake Milli / Arizona State University

Opportunity and (Dis)empowerment through Gender-Based Legal Aid in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Gender advocacy has long been at the forefront of efforts to end cycles of violence in areas of state fragility and weakness. DR Congo is no exception. Donors and NGOs have devoted considerable attention to empowering marginalized women by increasing their access to the legal system to resolve grievances. This article draws from interviews with 50 self-identified victims of gender violence in eastern DR Congo to argue that legal development aid has provided opportunities for self-identified victims of violence to exert new agency over the options available to them in the aftermath of violence, even though they frequently fail to use the legal system in the ways donors intended. Instead, many have adopted the language of legal accountability instrumentally to access critical social services such as prenatal care and antiretrovirals that were not otherwise available to them. I argue that although legal development programs have provided individuals with opportunities to exert increased agency over their actions in the aftermath of violence, the fact that some women have felt compelled to identify as victims of gender violence in search of legal remedy in order to access critical social services evidences a broader societal disempowerment in which the voices of vulnerable Congolese women have been excluded from conversations about their needs and priorities.

Paper 2

Steinitz Nina / Free University Berlin

Misguided Involvement in Kivu security: The Strategic Interaction of External and Local Security-Governance in the Police Reform Process

In spite of extensive external support for the Congolese security sector, security in the Kivus remains problematic. The police is still being perceived more as a factor of insecurity than as a security benefit. Despite citizen-oriented concepts like the „police de la proximité“, this contribution argues that the unwillingness to modify given power constellations inside the Kabila-government undermines the reform’s potential for real change, as can be seen in the new „loi organique de la PNC“ which is shaped by centralized decisionmaking, though being not more than old wine in new bottles. Security governance in the Kivus is also depending on a multitude of informal and transregional stakeholders or power-groups („axes“) which can hardly be embraced by statebuilding measures addressing rigid state institutions. Therefore, forms of „strategic interaction“ between actors of the police reform in the Kivus will be emphasized. The central argument is that the misuse of the „local ownership“-principle by external and local actors in the Congolese police reform represents a dilemma for the reform process which is relying almost exclusively on cooperation and communication with the political establishment, disregarding the importance of civil society participation. It is thereby possible to problematize the malleability of external measures by highlighting aspects of local ownership and political entanglements inside the police and government institutions.

Paper 3

Mertens Charlotte / University of Melbourne

Colonising Sexual Violence, Silencing the Local in eastern DRC

This paper elucidates how international actors have colonised sexual violence, designing interventions based on global rather than local campaigns, resulting in the ongoing failure to incorporate polyphonous views and experiences of Congolese communities who advocate for the multiple needs of local populations. Drawing on fieldwork in the provinces of North and South Kivu, I argue that interventions framed through sexual violence solely have a distorting effect on local communities, largely fail the victims of sexual violence and often obscure local attempts to address the issue. In this sense international institutions claim sexual violence as ‘their’ issue, prescribing and restricting the ways in which it can be understood and addressed. Establishing control over the political intelligibility of an issue is a process of colonising. The almost unilateral focus of humanitarian programs on sexual violence in eastern DRC has effectively closed down the discursive and political space for voicing and addressing other compelling community concerns. As a result many Congolese actors contest or reject the international interventions designed to help them. In this paper I will shed light on how local actors adapt to or contest externally led interventions on sexual violence. Particular attention will be paid to local actors who resist certain international interventions as well as to the resurgence of community-based grassroots organisations in the last years.

Paper 4

Kullenberg Janosch / Bremen International Graduate School of Social Sciences (BIGSSS)

Playing the Protection Game: oalition and Collusion in the Kivus

After more than ten years of international interventions to protect civilians in the Kivus, their situation remains dire. Paradoxically, the UN gives primary responsibility to protect civilians to the Congolese state while assuming, at the same time, that this state is incompetent and passive on the matter. As a result, the role of Congolese stakeholders receives insufficient attention. This paper applies the concept of ‘Coupled Arenas’ to investigate how local administrators, politicians and NGOs contest and collude with the practices of protecting civilians in the Kivus, and how, in return, this interaction produces hybrid forms of governance. The analysis is based on the author’s ethnographic research in eastern DRC and interviews with national and international experts. The paper argues that Congolese stakeholders are widely underestimated in their skills and influence. They are found to contest protection interventions, but also to adapt and participate, skilfully exploiting protection discourses and legitimacy dilemmas of international interveners to extract resources, improve their bargaining position or pass on blame. These manoeuvres are facilitated by the characteristics of the ‘arena’ such as the proliferation of international organizations and their varying, sometimes conflicting, interpretations of the concept of protection. The local level analysis also contributes to a clearer picture of the intentions of the Kabila regime.

Paper 5

Bashwira Marie-Rose / Wageningen University

Local Discourses on the Involvement of Women in ASM in Eastern DRC: What has Changed since the Introduction of the Mining Reform Initiatives?

The (assumed) links between artisanal mining exploitation, sexual abuse and long-term violent conflict in Eastern DRC have given rise to the development of a wide range of initiatives “to clean up” the Congolese mining sector, including efforts to improve the position of women. This paper provides an in-depth analysis of local discourses about the involvement of women in mining and mining-related activities. The main goal is to assess if and how these discourses have changed after the introduction of the mining reform initiatives. In the first part of the paper, I discuss how and to what extent gender issues have been integrated in the mining reform initiatives. The second part of the paper will be dedicated to an overview of the different types of local-level narratives about the involvement of women in ASM. This will be done on the basis of transcripts of interviews with different actor groups in ASM, collected in the course of 10 months of fieldwork in eastern and south-eastern DRC in 2014. One of the main findings of the research is that, although civil servants are now aware of the legality of women’s activities in ASM, they still adopt an ambiguous attitude toward the latter’s presence in and around the mines.

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