Publication: Democratic Republic of the Congo: Background Case Study

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Gambino, Tony
The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has been described by one senior African diplomat at the United Nations as a 'state in the making; it is not yet a state.' Further, this 'state in the making' also is a state that, with few exceptions, has been in decline since the early 1970s. The colonial era, from 1885 until 1958, was a period of nearly uninterrupted state construction; the hegemony of the Belgian colonial apparatus steadily deepened. In its final two years, the colonial edifice progressively lost control over civil society to a tumultuous and fragmented nationalist movement, which was unable to capture intact the colonial infrastructure. The result was five years of turbulent state deflation, generally known as the 'Congo crisis.' The Mobutu coup of 1965 inaugurated a new cycle, with eight years in which a rising tide of state ascendancy seemed to dominate the political process. After 1974 currents of decline again began to flow strongly, progressively eroding the superstructure of hegemony. The actual purpose of the Zairian government under Mobutu was not to fulfill basic state functions; rather, the government existed as a structure for individual enrichment and patronage. Officials at the highest levels stole large amounts of money, usually from mineral or customs revenues, sometimes through extremely straightforward strategies, such as literally pocketing gem diamonds and having them sold for personal gain in Antwerp or elsewhere.
Gambino, Tony. 2011. Democratic Republic of the Congo : Background Case Study. World Development Report 2011 Background Papers;. © World Bank, Washington, DC. License: CC BY 3.0 IGO.
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