On the promise and perils of the proliferation of provinces in the DRC

The DRC is huge. And so in 2015 the country saw an increase the number of provinces from 11 to 26. The provinces have elected assemblies (5 year terms) and governors & deputy governors (elected by provincial assemblies). However, while reasonable people would agree on the need for this increase in the intensity of government in the DRC, it has also not been lost on observers that considerations over political geography informed the decision on how the old provinces were split.

This is from Pierre Englebert:

One of the reasons for the increase from eleven to twenty-six provinces was to break up Katanga and deprive its governor, key Kabila opponent Moïse Katumbi, of his provincial base. Beyond such political expediency, however, this policy’s main effect has been to create ethnically homogeneous provinces. As Alma Bezares Calderon, Lisa Jené, and I write in a recent report for the Secure Livelihoods Research Consortium, up to eleven of Congo’s provinces are made up primarily of a single ethnic group. This is an increase from three provinces with a single ethnic group prior to this policy.

For Congo as whole, the largest provincial groups now average 46 percent of their province’s population. This evolution has turned politics on its head. At the national level, heterogeneity dominates and no single group reaches 8 percent of the population.Screen Shot 2018-10-29 at 7.39.44 PM.pngWhy the Congolese have reproduced the colonial practice of associating individuals with their territory of origin is somewhat unclear. From the perspective of the Congolese government, people might remain a threat, as they were for the colonial authorities, and thus must be disempowered when not in their customary sphere, so as to de ate their citizenship. Attaching people to geographic areas might also foster local divisions, thereby empowering authorities in Kinshasa…

H/T Lahra Smith.

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