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Troubled state-building in the DR Congo: the challenge from the margins*

  • Denis M. Tull (a1)

This paper examines contentious state–society and centre–periphery relations in the DR Congo and their implications for state-building. Since the 2006 post-conflict elections, the state's authority has come under fire in the western province of Bas Congo, where a politico-religious group (Bundu Dia Kongo) has emerged as a serious challenger. Enjoying huge local legitimacy, the group has articulated political grievances that the newly elected central government has violently repressed. As locally perceived, elections are a legitimising tool in the hands of the government to impose its unfettered authority in the name of the state-building project. Furthermore, and backed by donors, the Kinshasa authorities also refuse to implement a wide-ranging decentralisation reform. This has fed disenchantment about post-conflict politics in Bas Congo, boding ill for democratic politics and the prospects of state-building in the DR Congo.

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I greatly benefited from the opportunity to present earlier drafts of this article at the University of Oxford, the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), Washington, Pomona College, Claremont, and the Laboratoire d'Etudes et de Recherche sur les Dynamiques Sociales et le Développement Local (LASDEL), Niamey. My thanks go to Pierre Englebert, Vincent Foucher, Peter Lewis, Lee Seymour and two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments. Sarah Biecker and Andrea Sperk provided invaluable research assistance. I am indebted to my interlocutors in Bas Congo and Kinshasa.

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The Journal of Modern African Studies
  • ISSN: 0022-278X
  • EISSN: 1469-7777
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