Mboka […] esi ekufa, “the country has already died” – this is how President Tshisekedi summarized the state of affairs in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) during a speech in January 2022. Blunt as it was, this perhaps not-so-spontaneous description reflects what many Congolese and outsiders think about governance, statehood and the management of public affairs in Africa’s second-largest country. Formed out of what Belgium’s ruler Leopold II negotiated with other colonial entrepreneurs during the 1885 Berlin Conference, the DRC and its predecessor entities (Zaïre, Belgian Congo and the Congo Free State) have become a prime example for pundits and cynics discussing bad governance, or the simple lack thereof. Unsurprisingly, such ahistorical and context-free classifications do not tell us much about the DRC itself. Yet, why then would a sitting president allude to such imagery with regards to his own country?

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