This article by Karen BüscherStephanie PerazzoneJeroen CuvelierStephane LumbuEspoir RwakiraPaul BulamboChrispin Mvano Yabauma, and Godefroid Muzalia explores how decentralisation policy and specifically the establishment of communes rurales in DR Congo turned into a profoundly destabilising juncture, shaking existing governance arrangements. In particular, we examine how this has led to a reshuffle of power and a renegotiation of public authoritiy. By analysing the impact of decentralisation on the construction of and competition over public authority in three Congolese towns – Rubaya, Minembwe and Fungurume – we demonstrate how decentralisation is deeply politicised, with conflicting governance actors mobilising their power in an attempt to secure their claim to public authority. We argue that the establishment of communes rurales in eastern and southeastern DRC should be therefore understood as a strongly destabilising moment, changing the access of governance actors to resources and repertoires from which they build and legitimise their public authority. Depending on the specific context of the local political arena and its entanglements with larger struggles for power and control, this destabilising moment bears the potential for (violent) conflict. As such, we conclude that decentralisation has failed to live up to its promises of stability and peace while generating new sets of political fault lines and a re-activation of (violent) conflict.

Read in full