‘state’ of congo


In the lakeside town of Bukavu, a nervy day followed a violent night. In the early hours, soldiers had broken into the house of a local man, stolen cash meant to pay for his wife’s hospital treatment, and shot him dead. The previous night, a 16-year-old girl had been killed by looting soldiers. Come daybreak, Bukavu’s students showed their exasperation the only way they could, blocking traffic on the main avenue with burning tyres.

That both of last month’s incidents were virtually routine highlights the challenge facing the international community in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). In less than three months’ time, Congo will stage its first multi-party elections in 40 years, polls that will theoretically solder the social contract between citizen and state. The soldiers’ behaviour raises the question of whether there is any contract there to be salvaged at all. “The state died here a long time ago,” shrugs Father Jean-Pacifique Balaamo, stationed at a seminary on the outskirts of Bukavu. “Since 1990 there has been no state.”

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