A Sadly Needed March 8th


Photograph: Vantagenews.com

Not so long ago I recall, I used to say ‘I am not a feminist’. I would think, ‘bah! feminism is this old-fashioned trend that, perhaps slightly crazy, women in the 1960s adopted so we could get more reproductive and work-related rights’. We don’t need it anymore. The work is done.  I was convinced, along with many other men and women I consider my friends, that March 8th was a useless mascarade, a ridiculous and unnecessary display of ‘womanly stuff’ , annoying ‘twangy voices’ and oestrogen. It’s only after I started reading again – like, a lot – and carefully heeding to the countless details of my, and many of my female peers’, everyday routines my own internalization of the patriarchy’s gaze so evidently blindsided me, that I realized how wrong – and wronged – I had been. I got played.

I started to notice people’s self-deprecation, ignorance and prejudice, and most importantly my own, perhaps the worst of all. Where did these come from? How did I get to this point? What can I change? How will I convince others to quit the ‘feminism is a a dirty word’ and ‘March 8 shouldn’t exist’ attitude? So I embarked on a journey of questioning nearly everything and everyone, and in the process uncovered, much to my surprise, an abysmal number of systematically silenced and minimized issues that pertain to feminism, religious freedom, political rights, dignity, violence, minorities, capitalism, education, the LGBTQI community and masculinity – just to name a few. I  am not a Feminist theory scholar, and am therefore very poorly educated on its deep theoretical debates, policy implications and empirical realities and will thus refrain from engaging these in an academic fashion. This has been done remarkably well elsewhere anyway, and will  have to speak from my heart. Because, more by experience than choice, I came to understand feminism was an everyday struggle, I want to stress feminism’s continued and crucial relevance, and I will do so by throwing here 81 – yes, it’s a random figure, and yes, I will be updating it – reasons to give March 8th the reverence it deserves so many of the skeptics out there can no longer contend gender issues at large are unimportant.

  1. In 2016 in France, one woman died every three days at the hands of their husbands, boyfriends, partners or other family members. Killed by loved ones.
  2. Globally, women achieve 2/3 of working hours and produce over half of all food items, but only earn 10% of the total income, own less than 2% of the lands and granted less than 5% of all banking loans”.
  3. Even though post-partum depression is equally due to sleep deprivation and physical pain and exhaustion as hormonal changes, our societies tend to blame it all on female ‘hormones’ – ‘it’s the hormones’, they say. Because ‘hormones are natural’ and ‘no one can do anything about it’, this in turn deprives women of appropriate health care, professional assistance and their partners’ help, all easily fixable issues both at home and in government.
  4. I have heard too many of my female friends admit ‘reproductive system related pain and mental issues are not recognized as such’, ‘glossed over’ while ‘even doctors seem to normalize them’.
  5. This was confirmed in a variety of scholarly works here, here, here and here. And everywhere else.
  6. When I get grumpy, tired or frustrated, my boyfriend – who is a feminist and it is great – sometimes tells me pointblank: ‘you’re having your period?‘ This reinforces the idea that women are not rational adults with potentially real problems but fragile beings whose issues are contingent on random mood swings, hormonal levels and uterus cramping.
  7. Many still feel the need to object, rhetorically and sarcastically – ‘and, when is International Men’s Day?’
  8. A website called ‘Everyday Sexism Project‘ still needs to exist in 2017.
  9. Everyday sexism is a painful and undignified reality that is often shrugged off, and internalized by both men and women alike.
  10. It involves micro-aggressions, recurring street harassment, and is often overbearing on women of color, LGBTQI and, well, yes, straight men too.
  11. Because this: “The two years of The Conservative Women’s existence have witnessed another disturbing trend – denial of ‘binary gender’. This latest weapon in the culture wars is no longer a laughing matter. Rejecting the ludicrous transgender claim that you are the gender you want to be or think you are can already label you a bigot”. True, I mean, how could LGBTQI people blatantly exist?
  12. 53% of white women voted for Donald Trump.
  13. Because Trump, seriously.This one counts at least for another 100 reasons I have no time to elaborate on.
  14. Hillary Clinton had her (many, many) flaws, but had she have had 5 kids with 3 different husbands, her being a presidential candidate would have never happened in the first place.
  15. [Usually male] politicians continue to use taxpayers’ money to fuck luxury prostitutes and by the same token, their constituencies too.
  16. Prostitutes and human trafficking.
  17. Women are institutionally erased from history. Who was ever taught the 1789 French and 1917 Russian revolutions were ignited by small groups of women?  Who can name the countless women who instigated breakthrough scientific and technological discoveries?
  18. It has been showed men continue to be disproportionately appointed to high-level positions at work compared to women in key economic sectors …
  19. … despite being less competent than their female counterparts.
  20. Because many men post comments that say nonsensical stuff like: “Not every man is a brute and not every woman is a saint. Life happens in the grey area. Good day to all of us, who reject binary realities.” Inequality is not binary, it’s largely multi-faceted as these 73 points may give a hint at.
  21. White feminism needs to disappear.
  22. In France Muslim women are not allowed – by law – to wear whatever they see fit. And voters and feminist organizations alike condoned and encouraged it.
  23. In France again, in 2016, a Muslim woman was ordered by 4 armed police officers to undress as they judged she wasn’t ‘wearing an outfit respecting good morals and secularism’, that is a hijab, leggings and long-sleeved top on a beach. Her little girl was crying while many bystanders shouted: ‘go back to your country’ and clapped. Not many saw both the irony and deeply unsettling feel of that situation.
  24. Since 2017 started I have been physically, mentally and sexually harassed over 15 times in public spaces. It used to be much more frequent when I was younger.
  25. My first sexual harassment experience happened when I was 12. I am lucky – many women reported this occurred as early as age 6.
  26. I was once literally ‘grabbed by the pussy’ on my way to school. I was 16.
  27. Many of my friends were equally groped, touched and grabbed by their genitals, bums or breasts.
  28. Female friends still have to send each other text messages at night to ask ‘have you arrived home safe?’
  29. In 2016 one on 4 people living in the EU judged rape acceptable or justified ‘under certain circumstances‘, in particular ‘if the victim was under the influence of alcohol or drugs or if the victim was wearing revealing clothing’. Slut shaming, it seems, is still very much alive and well.
  30. According to the same source, only 12 % of victims spoke to the police, even if they had reported what happened to family members or friends.
  31. Women have told me rape was understandably natural because it is a physiological reality: we have a ‘hole’, it’s easy to violate.
  32. Rape culture‘ is real in our democracies …
  33. … but remains wildly under-reported or ignored when applied to Muslim women in Europe.
  34. After the 2014 European elections only 37% of MEPs were women and get this: in 2007 only 9 MEPs, irrespective of their gender, were non-white.
  35. In France, the Senate counts only 26% of women and the National Assembly, 25. France ranks between Iraq and South Sudan on the 2017 Inter-Parliamentary Union’s annual world classification ‘Women in Parliaments‘.
  36. France gave women the right to vote in 1944. Corsica had granted this right to women from 1755 to 1769 without second thought until France annexed the island and forced its way back to business as usual.
  37. Denmark and Iceland in 1915.
  38. In 1965 in the United States – a law that had to be extended for 25 years in 2006!
  39. Switzerland allowed women to vote in 1971.
  40. In 1984 in South Africa.
  41. The Vatican denies women’s voting rights, de facto.
  42.  In March 2017, a far-right Polish MEP declared women should be paid less than men because they are “weaker, they are smaller, they are less intelligent”. He may be temporarily suspended, therefore sending the signal it is still OK to voice such offensive slurs in democratic institutions.
  43. In academia, women hold just 18% of full professorships in Europe.
  44. In addition, raising a family negatively impacts women’s academic careers: among tenured faculty, only 44% of women were married with children, compared to 70% of men in the United States.
  45. In the same country, Asian women held 4.8% of tenure-track positions and 2.6% of tenured positions, Black women held 3.7% of tenure-track positions and 2.2% of tenured positions, Hispanic women held 2.5% of tenure-track positions and 2.3% of tenured positions.
  46. I have heard of sexual harassment in the work place around me. Many times. I consider myself lucky not to have been one of its victims – so far, or that I know of.
  47. The word ‘mansplaining‘ has recently appeared as a reaction to women often being shut down. It is a portmanteau of the words man and the informal form splaining of the verb explaining and ‘generally refers to situations where a person (typically a man) explains something to someone else (typically a woman), often in a condescending way, without consideration for or regard to the explainee being more experienced with the subject in the first place’.
  48. And as some men felt offended by the term, they proceeded to mocking it and the people using it. As one ‘mansplainer’ for instance, recently posted “mansplaining means ‘Stating accurate, verifiable facts. Especially when these facts are inconvenient to the feminist worldview, or contradict feminist talking points. It is often used by a feminists who makes an incorrect claim in support of their narrative, and someone responds with something refuting the feminist’s claim, which she (usually it’s a she) cannot counter.”
  49. ‘Manterruption’ is another portmanteau word and defines the tendency of men to constantly interrupt women in public debates and casual convos.
  50. I have heard friends, men and women, justify unequal pay by saying ‘women give birth, take time off and thus cost money to their employers’, in which case I suggest we simply codify child labour and slavery back into law.
  51. On average, in the EU in 2015, women’s gross hourly earnings were on average 16.3 % below those of men.
  52. Not a single country has achieved equal pay.
  53. Because I’ve heard my dad, whom I love very much, once tell me “why don’t you just stay at home and do your nails instead of pursuing an ambitious professional career?” My dad should have known by now that having decided to engage in the extremely stressful and anxiety-provoking task of completing a PhD in political science and international relations, not much of my nails are left for me to paint…
  54. Many of my friends who are now 30 or more, are literally scared they may now be too old or undesirable to find someone who will love them. Social pressure is much higher on women than men to ‘get married’ or ‘have children’ passed that age.
  55. We are literally scared to walk at night, in deserted streets, in certain neighborhoods,  in unknown cities, and at times, pretty much anywhere if we start imagining the worse.
  56. Many women need to wear a (fake) wedding ring in order to minimize harassment from men who ‘respect another man’s “property” more than a woman’s right to say no.’
  57. Women often accept – and then pay the price – their objectification in a society driven by consumerism and promoting ‘perfect bodies’.
  58. This leads to wearing uncomfortable clothes and shoes, which can turn out to be  health hazards. Cosmopolitan wrote a short article on this …
  59. …but once you click on it, a massive add promoting ‘ways to loose weight’ will immediately disrupt your reading.
  60. Such tendencies have started to apply to men too. I suppose we can all get equality – in misery.
  61. Not wearing a bra and letting your nipples show through fabric is reason for slut shaming and harassment.
  62. Many governments criminalize abortions, restrict access to reproductive rights and other women-related health care such as breast cancer screenings, HPV testing and vaccination. And way too many people agree with this. I, sadly, do not even need to provide sources on this one.
  63. Women who do not wish to have kids or do not find bliss in pregnancy, childbirth or motherhood are still too ashamed to say so or met with judgmental responses and incomprehension, including by other women.
  64. If I dare say I will not breast feed my kids if I ever get kids that is, too often women will meet me with judgmental responses and incomprehension.
  65. Many [white] men in the film industry routinely treat women abusively, they nearly never face charges or sanction, and are regularly and officially rewarded for their art nonetheless.
  66. Bernardo Bertolucci and Marlon Brando assaulted actress Maria Schneider on film to create a rape scene in Last Tango in Paris.
  67. “Mel Gibson was similarly caught on tape telling his ex-girlfriend that ‘you look like a fucking pig in heat, and if you get raped by a pack of niggers it will be your fault,’ shortly before threatening to kill her and rape her himself.”
  68. Casey Affleck abused several women while on movies sets.
  69. “Roman Polanski raped a 13-year-old girl—he admitted to it not only in his guilty plea, but also in an infamous interview in which he called her his “victim”—but no one in the Academy seemed to believe it should pose much of an obstacle to his filmmaking career.”
  70. Sean Penn, Johnny Depp and Michael Fassbender were accused of domestic violence. The list goes on, and it is long.
  71. The horror  also spreads within the music industry where male performers generally get away with … pretty much anything.
  72. Girls are more likely than boys to be the target of cyber-bullying.
  73. Removing hair from our armpits, legs, arms, lips, bikini line and other ludicrous places on our bodies, because it is supposedly gross on women but is absolutely normal on men.
  74. 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 20 boys is a victim of child sexual abuse.
  75. Gendered toys may have long-lasting developmental implications both for boys and girls and may deter the latter to pursue careers in engineering, science and technology.
  76. Many believe women and girls have never had it so good therefore feeding the myth of a useless and man-hating feminism.
  77. Many cisgender, nonbinary and transwomen live in fear of government policies surveilling and ruling against your bodily autonomy.
  78. Having to take care of your own – and at times expensive – contraception plan because although the male equivalent could be readily available for sale, men refuse to voluntarily submit to clinical tests and to EVEN take it, because you know, you wouldn’t be ejaculating the same way. As The Atlantic summarized: “A clinical trial of contraceptives for men was halted because of side effects—side effects that women have dealt with for decades.”
  79. In the meantime, women went through unbelievable pains to get oral female contraception safe-ish and ready, including depression, breast pain, uterus pain, mood swings, bloating, potentially fatal blood clots, vomiting etc. Side effects so unbearable, women picked up in asylums and prisons were FORCED to participate and had to endure invasive and painful medical exams.
  80. Public health programs target women to carry out sexual risk reduction through condom use (even though women do not ‘‘use’’ or ‘‘wear’’ male condoms) despite research showing that women may lack the power to press their partners to use condoms.”
  81. Because I know I forgot a thousand other reasons – most likely due to my own white  privilege, which is one additional reason in itself.

I must now concur with skeptics that there shouldn’t be a March 8th day merely because it is absolutely mind-blowing humanity must be reminded every year that half of itself still needs to fight for its equal existence. What the actual fuck.

La RDC : le découpage territorial, oui… mais il y a plus que cela à faire

Guest post par le Professeur Germain NGOIE TSHIBAMBE, Professeur ordinaire au département des Relations internationales, Faculté des sciences sociales, politiques et administratives à l’Université de Lubumbashi et Professeur visiteur dans les universités de Bukavu, Kananga et Mwene Ditu.

Ce texte se présente comme une somme des réflexions que je fais à la suite d’un voyage que je viens d’effectuer à l’intérieur du Congo profond. Avec une superficie de 2.345 000 km2, le Congo s’est engagé dans une vaste réorganisation administrative et territoriale. Etat unitaire, il s’est mis à expérimenter sa politique de décentralisation. Au niveau territorial, de onze provinces, on est arrivé à 26 provinces. J’ai toujours vécu dans une ville du Congo branchée sur la mondialisation: il s’agit de Lubumbashi, une ville assise sur l’économie minière et vivant dans des interactions de dépendance avec les pays de l’Afrique australe. Cette connexion aux espaces mondialisés crée une image –dont je suis  moi-même victime – que l’on se fait du pays en général. J’ai donc pris l’avion pour atterrir à Kananga, dans un aéroport dont les installations sont très simples. Pas d’aéronef à l’aéroport si ce n’est celui qui venait d’atterrir. Un seul bâtiment vous accueille : il abrite deux salles d’arrivée et de départ ; une autre salle pour récupérer les bagages et une salle VIP qui n’est quasiment pas fréquentée puisqu’il n’arrive des VIP dans cette ville que très rarement… Continue reading

Des nouvelles du Congo: Violences, ‘glissement aveugle’, et Horoscope

Occupée depuis des mois à réunir autant que possible les moindres pensées et opinions des citadins Congolais, affairée à espionner leurs faits et gestes, leurs habitudes que je note et dessine dans mon petit carnet noir comme une vraie traqueuse névrotique,  j’harcèle de questions mes pauvres interlocuteurs, amis, chauffeurs (oui, en Afrique les expats privilégiés se trimballent souvent en voiture avec chauffeur), connaissances, cambistes, receveurs de taxi-bus, les ‘mamans’ du marché, les chefs de quartier, de cellule, de rue, les taxi-motos, les techniciens de la Société Nationale d’Electricité, les policiers des sous-commissariats, mon esthéticienne (si on se ballade en chauffeur autant le faire avec distingo) etc, etc, etc. En plus de me mêler de ce qui ne me regarde pas, j’ai entrepris de lire, avec plus ou moins d’assiduité, les journaux locaux vendus tous les jours dans la rue. Pour quelques centaines de francs je découvre – souvent, je dois l’admettre, avec une pointe de d’humour – les compte-rendus lunaires des tribulations socio-politiques congolaises du jour. Non pas que nos journaux français soient exempts de compte-rendus lunaires, mais ici, il y a l’humour en plus. Sur fond d’une double crise économique et électorale et de violences policières, c’est moins le contenu des articles qui me chatouille les méninges que la créativité, probablement inconsciente mais débordante, de leurs auteurs dans la transformation et l’émergence d’un nouveau langage. Les différents tripatouillages de la Constitution pour se cafouiller le Katanga vers un ‘glissement aveugle’ , et autres antivaleurs passent et ne se ressemblent pas.

Les élections congolaises sont dans une mauvaise passe. Kinshasa et le Katanga, les deux grands K, étant ‘au centre des préoccupations’, majorité et G7 se ‘cafouillent’ allègrement l’ex-province, selon ce que laisseraient entendre ‘des indiscrétions’. En effet, les gouverneurs des provinces nouvellement créées, n’ont finalement pas vraiment été élus mais plutôt choisis par la majorité tandis qu’un dialogue national dont les objectifs restent hasardeux, se profile à l’horizon. Le Président compte bien rester là où il est, et tout le monde le dit sauf lui parce que ce  ‘Dialogue National’ c’est pour assurer la paix.

Alors, l’opposition, outrée, décide de ne pas y participer et de consacrer son candidat unique, Moise, le tout-puissant Mazembéiste et ‘électron central’ d’une alchimie entre lui et le G7. Pendant que l’ONU fustige un ‘espace politique restreint’, les journaux rapportent que Joseph Kabila ‘serait prêt à recourir à la force’. Un peu comme s’il ne l’avait pas déjà utilisée entre déploiement et craintes d’une ANR, une garde républicaine et une Police Nationale. Et la détention interminable des jeunes activistes de la LUCHA dont la Cour suprême vient de rejeter la liberté provisoire. ‘Ce qui veut dire qu’il vont rester en prison’ précise leur avocat. Pendant ce temps, au Kasai-Oriental, 27 000 USD affectés par l’UNICEF à une campagne de vaccination ont malheureusement ‘été portés disparu’, selon des ‘spécialisés en la matière’.

Dessin par Saint-Michel

Dessin par Saint-Michel

Il n’empêche qu’il y a de bonnes nouvelles. Citant une fable de Jean de La Fontaine, le journal le Fédéral Hebdo (la RDC est un Etat unitaire, mais sait-on jamais, c’est une ancienne querelle) rapporte qu’il est temps pour ces nouveaux gouverneurs de rendre leur bilan 100 jours après leur investiture, parce que le peuple veut, c’est la fourmi travailleuse, pas la cigale paresseuse. Du concret.

Le journal critique aussi le ballet des ‘antivaleurs’ qui pourrissent une société urbaine toujours plus marquée par le shida, le vol, les intérêts personnels et les activités criminelles des kuluna. Qu’à cela ne tienne, car au grand soulagement de tous, une seconde opération d’envergure consistant a tirer sur la population civile en pleine nuit afin d’éliminer ces kuluna et surnommée Likofi (‘coup de poing’ en lingala) verra le jour très prochainement. ‘Sans aller par le dos de la cuillère’, ce nest pas d’une grande ‘probité morale’ mais c’est efficace.

Le Quipoquo, un bi-hebdomadaire indépendant, nous rassure sur les ‘nouvelles impulsions pour le développement du Lualaba’ mais nous rabaisse quand même le moral dans son article sur une classe politique congolaise corrompue où règne la ‘médiocratie’, car ‘comme le dit le bien le proverbe turc: si la tête du poisson est pourri, c’est tout le poisson qui est pourri.’ Une déclaration bien ‘discourtoise’ à mon avis. Le premier ministre Matata Ponyo est ensuite interviewé pour nous raconter ses exploits économiques et ses succès dans l’assainissement de la fiscalité ‘pour un Congo émergent’. Je remarque finalement que la devise du Fédéral cité en sus n’est autre que : ‘L’Etat qui gouverne le mieux est celui qui gouverne le moins’. Il semble bien, parfois, que ce soit aussi la devise du gouvernement.

Histoire de bien finir ma journée je me tourne tout de même vers mon horoscope, qui me livre alors ses conseils les plus précieux: ‘ Vous vous mettez entre parenthèses pour mieux rebondir ensuite et c’est la meilleure tactique quand on se lasse du monde et de son agitation…’ C’est aussi ce que je me disais.

Marine, je t’aime

Marine, ma toute belle, tu ne me connais pas mais voilà, je t’aime. Si chouette, si incisive. Avocate de profession, mère de famille, tu trouves toujours le bon mot, l’encouragement qui tombe à pic, l’argumentaire précis, le ton juste. Bien sûr, on ne va pas tergiverser mille ans sur ta réponse exemplaire aux insoutenables « Paris Attacks » qui ont secoué la France – que dis-je, le monde – ni sur tes idées avant-gardistes de refoulement aux frontières des ces envahisseurs de ‘migrants’ nauséabonds. Non Marine, vraiment, tu m’impressionnes. Chaque jour un peu plus, chaque jour un peu mieux.

Je ne puis tarir d’éloges à ton égard. Que j’aime ton sourire enjôleur, ta posture droite et forte, ton cerveau bien agencé, bien équilibré ! J’aime tout chez toi. Ta voix, tes mains, tes discours, ton Front National. J’aime ta famille, j’aime ta rhétorique, j’aime tes électeurs. Tu te crois spéciale ma petite trublionne des politiques , eh bien du l’es!


Mais surtout, Marine, je t’aime car tu me montres la voie vers un monde meilleur, un monde organisé, encadré, bien ficelé, comme un bon gigot dodu, doré au four, un gigot bien français. Tu nous dévoiles, calmement, systématiquement, ce qu’il y a de plus beau dans notre monde. Alors qu’avant toi, avant ton ère, nous ne prenions plus la mesure de ce racisme décomplexé dont son capables les français, maintenant nous savons. Grâce à toi, alors que nous ne savions pas les désespérances de tout type, les douleurs de certains, les polarisations sociales, les incompréhensions de ton électorat, la bêtise collective, maintenant, nous sommes informés. On ne combat pas un mal qu’on ne voit pas. On ne peut abattre qu’un animal qui sort de sa tanière. Tu nous les as tous fait sortir Marine, et pour ça je te suis éternellement reconnaissante.

Marine. Surtout. Je t’aime si fort parce que tu t’attèles à cette tâche d’une complexité formidable qu’est de faire lever devant toi un mur d’intelligence. Une marée de tolérance, de respect, d’humilité. Depuis ton avènement, j’ai redécouvert le monde, les internautes, les médias, les gens qui en valent la peine. J’ai réappris la simplicité de sourire devant ma télé, mon ordi, mon smartphone : les gens te combattent, avec fureur, avec ardeur, avec bonheur, et ça, Marine chérie, je ne le dois qu’à toi.

Comme il n’y a rien de plus motivant qu’une relation compliquée, note bien Marine que je t’aime et que je t’emmerde.

Feat and Failure in (Post-) Colonial DRC | Navigating the Labyrinth of the ‘Negotiated State’

Article originally published for the Chambre de Commerce Suisse – R.D.Congo’s September 2015 Newsletter, available at http://ccsc.ch/

Questioning the Western Mindset

“It has become banal to depict Zaïre’s current state of affairs in catastrophic terms” (1), wrote historian and political scientist Benoît Verhaegen in 1984. Little has changed in the past three decades as the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) continues to suffer from the immense human costs imposed by Mobutu’s 32-year dictatorial regime and the catastrophic consequences of the neighbouring Rwandan genocide. Throughout its post-colonial history, the DRC has thus continued to be viewed internationally through a unitary discourse of misery, violence, and consequent state collapse. Often in a bid to legitimize ambitious international interventions, NGOs, International Organizations, diplomats and researchers have gone to great lengths to explore the causes and results of years of state and economic decay through the influential lens of liberal and (post-)modernization theories of socio-economic development. More recently other observers have, at times with naivety, praised the country’s economic revival thanks to its seemingly booming mining, real estate and banking industries, which have driven unprecedented economic growth rates but yet to truly improve the daily lives of the Congolese people.

The majority of the Congolese – whether they be the street-level bureaucrat of Kinshasa’s Kimbanseke commune, a ‘Lushois’ small businessman or the bus driver in Goma – have endured such appalling levels of socio-economic hardship for so long that it has become all but impossible to know when it all began. But while the international community struggles with its interventions’ mixed-results in the Congo, the western discourse of political science fails to capture the empirics of contemporary state-society interactions and to problematize the institutional and functional remnants of its colonial heritage. Taking a closer (and perhaps less judgmental) look at the DRC and its amazingly resilient inhabitants opens the lid on entirely new analytical perspectives. In the midst of apparent chaos and anarchy, lies a multitude of complex social norms and informal practices performed daily by millions of citizens and state agents in order to access and deliver official public services, from connecting an electric line to organizing urban transportation. Placing the routinized informal/formal interactions in contemporary DRC within a historical perspective responds to one important question: how much conceptual and empirical validity can the ‘state failure’ discourse hold in countries like the DRC? Because it is long overdue that African specialists – and the rest of the world – begin debunking the homo miserabilis myth famously encapsulated in Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness”, this short article first discusses the limits of ‘state failure’ as an intellectual tool used to understand the socio-political arrangements of countries like the DRC. It then proceeds to inquire into the ideological and political origins of Congolese state-society relations under Belgian rule. Those inquiries demonstrate that contemporary Congolese ‘state weakness’ owes as much to the legacy of that colonial past than any more recent failed domestic attempts at ‘modernization.’ In doing so it studies how Belgian rule continues to exert a subtle but manifest effect on how the state is performed and perceived in the DRC today.

Debunking ‘State Failure’

The early works on state failure originated in the 1980s as policy makers and scholars no longer saw threats to international peace and security as emanating from strong states but from states that exhibit instead structural difficulties to exert control over their territory. Traditionally the modern state (the strong state) provides security for a population living within a territory delimited by inviolable borders and protected from external threats by sovereignty rules and thus international law. State power does not reside merely in its capacity to control its borders against external threats but evolved instead towards ensuring control and domination over its population mostly through the development of a large security apparatus (2), and later, positive public services. This resonates directly with Max Weber’s highly influential legal-rational domination exerted via an aggregated, disinterested and institutionalized administrative   apparatus functioning to meet the public interest. The larger the number of political goods, such as health care, education, or social safety nets, the closer such state moves towards welfare state standards. Additionally, the modern state is expected to ensure democratic representation, respect for the Rule of Law and the enactment of pro-market liberalization laws (3). In short, a strong state is thus seen as a legitimate one, and legitimacy comes to be encapsulated in a state’s ability to perform its three core functions: security, welfare and representation (4). The functioning Weberian modern state is thus not only defined through juridical terms but is also largely inspired by western liberal thought and social contract theory.

State failure and state fragility by contrast, translate the idea of decaying public institutions that perform poorly along these three main functions. A failed or fragile state is therefore assumed to consistently take on the characteristics of a broken social contract in which publicly organized wealth and income redistribution is non-existent. The narrow legalistic definition of state weakness first proposed in the 1980s has been considerably expanded, especially since the 9/11 terrorist attacks for it spurred the international community to adopt a new ‘securitization’ agenda primarily focused on combating state decay. In economic terms, state failure was posited to occur largely due to the self-interested and illegal use and exploitation of national state resources, both by state agents and non-state armed groups. Infamous African dictators such as Jean-Bédel Bokassa in the Central African Republic and Mobutu Sese Seko in Zaïre have become the epitome of the African failed state characterized by a winner-take-all nature and hazardous “spoils politics” (5). Responding to a supposedly failed ‘modernization’ process of Africa’s societies and politics, both state elites and street-level civil servants are therefore portrayed as corrupt officials implementing a predatory “politique du ventre” (6) whereby they organize the systematic syphoning away of public funds and the illegal exploitation of state assets and natural resources for self-aggrandizement purposes (7). While spiraling into deep economic, societal and political crises, these countries’ population therefore turned to alternative means for survival and therefore relied mostly on informal self-help mechanisms escaping state control. In consequence, given the DRC’s catastrophic rankings in most international human and economic development indexes, the country is portrayed as the quintessence of state failure. Both scholars and politics adopted and moulded a prominent discourse that emphasizes the ‘dark’ side of the Congolese state trans/formation. Only to name a few, Thierry Vircoulon depicted the DRC as a “state without a territory” and “one of the world’s best illustrations of state failure” (8) while Herbst and Mills (9) claimed it “was time to admit the Democratic Republic of Congo” did “not exist” and called the country an “invisible state”.

The conventional story thus writes as follows: The Congo accessed independence in 1960 after 80 years of brutal Belgian colonial rule and immediately fell into cycles of crisis and violence which produced a fractioned and weak political elite, increased meddling of Cold War powers into domestic affairs and directly led to Mobutu’s seizing of power in a 1965 military coup. Abandoned by his western benefactors, lonely, sick and retired in his Gbadolite presidential palace by the end of his reign in 1997, Mobutu had eventually alienated his entire people and international supporters, thus precipitating the “catastrophic failure” (10) of the state as the Congo wars permanently destroyed the remnants of the Zairian state through incredibly high levels of internal and external violence. Cyclical violence resulted in large-scale destruction of the country’s formal economy and social fabric. Despite several rounds of local and regional peace negotiations (11) started in 1999, the country remains effectively at war, as, according to the government, 54 militias still carry out military operations within its territory. Combined with abysmal statistics on poverty, maternal deaths, child mortality, overwhelming state officials corruption (12), and the disintegration of its public institutions (13), the DRC has become fertile grounds for feeding dramatic accounts of the ‘Heart of Darkness’. As Mobutu’s regime fell apart and conflict dragged on for two decades, consensus grew among experts that the Congo was anything but a failed state. Myriad international actors have thus formulated policy options for the DRC aimed at restoring the “specific instruments states use to control society” (14) to re-establish the country’s sovereign legal rights. Similarly to the academic literature, the policy-oriented literature thus echoes and feeds upon concerns over failed states and their negative ramifications for economic development, the illegal exploitation of minerals and deadly regional conflict (15). Indeed, the state failure label is associated with a large set of indicators designed to inform international policy makers such as the UN, the World Bank, the OECD, the EU and the US in search of advancing a neo-liberal agenda without ever consulting the very society they claim to ‘fix’. In this vein, both academia and western policy circles engage in a mutually reinforcing discourse that predicts and depicts the “coming anarchy” (16) in which “the life of man, [is] solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short” (17). None of this however, contributes to shedding light on what really is happening to the Congo and its estimated 80 million inhabitants. Indeed, by adopting a linear institutional approach to the relationship between state-capacity and legitimacy, and thus construing the state as an independent and a-political bureaucratic machine, neo-liberal and neo-Weberian intellectual tendencies fail to understand complex local socio-political dynamics (18) let alone producing analytical accounts of the country’s long colonial history of state formation.

State-society Power Relations under Belgian Rule

The Congo Free State (EIC in its French acronym) was created in 1885, mostly through the determination and insatiable imperial appetites of a single man: Leopold II, Belgium’s considerably rich king. His private correspondence revealed an admiration for the Indian Dutch colonies that he wished to emulate in the hopes to maximize the potential income accruing to himself and his small kingdom. He indeed ceaselessly praised the Dutch colonial model (19) (the kultuurstelsel and Batig Slot) that, he thought, if implemented anywhere on ‘vacant’ land in Asia and Oceania (Africa only came to his mind much later) would bring Belgium prestige and wealth. Without the Belgian government’s (nor public opinion) support, he cunningly used a mixture of humanitarian and patriotic rhetoric as well as support from various business interests, political advisors and H.M. Stanley’s skills to convince the world’s most powerful nations to legally recognize the ‘sovereignty’ of the Association Internationale du Congo (AIC) he had created as his mouthpiece organization in 1879. The AIC was nothing more than a fictitious collective organization: it only really followed Leopold’s wishes under the pretext of grand scientific endeavours in central Africa. The EIC then took over the AIC’s basic governmental structures in 1885 and formed a rudimentary administration that mirrored the King’s ambitions: develop foreign territories where European ‘civilization’ had not penetrated yet and constraint their people into forced labour to induce a sense of discipline and submission. Although he initially encountered important financial drawbacks, the EIC’s economy eventually picked up thanks to the international rubber boom and ivory trade, which produced enormous amounts of profit by the time Belgium annexed the colony in 1908. Having to secure the territory’s border and tame ‘indigenous’ revolt, the colonial administration was a hybrid mix of military staff from the Force Publique and poorly trained European civil servants recruited throughout Europe which inexorably led to frequent overlap of military and civilian affairs. The King additionally regarded the colonial bureaucracy as a matter of business relations rather than a professional body of civil servants: although they received a salary, they did not get pensions and were granted instead additional bonuses proportional to their performance. The latter was closely associated with the amount of rubber collected by the ‘natives’ placed under their authority and that they did not hesitate to kill, beat and torture had they not been productive enough.

Economic exploitation through primitive accumulation being the key to successful colonization, Leopold granted large portions of land to powerful private chartered companies, wildly used forced labour and established a domanial regime whereby all land and the profit it produced accrued to the ‘state’ only. Because there was no jurisdictional distinction between what was called the state and Leopold, all profits were effectively the King’s. This privatized state system and primitive accumulation of capital led to generalized abusive and violent power relations developed between colonial agents and the local people whose leadership was crushed, and whose inhumane result spurred an international human rights campaign directed against Leopold’s abuses. Importantly, the administrative and political organization of the EIC  reflected the privatized character of the colony – a legacy that has endured and influenced the contemporary Congolese state’s organization.

Embarrassed by such public outcry and decades of violence against the Congolese, Belgium annexed the EIC and immediately engaged in important reforms and imposed the orthodox colonial policy lines of the times. A Colonial Charter was adopted as the basic “constitutional” document for the colony until its abrogation in 1960 and instituted a centralized government which possessed legislative power and was located in Brussels while the colonial government in the Congo was responsible for the implementation of the central government’s policies. The reforms mainly included the effective demilitarization of the administration in a bid to professionalize colonial civil servants at all levels who were soon to be exclusively recruited in Belgium and Luxemburg. A professional and prestigious school of administration was created in Belgium in the 1920s for this purpose. In addition, the colony, which had recruited agents among the ‘natives’ from its early days, institutionalized their role within a strict hierarchy. These however, remained constricted to the ranks of auxiliaries and the highest position they could claim never surpassed the lowest ranks reserved to Europeans. Customary chiefs were either maintained but alienated to Belgian domination, or replaced all together for a better, more subjugated, ‘fit’. It is only by 1959, six months before independence that the Belgium administration created a ‘single status’ for all civil servants, Europeans and Congolese alike. Yet, despite efforts aimed at creating harmony among the various levels of the administrative hierarchy, tensions and confrontations continued to characterize professional relationships between the metropolitan authority in Brussels and the colonial administration (20). The latter indeed resented the “unwarranted intervention of the metropolitan authorities in the affairs of the colony” (21). Despite having been granted limited legislative power, the General Governor and his subordinates in the Congo did benefit from quite important leverage in implementing the colonial policies adopted in Brussels. The colonial administration in fact enjoyed high levels of autonomy and did not get along well with the technocrats in Brussels they believe misunderstood  the country’s needs. However, the Belgian settlers worked in genuine symbiosis with the colonial administration with whom they shared strong social bounds and similar political interests in contrast to those of the indigenous population, considered mostly as cheap labour for the industry and infantilized people who had to be controlled, disciplined and subjected to western beliefs and lifestyles. At the lowest levels of the territorial administration, relations among the ‘indigenous’ chiefs (and the population at large) and the European territorial agents (and the settlers) were marked by European domination and inequality. This occurred through two main colonial policies: economic exploitation and the mission civilisatrice where the former implemented waged labour in labour camps organized by private companies and the latter consisted of an official policy that aimed to ‘improve the natives’ moral and material standards’ (22). Under such benevolent rhetoric laid the foundations of highly paternalistic, and thus unequal, state-society relations.

The ‘governmentality’ of the Belgian Congo sure developed greatly especially through health care and primary education, but it was mostly aimed at controlling the ‘indigenous’ bodies not via social contracting, but through psychological, economic and social subjugation. With time, the Belgian administrative agents – officially charged with ‘enhancing’ the colony’s assets to glorify its metropolitan area – adopted a specific mindset, distinct from that of their fellow citizens living in Belgium. The territorial agents who worked daily with the ‘natives’ soon adopted a sense of entitlement to their circumscription and the Congolese who lived within their limits. While there were no affinities with the ‘indigenous’ people, the latter were not expected to assimilate European lifestyles completely (contrary to French colonies) but to display instead total loyalty and a deep sentimental devotion to the Belgian settlers and their institutions. It was then crucial that all forms of ‘barbaric’ behaviour such as polygamy, polyandry, nudity, anthropophagy and human sacrifices be annihilated by European agents who co-opted ‘traditional’ authorities of the public administration as well as the Force Publique and the Catholic Church. The mission civilisatrice was therefore not a mere ideology, it was carefully planned, organized and implemented, the ultimate illustration of which was (in addition to the many decrees that aimed to abolish most of the Congolese’ cultural habits) the institutionalization of the évolués, a Congolese man who had elevated to civilization and was delivered a carte du mérite civique (23) and immatriculation (24). In a brilliant twist of structural violence, this forced upon the ‘natives’ a feeling of both admiration and submission towards their European benefactors thereby instilling a subtle sense of discipline and subordination among this newly created Congolese elite in a bid to avoid organized dissent and continue developing the colony’s socio-economic make up.

Carte Touristique de Léopoldville 1954. Archives Africaines, Bruxelles.

Carte Touristique de Léopoldville 1954. Archives Africaines, Bruxelles.

Finally, with regard to the development of public services and economic exploitation, the Belgian Congo did work small miracles in terms of cross-country transportation means, health care and to some extent, education. But these achievements deserve a word of caution. First, the disunity that characterized the colonial administration at all levels and among both European staff and Congolese auxiliaries did not always permit to implement all decisions taken at the highest levels. According to a staff from the African Archives in Brussels “what was actually implemented in the Congo does not measure up to what is written in official reports. Very, very little was done by the territorial agents in the end” (25). Second, urban planning and rural policies produced limited results in creating strong public services. While many villages remained outside of the scope of any bureaucratic control, local agriculture involved controversial ‘mandatory crops’ to induce discipline among villagers, avoid localized famine and produced mixed results. Urban planning included scientific spatio-racial segregation within the administrative, social and economic makeup of cities. Congolese people were separated from European settlers by a ‘sanitary zone’ and could only reach the ‘white neighbourhoods’ for work-related occasions. They lived in small functional housing, had their own markets, squares, cemeteries, churches, schools and hospitals. They were distributed bicycles to travel to work and had to carry a written authorization to go to the European quarters. Despite the partially successful achievements of primary schools to educate the ‘natives’, the latter rarely attended secondary schools let alone universities because the state did not aim to educate them passed primary school level. Only European pupils had access to higher-quality education both at the secondary and university levels and attended of course ‘White only’ schools separated from the local population. The colonial government only launched a serious public education policy in 1954, but proved controversial in light of Church defiance. Even the ‘evolved natives’ that had obtained their immatriculation who were theoretically entitled to the same civil and political rights as the Belgian settlers never enjoyed them fully in terms of social standards, respect and salaries (26). Finally, much of the social and material ‘public’ infrastructure, starting with the EIC, was in reality operationalized by private companies such as the Union Minière du Haut-Katanga, the Forminière, or Cogelec. These were granted ‘concessions’ – large portions of public estate – in order to establish highly organized and separated labour camps for the ‘native’ workers. Everyday life in the camps was monitored in order to implement ‘labour stabilization’ policies and therefore provided free health care, education, food and housing for the workers and their families. They constituted what was often labelled a ‘State within the state’. The colonial state for its part, bought out a significant amount of ‘free’ shares in many of these firms but instead of responding to the logics of a mixed economy whereby the state acquires greater authority, the exact opposite occurred: the private sector retained all power regarding labour and tax regulations. Although the state sent delegates to sit within the companies’ administrative and executive structures, they most frequently gave priority to the companies’ interests and encountered little to no interference from the colonial state too preoccupied with the value of its shares to meddle into the private sectors’ affairs. This privatized political system first appeared due to the initial nature of the colonial state: the EIC’s motive to enrich itself led to the institutionalization of an exploitative public apparatus where the state and it European settlers saw the local population as cheap labour and uncivilized primitive societies that could not enjoy the collective benefits of state-organized wealth redistribution.

Conclusions: Negotiating Statecraft in the 21st Century

The Belgian colonial policies in the Congo effectively sought to professionalize and harmonize its administrative apparatus in the aftermath of the EIC’s violent and chaotic governing schemes. In doing so, it increased significantly the number of its agents within the civilian administration and the Force Publique, it expanded primary education to most Congolese people and organized a system of waged labour. As a result, the colonial system instilled a sense of stability and predictability both among the Congolese and the European settlers. Archival research and a careful analysis of historical works on the evolution of the Belgian Congo provide evidence supporting the claim that the colonial era created a state that seemingly resembled a bureaucratic Weberian state but more fundamentally perpetuated an abusive and unequal model of European domination based on spatio-racial segregation. It produced dysfunctional social ties at all levels of its governmentality, from its metropolitan institutions in Brussels to the Congolese chiefdoms, and despite many attempts at reforming the system, it did not result in a coherent set of policies and implementation schemes. Because many territorial agents disapproved of metropolitan policymaking and remained relatively isolated from the central government, they retained a degree of autonomy that allowed for inconsistencies and slow implementation. By meddling into the lives of the ‘natives’ they made sure order was respected through tight control over what they thought was an infantilized and irresponsible local populations. In addition, the critical role played by the private sector in organizing social, economic and political life of both the state and the population also greatly influenced the evolution of the post-colonial state many commentators and experts have portrayed as privatized and thus criminalized. The former labour camps and ‘indigenous cities’ built over seventy years ago are still visible and bear consequences for the distribution of public services such as water and electricity. The former European neighbourhoods continue to be systematically better connected with roads, sewage and electricity than the rest of the poorer neighbourhoods and rural areas. Today’s efforts at renewed urban planning, education, economic development and state re-building are controlled and organized by International Organisations or private companies in a way that mirrors the Belgian Congo’s habit to rely on non-state actors in many state-reserved areas of governmentality. Beyond the neo-patrimonialist discourse that emphasizes the failure of African states and people to adjust to modernity, it is critical to understand that the colonial trinity ‘Church – private sector – public institutions’ created an oppressive state administration unaccountable to the majority of the population it sought to serve. This still resonates strongly with the way the Congolese administration has evolved to this day.

Goma, 2014. Photo Credit: Jonathan Austin

Goma, 2014. Photo Credit: Jonathan Austin

Ironically, many contemporary proponents of post-modernization and neo-liberal theory may see fit to admit that many aspects of state failure may permeate the colonial state. Many experts approach state failure through the concept of informality, which stemmed from the failure to establish formal state control and propagated as a survival strategy. This is only one side of the coin. First, it is almost impossible to measure informal activities in both economic and social life under colonial rule because it was not thoroughly documented, but archives do tend to issues of informal trading and social habits among the Congolese that have taken place since the outset. Second, although ‘informality’ both in the economic and social lives of the Congolese people seems to have now become the norm in African failed states, it is clear that while it allows many to escape state control, it might also greatly contribute to its reproduction and transformation on a daily basis. For instance, informal trade channels almost invariably cross path with those other formal economic networks nationally and internationally in paying taxes, filling out import-export documents and interacting with law-enforcement agents at various levels (27). More interestingly, formal and informal ways of ‘getting by’ in countries like the Congo do often consist of mutually reinforcing patterns. As Théodore Trefon (28) and my own fieldwork has taught us Congolese citizens who lack access to basic public services such as electricity, security and sanitary measures do turn to both private entrepreneurship and state agents. For instance, the transportation system illustrates the hybridity of social organization: while the buses are owned by private entrepreneurs and follow many unofficial patterns to embark and drop off their customers, the municipality has organized around it by imposing a large set of rules to be followed by the drivers and bus owners without banning its private operationalization altogether. The government structure and politics of the colonial state in the DRC have undeniably changed dramatically within the past 55 years, but it is critical to note the persistent analogies between the two eras. With the growth of informality in the economic, political and social lives of the Congolese, the latter have lost the comforting predictability granted by an organized, albeit segregationist, colonial administrative apparatus. But they may have gained leverage in their capacity to creatively utilize the grey area that lies at the intersection of informal and formal praxis in order to access public goods and services at the microlevel. In doing so, not only have they entertained dense family and kinship networks of exchange and redistribution but they also continued to interact with an administration that they paradoxically perceive both as dysfunctional and a privileged interlocutor to navigate, circumvent or negotiate their way through the state’s formal apparatus.

In many ways, the Congolese citizens transitioned from being mere (and victimized) consumers of public goods to assuming the role of creator and producer of their social and political space. The external political actors such as the UN and at times, private entrepreneurs, who seek to tackle societal transformation within contexts they barely understand, tend to ignore crucial historical trends and micro-social patterns mostly because they remain unaware of their own intellectual limitations. It is critical to understand that features like everyday corruption, petty negotiation strategies and routinized informal behaviors might be construed not as ephemeral symptoms of state failure, but be comprehended instead as contributing to long and complex transformation processes of a political order that is difficult to grasp from our western viewpoints. It is possible that neo-patrimonialism might be the vehicle of state decay, but it is at least equally possible that everyday routinized state-citizen interactions – while undeniably marked by structural violence – might entail transformative potential in shaping ‘the state’ in crucial ways largely disregarded in our contemporary accounts of state failure.


1.Verhaegen, B. (1984). « Paradoxes zaïrois ». Etat indépendant du Congo, Congo belge, République démocratique du Congo, République du Zaïre, Safi Press, ibid., p. 73.

2.Schouten, P. (2013). “The materiality of state failure: Social contract theory, infrastructure and governmental power in Congo.” Millennium-Journal of International Studies 41(3): 553-574.

3.Rotberg, R. I. (2003). “Failed states, collapsed states, weak states: Causes and indicators.” State failure and state weakness in a time of terror: 1-25. Di John, J. (2010). “The concept, causes and consequences of failed states: a critical review of the literature and agenda for research with specific reference to Sub-Saharan Africa.” European Journal of Development Research 22(1): 10-30.

4.Milliken, J. and K. Krause (2002). “State failure, state collapse, and state reconstruction: concepts, lessons and strategies.” Development and change 33(5): 753-774.; Raeymaekers, T. (2005). “Collapse or order? Questioning state collapse in Africa.” Households in Conflict Network hich. Working Paper(10).

5.Allen, C. (1995). “Understanding African Politics.” Review of African Political Economy 22(65): 301-320.

6.Bayart, J.-F. (2006). L’Etat en Afrique: la politique du ventre, Fayard.

7.Bayart, J.-F., S. Ellis and B. Hibou (1999). The criminalization of the state in Africa, International African Institute.

8.Vircoulon, T. (2006). “République démocratique du Congo: la démocratie sans démocrates.” Politique étrangère(3): 569-581., p.572

9.Herbst, J. and G. Mills. (2009). “There is no Congo. Why the only way to help Congo is to stop pretending it exists.” Foreign Policy Retrieved February 12, 2014, from http://foreignpolicy.com/2009/03/18/there-is-no-congo/, Herbst, J. and G. Mills. (2013). “The Invisible state. It’s time we admit the Democratic Republic of Congo does not exist.” Foreign Policy Retrieved February 12, 2014, from http://foreignpolicy.com/2013/06/24/the-invisible-state/

10.Englebert, P. (2003). “Why Congo persists: sovereignty, globalization and the violent reproduction of a weak state.” Globalization, Violent Conflict, and Self-Determination: 119-146., p. 2

11. The latest of which is the 2013 Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the region.

12. See the UNDP Human Development Index 2014 rankings available at http://hdr.undp.org/en/content/table-1-human-developmentindex-and-its-components

13. See the Failed States Index 2014, available at http://ffp.statesindex.org/

14. Barnett, M., H. Kim, M. O’Donnell and L. Sitea (2007). “Peacebuilding: What is in a Name?” Global Governance: A Review of Multilateralism and International Organizations 13(1): 35-58.,p. 50

15.World Bank (2011). World Development Report 2011: Conflict, Security, and Development, World Bank.

16.Kaplan, R. D. (1994). “The coming anarchy.” Globalization and the Challenges of a New Century: A Reader (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2000): 34-60.

17.Hobbes, T. and E. Curley (1994). Leviathan: with selected variants from the Latin edition of 1668, Hackett Publishing., p.76

18. Di John, J. (2010). “The concept, causes and consequences of failed states: a critical review of the literature and agenda for research with specific reference to Sub-Saharan Africa.” European Journal of Development Research 22(1): 10-30. Risse, T. (2013). Governance without a state?: policies and politics in areas of limited statehood, Columbia University Press.

19. Stengers, J. (1989). Congo, mythes et réalités. Cent ans d’histoire. Paris, Duculot., p. 19

20.Lemarchand, R. (1964). Political awakening in the Belgian Congo, Univ of California Press. and Stengers, J. Congo, mythes et réalités.

21. Lemarchand, R. Political awakening in the Belgian Congo, p. 57

22.Stengers, J. Congo, mythes et réalités.

23. This can be (improperly) translated in English by a type of Civic Appreciation Card

24. Also improperly translated as a registration process to be officially recognized as an ‘evolved or civilized Black’

25. Informal discussion with expert staff at the African Archives, Brussels, April 29th 2015

26. Stengers, J. Congo, mythes et réalités, p. 189

27. MacGaffey, J. (1991). The real economy of Zaire: The contribution of smuggling and other unofficial activities to national wealth, University of Pennsylvania Press.

28.Trefon, T. (2004). Reinventing order in the Congo: How people respond to state failure in Kinshasa, Zed Books; Trefon, T. (2007). Parcours administratifs dans un État en faillite: Récits populaires de Lubumbashi (RDC)-Cahiers africains N° 74, Editions L’Harmattan; Trefon, T. (2009). “Public service provision in a failed state: looking beyond predation in the Democratic Republic of Congo.” Review of African Political Economy 36(119): 9-21.