From the beginning of the 1990s, the DRC has experienced different wars, especially in its eastern part. Many armed groups operating in this part of the country have contributed to a large extent to its instability and has therefore been one of the major causes of the weakness of the state authority. Different sectors like justice and security have suffered a lot from the state weakness and in some areas from a total state absence. It is important to mention that the permanent insecurity, the problem of corruption that has become endemic and a dysfunctional justice have pushed many donors to attach a particular attention on good governance programs. Their assumption was that the improvement of the good governance could play a crucial role in solving the problem of long standing conflicts.
The Congolese judiciary sector is known to be not independent. Authorities are often accused by Civil Societies Organisations (CSOs) for interfering in the judiciary process. Consequently, impunity has become a norm in the country. Very few reforms promised by the government for improving the the functioning of justice have been conducted. During an interview with a member of the North Kivu CSO platform in Goma, he clearly established the link between the weakness of justice and the perpetration of conflicts in eastern DRC. He mentioned that given that the Congolese Justice is unable to convict and treat effectively actors perpetrating human rights violation, it sends an impunity signal and push those actors to continue committing their crimes. Such behaviour of the judiciary system contributes to exacerbate community tensions and represents a major obstacle to the peaceful resolution of conflicts.
Another important governance challenge the Congolese State is facing is that of corruption. Corruption affects the Congolese society at different levels, from the very low civil servant to ministers, and is characterised by an underdeveloped regulatory environment, lack of institutional capacity and weak rule of law. This endemic behaviour has affected the functioning of social and political institutions and is at the heart of the DRC’s permanent political and economic crisis. As an example, the Congolese business environment is presented as one of the worst in the World. Conducting business is very difficult in this country preventing many investors to invest in sectors that could generate thousands of paid jobs for the youth whose majority is currently enrolled in armed groups. Consequently, the bad business environment and the lack of remunerated jobs for young people are one of the major factors fuelling conflicts in the DRC.
The consequences of these governance challenges on the everyday life of the Congolese populations are severe. The access to public goods like education, health, electricity, water, public transportation is very limited. Aware of these consequences, many donors have mobilised fund for promoting good governance reforms in the DRC expecting that if those reforms were successful, they may contribute to build peace and improving Congolese citizens’’ living conditions.
It is however important to stress that despite an important involvement of donors in the DRC, this country is still facing good governance challenges underlined above. This brings to raise some important questions: why many programs aiming to promote good governance are not successful? who profit the most from these programs? Are they appropriate to the Congolese context? In what follows, an attempt is made for bringing answers to these questions.
Donors’ supports for promoting good governance in the DRC have been mainly oriented in sectors of human rights, security and justice, media, governance of the mining sector, etc. Several millions of dollars have been spent to improve governance in these sectors with very limited success. Reasons provided by civil society actors include the lack of political will and ownership by national authorities, the fact that donors’ do not often consider the priorities of the government and the CSOs, lack of capacity to absorb fund for local organizations, lack of appropriate human resources in government institutions and civil society organisations.
For different actors of the CSOs, initiatives that donors decide to finance don’t match with national priorities, and this represents a big challenge for good governance projects. It is not easy to obtain the involvement of the government and civil society in the implementation of projects if their needs and priorities are not taken into consideration. Moreover, government institutions and CSOs are rarely involved in the strategic discussions, especially on issues related to the priority sectors where good governance fund can be invested. They are involved in the implementation level when the strategic discussion among donors are over, affecting accordingly ownership of the projects.
For example, the participatory budget project of the World Bank in the South Kivu province seems to be a good example of a successful good governance project. It appeared that this project was among the priorities of the government and CSOs. In fact, the constitution of the DRC mentions that the participation of the population on public decisions should be encouraged. Furthermore, for the CSOs, improving their involvement in the identification phase of projects to be financed by local budgets and the accountability of the implementers of this budget was a high priority. Therefore, any project aiming to encourage participatory budget should receive their total support. Results of the project were very interesting: many projects selected directly by the population were implemented thanks to the project. Given the good results of the project, the provincial government decided to make compulsory the participatory budget in the entire province, and 5 years after the end of the project, the elaboration of budgets in different territories of this provinces is still participatory and local authorities are more accountable toward to the population. This is an example of how a good governance project can be successful when they meet local needs and priorities and when local actors are strongly involved in their conception and implementation phases.
It is also important to mention that success of donors’ initiatives is limited due to their operating strategy in the DRC. Different initiatives don’t focus on institutional aspects of CSOs implementing good governance projects. For example, very few is done for helping civil society to develop systems for reporting and financial accountability. If their financial and reporting capacities are not strengthened, it is normal that local organisations do not received directly sufficient funds from donors who prefer to treat directly with international organisations and UN agencies which have a very limited understanding of the context. The later subcontract afterward local organisations. As mentioned above, corruption and impunity are other two major problems preventing the improvement of good governance in the DRC. A 2013 evaluation report of the UE good governance initiatives’ evaluation in the DRC mentioned that anti corruption programs have failed because corruption has been treated as a technical problem, emphasising only on data management systems, training programs and laws, ignoring political aspects. It is clear that strengthening parliament, courts and anti-corruption and auditing bodies could provide more interesting results.
An example of a reform program which was not successful is that of “Support Program to the reform of Justice in the Democratic Republic of Congo, (PAR)” which started in April 2010. The main objective of this program was to «contribute to the reform of justice in improving the governance of the judiciary system ». However, the evaluation of the program illustrates a number of factors explaining why it was not successful. First, the project suffered from a problem of conception. The Congolese government (in particular the ministry of justice and its different agencies) and CSOs were not involved in the identification of real needs of the country in this sector. As a consequence, the project faced a problem of ownership. This ownership was also difficult to obtain while the national contribution in the project was almost inexistent. This explains the lack of engagement of the local counterpart in the implementation of the program, the lack of its ownership and of its sustainability. Secondly, the program has focused only on some parts of the Congolese territory leaving away from the reform many other provinces. A reform of the governance of the justice has a meaning and can be effective only if it covers the entire country, and if it is conceived and implemented by the government itself; different donors can bring only a support to national reform program.
Last, for some civil society members and specialists of law, the program has mainly focused on the improvement of the functioning of the judiciary system while what is needed in the DRC is an institutional reform which can have a great impact of the governance, the promotion of the respect of rule of law the and of human rights.
Finally, it is important to mention that major donors supporting good governance programs are mainly the USAID, DIFID, GIZ, CTB, and the UE. Some CSOs representatives underlined the fact that results and recommendations of evaluations of governance programs are not seriously taken into consideration in the conception and implementation of future programs. It is clear that a strong involvement of CSOs with a good understanding of the local context and of government institutions from the conception of a program to its final evaluation can contribute to improve the effectiveness of good governance programs. Nene
Morisho Mwana Biningo Pole Insitute