Nairobi/Brussels, 20 July 2006: Congo's elections at the end of the month could set the stage for renewed violence unless Kinshasa and donors increase efforts to create a transparent and accountable government.
Escaping the Conflict Trap: Promoting Good Governance in the Congo,* the latest report from the International Crisis Group, examines the Democratic Republic of the Congo in the run-up to the national elections scheduled for 30 July 2006. This is the country's most promising moment since independence, but there are huge dangers as well. The poll will create a significant class of disenfranchised politicians and former warlords tempted to take advantage of state weakness and launch new insurgencies.
?As long as the principle access to resources is through public office, strongmen will use any means necessary - including insurrection - to gain public office?, says Crisis Group Senior Analyst Jason Stearns. ?Given the weakness of state institutions, in particular the security forces, courts and parliament, those who lose the elections are likely to prompt another conflict in the next few years if action is not taken now?.
Corruption is hardly new to the Congo, but the logic of the 2002 peace agreement, which established the current political transition, has brought problems of governance into sharp relief. Senior positions in the administration and state-run enterprises were shared between signatories, and state resources were siphoned off to fund election campaigns and private accounts. An estimated 60 to 80 per cent of customs revenues are embezzled, a quarter of the national budget is not properly accounted for, and millions of dollars are misappropriated in the army and state-run companies.
Donor support must focus on strengthening state institutions to promote accountability. Parliament and the judiciary must be given adequate funding to be able to oversee the executive. The legislature should also set up a permanent committee to review mining contracts, and deals that are unfavourable must be altered or cancelled. Congolese officials must keep their campaign pledges and reform public administration to promote accountability and transparency.
Major international contributors should form a donors' group on good governance to coordinate funding and policy advice for the new government and regularly discuss governance issues with key ministries and government anti-corruption bodies. Congolese civil society also has an important role to play by tracking public expenditure and pressing for sanctions against corrupt officials.
?The international community has spent over $400 million to help Congolese elect a democratic parliament. Now it must ensure this institution and its various commissions are given the necessary tools and resources to effectively fulfil its oversight function?, says Caty Clement, Crisis Group's Central Africa Project Director.