Part III Decentralisation, Local Government, and Constitutionalism, 14 Decentralised Territorial Entities and Promotion of Local Governance under the Constitution of 18 February 2006 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
Joseph Hengelela Cihunda
Edited By: Charles M. Fombad, Nico Steytler
(p. 365) 14 Decentralised Territorial Entities and Promotion of Local Governance under the Constitution of 18 February 2006 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is the second-largest country in Africa after Algeria. Its vast size raises serious problems of governance concerning the choice of the form of the state.2 The debate on this issue, conducted between proponents of a unitary state and advocates of federalism, has lasted more than fifty-seven years, but the Constitution of 18 February 2006 seems to have put an end to it as it establishes a form of state that mixes elements of federalism with those of unitarism. More specifically, the Constitution incorporates territorial decentralisation by creating three levels of power within the state: the central government, provinces, and decentralised territorial entities (DTEs), which are comprised of local governments.
The constitutionalisation of territorial decentralisation in 2006 coincides with attempts at reviving of constitutionalism in the DRC. The Constitution of 18 February 2006 establishes the principle of separation and limitation of powers, in particular between the central government, the provinces, and the DTEs. The latter entities shall enjoy the libre administration3 and economic, human, financial, and technical autonomy. This process of decentralisation was well received by the Congolese people and even by DRC’s international partners.4 However, its implementation continues (p. 366) to be a challenge. Technical constraints apart,5 decentralisation has been taking place in an environment increasingly favourable to constitutional democracy, one which began to incline in favour of authoritarianism, however, owing to the concentration of powers in the hands of the President of the Republic. Decentralisation nevertheless remains particularly relevant to Congolese local communities.
This chapter begins by examining the background to territorial decentralisation in the DRC from 1957 to 2005. It sets out the objectives of the new territorial decentralisation under the Constitution of 18 February 2006, highlights its legal framework, and assesses the extent to which the process has been implemented. Finally, it identifies a number of challenges that need to be overcome to achieve effective implementation of decentralisation.
Section 2 demonstrates that, as a result of historical evolution, territorial decentralisation can be effective only in a democratic political context. Section 3 indicates that the new territorial decentralisation of the DRC provided for by the Constitution of 18 February 2006 falls within this democratic conception of the state. Section 4 argues that the resurgence of authoritarianism is one of the main causes of the difficulties impeding decentralisation. Section 5 suggests that a change of political leadership at the head of the state is among the conditions key for accelerating territorial decentralisation in the DRC.
The territorial organisation of the DRC has been characterised traditionally by centralisation of power to the detriment of local governance. The decentralisation has developed into a sort of dialectic movement by changing from decentralisation to centralisation and from centralisation to decentralisation. This in many ways reflect the complex relationship between decentralisation and constitutionalism. Centralisation of power often implies authoritarianism, whilst decentralisation is linked to the process of democratisation. Indeed, democracy favours the separation of powers, especially between the central government and the decentralised entities, whereas authoritarianism is synonymous with the erosion of the autonomy of these local entities.
Decentralisation in the DRC was set in motion by the Royal Decree of 26 March 1957, which related to the general organisation of cities. Cities were subdivided into communes, and the organs of the commune were the Bourgmestre and communal council.6 The councils in turn were deliberative bodies vested with the power to adopt a local budget, to collect taxes, and to enforce administrative and police regulations in the jurisdiction.7 For example, this decree was applied to the communal elections of 22 December 1957 in Kinshasa (formerly Léopoldville), Lubumbashi (formerly Elisabethville), and Likasi (formerly Jadothville).8
(p. 367) The Basic Law of 19 May 1960 on the Structures of the Congo,9 which was the interim Congolese constitution at independence, conferred on each province the power to organise freely its local administration,10 but broad provincial autonomy did not produce the expected results owing to the political crises. The first political and security crises was provoked by the secessions of the provinces of Katanga on 11 July 1960 and South Kasai on 8 August 1960. These two secessions were respectively led by Moïse Tshombé and Albert Kalonji Mulopwe, both of whom were political opponents of Patrice Lumumba.
The second crisis was attributable to the dismissal of Prime Minister Emery Patrice Lumumba by President Joseph Kasavubu on 5 September 1960. The assassination of Lumumba on 17 January 1961 plunged the country into instability, which did not allow the local institutions develop.
This Constitution was not silent on the organisation of local territorial administration. Indeed, Articles 50 and 100 of the Constitution of 1 August 1964 concern the DTEs: the province was responsible for determining local institutions, and each province had to be subdivided into the administrative entities of districts, towns, communes, and chiefdoms. The Constitution was not implemented because of the military coup d’état of 24 November 1965. The Constitution of 24 June 1967 had referred the organisation of local institutions to the law. It was to determine the fundamental principles of their powers and resources. In reality, it was followed by the establishment of a high centralisation of power from 1965 to 1982. Local entities were only administrative districts without autonomy. This situation was attributable to the dictatorship of President Mobutu.
In the face of numerous internal and external protests, Mobutu gave the impression of loosening the locks of his government. Thus, he promulgated the laws of 25 February 1982 on territorial decentralisation,11 in terms of which the city of Kinshasa, the regions, other cities, rural zones, urban zones, and collectivités were established as decentralised territorial entities. Each entity had three types of organs: an organ of the ruling political party called the People’s Revolutionary Movement (Mouvement Populaire de la Révolution (MPR)) Committee; a deliberative body; and an executive body.12 However, the Congolese government did not have the financial means to decentralise the country. According to Félix Vunduawe, this attempt at territorial reform also failed owing to the regime’s lack of political will to decentralise the country.13
The question of territorial decentralisation was raised again after 1990. The Constitutional Act relating to the Transitional period of 1992 created the following territorial entities: the City, the Commune, the Territory, and the Collectivité. These territorial entities had as organs respectively the Urban Council and the Urban Executive (p. 368) College for the City; the Municipal Council and the Municipal Executive College for the Commune; the Territorial Council and the Territorial Executive College for the Territory; and the Council of Collectivité and the Collectivité Executive College for the Collectivité.14
The Law No. 93-001 of 2 April 1993 on the Harmonized Constitutional Act relating to the Transitional Period referred the organisation of territorial entities to a law which was not adopted.15 The Constitutional Act of the Transition of 9 April 1994 created the following local entities: the City (organs: Urban Council and Urban Executive College), the Commune (organs: Municipal Council and Municipal Executive College), the Territory (organs: Territorial Council and Territorial Executive College), and the Collectivité (organs: Collectivité Council and Collectivité Executive College).16 These provisions were partially repealed in the Law of 20 December 1995.
In the Law of 20 December 1995 on decentralisation, cities, territories, communes, or municipalities and collectivités constituted local entities. These territorial entities had deliberative and executive organs. The law distinguished between two types of collectivités: the collectivité-chefferie (chiefdoms) and collectivité-secteur (sector).17 This territorial reform was not implemented because of the political crisis and the onset of the first Congo war, which, led by Laurent Désiré Kabila, lasted until the fall of President Mobutu in May 1997.
The last attempt at territorial decentralisation before the adoption of the 2006 Constitution took place in 1998. However, the new government of President Laurent-Désiré Kabila was as authoritarian as that of its predecessors. For example, the decentralisation reform led to a decline in local democracy, especially given the fact that deliberative organs provided for by the Law of 20 December 1995 were abolished and replaced by Consultative Councils. Furthermore, under the Decree-Law of 2 July 1998, only the City of Kinshasa, the provinces, the other cities, and the municipalities (Communes) in the City of Kinshasa were established as decentralised territorial entities. The executive authorities of each of these entities had the power to adopt regulatory acts, whereas the consultative bodies were permitted to issue opinions only in relation to questions submitted to them. Other entities, such as sectors and chiefdoms, were reduced simply to administrative entities devoid of legal personality.18
The constitutionalisation of territorial decentralisation dates back to the transitional Constitution of 4 April 2003, which obligated the state to ensure, on the basis of national solidarity, the harmonious development of all decentralised entities through the effective implementation of administrative and financial autonomy. The government of this political transition had neither the means nor the time to pursue a policy of decentralisation, its main objective being to organise general elections. However, this legacy was transferred to the Constitution of 18 February 2006, which creates two levels of territorial decentralisation: the provinces and the DTEs.
The constitutionalisation of territorial decentralisation was driven by the renewal of constitutionalism in the DRC. The Constitution of 18 February 2006 establishes the principle of separation and limitation of powers. This separation is both horizontal and vertical. Horizontally, the national executive (the President of the Republic and central government) is separated from the parliament (National Assembly and Senate) and judiciary (consisting of all courts and tribunals, including the Constitutional Court). Vertically, the Constitution prescribes a separation of power between the central government, the provinces, and the DTEs. The latter entities are comprised of local governments that enjoy free administration and autonomy. Hence, we can first consider the various principles that inform this kind of decentralisation and, thereafter, examine the legal status of the DTE.
What are the factors that informed the constitutionalisation of territorial decentralisation? The explanatory part (Exposé des motifs) of the Constitution provides the following answer:
On the one hand, in order to consolidate national unity undermined by successive wars and, on the other, to create centres of impetus and development at the local level, the constituent body structured administratively the Congolese State in 25 provinces plus the city of Kinshasa, enjoying legal personality and exercising [sic] the competences of proximity listed in this Constitution.
In addition to these powers, the provinces exercise others concurrently with the central government and share the national revenues with the latter respectively at the ratio of 40 and 60%.
In the event of a conflict of jurisdiction between the central government and the provinces, the Constitutional Court is the only authority empowered to decide between them.
In addition, the provinces are administered by a provincial government and a provincial assembly. They each include decentralized territorial entities such as the city, the municipality, the sector and the chiefdom.19
Three considerations, namely geopolitical, economic, and historical and cultural, have influenced the constitutionalisation of territorial decentralisation. These factors led to the creation of other political centres of decision-making.
First, the territorial decentralisation was adopted as a technique to bring the administration closer to the population. Secondly, the writers of the Constitution of 18 February 2006 believed that the territorial decentralisation was the best way for increasing the socio-economic development of the country.20 This conviction is (p. 370) shared by unitarist and federalist elites in DRC.21 However, the decentralisation must be characterised by the true transfer of skills and the financial resources to the centralised entities.22 In this regard, Evariste Mabi Mulumba argues that, to achieve its developmental imperatives, the process of local decentralisation will require the establishment of planning units to assist local entities in the formulation of development projects and the identification of priorities,23 in the course of which citizens would be empowered as actors in their own development. Thirdly, the historical and cultural factors influenced the recognition in the Constitution of traditional authorities. As a result of this, chieftaincies were formally recognised as the first level of decentralised territorial entities. The second level was the Groupements24 and at the last level are the villages which constitute deconcentrated administrative authorities, devoid of legal personality.
Article 3 of the Constitution creates four types of DTEs: City (Ville), Municipality (Commune), Sector, and Chiefdom (Chefferie). These DTEs have a legal personality and are managed by elected local bodies (Conseils and Collèges executifs). They shall also have administrative, economic, human, financial, and technical autonomy. The composition, organisation, and functioning of the DTEs, along with its relationship with the central government and the provinces, are governed by the Organic Law No. 08/016 of 7 October 2008. It is important to highlight the competences of these entities and the scope of their financial autonomy before assessing their relations with the central government and the provinces.
All four types of DTEs enjoy competences relating to their respective levels. These competences cover the management of the entity concerned; local development; the health and protection of the population; nursery education and cultural promotion; local public services; local finances; and relations with non-governmental organisations and other partners. All of these competences relate to their duties and are sufficient to promote local development. The transfer of competences is to be followed by the transfer of financial resources and capacity-building in favour of local governments. Unfortunately, however, this condition depends on political will.
The financial resources of the DTEs are of four different kinds:
• own resources
• resources from national revenues allocated to provinces
• resources of the National Equalization Fund (NEF) and
• exceptional resources.25
Own resources are drawn from income tax,26 local taxes, and duties. Local taxes include common taxes, such as the special road tax, the annual licensing fee, various consumption taxes on beer and tobacco, area tax on forest concessions, tax on mining concessions, and tax on sales of precious materials of artisanal production.27 The major challenge here is finding a basis on which to distribute these taxes between the DTEs.
Resources from national revenue have a solid constitutional basis. Indeed, Article 175 of the Constitution allocates 40 per cent of the national revenue to each province, which must be retained at the time of collection from the source. The 40 per cent of the national revenues left to each province becomes 100 per cent. Then, the Organic Law on DTEs requires the province to allocate 40 per cent of this amount of money to the DTEs on the basis of their capacity of revenue production, the geographical size of each DTE and the size of its population.28
However, additional resources may come from the NEF. These resources shall normally fund projects and public investment programmes, with a view to ensuring national solidarity and correcting the development imbalances between the DTEs, in accordance with Article 181 of the Constitution. Exceptional resources, on the other hand, consist of local loans designed to secure funding for the investments of the DTE. Donations and legacies also fall under the category of exceptional resources.29
Decentralised territorial entities entertain reciprocal relationship with provinces and the central government for the purpose of ensuring national cohesion and solidarity, given that decentralisation is not synonymous with separatism from the national territory. This relationship can lead to conflict,32 and hence there is a need to establish mechanisms of dispute-settlement. Before addressing this issue, however, it is important to examine the areas of collaboration between the DTEs and the other two levels of exercise of state government.
The constitutional principle that governs the relationship between decentralised territorial entities, provinces, and the central government is libre administration (administrative autonomy). This principle means the DTEs have their own competences and are managed by authorities which have been elected by the people at local level. These authorities consist of two types of local bodies: deliberative organs (called Councils) and local executives (which act on behalf of executive colleges). From a legal point of view, local authorities have the power to take regulatory acts and to contract freely. It does not follow, however, that the supervisory powers (tutelle) of the authorities over the DTEs has been definitively abolished. There are two kinds of administrative controls that seek to ensure the coherence and harmonious functioning of all state bodies at all levels. First, there are controls created through the representation of the central government and the province within each DTE, and secondly, there are other controls created through supervision of the acts of the local authorities.
Regarding the representation of the central government and the province within a DTE, the Organic Law of 7 October 2008 introduced the principle of functional duplication. This makes the local executive authorities representatives of the central government and the provinces in their respective jurisdictions.33 As such, they are responsible for the proper functioning of the central and provincial services located in their entities.34 Their responsibility is limited to coordinating and supervising these services, with the exception of those services directly performed by the central or provincial authority35.
On the other hand, the relationship between the DTEs and the central and provincial authorities is reflected in the institution of the tutelle (control/supervision) over legal acts of these entities. This tutelle is exercised only over the acts and not over the person of the local authorities. It is a tangible manifestation of the libre administration (autonomy) principle and thus of the protection of the DTEs against the interference of the central government or the province. In addition, the tutelle is exercised by the Governor of Province. The central government has no role to play in this regard. This is a second guarantee of the separation of powers between the national and local levels.
(p. 373) A third guarantee of the protection of the competences of the DTEs is that the legislature provided for the possibility of delegating the power of the tutelle to the administrator of the territory.36 This serves to bring the coordinating power of the administrator closer to the activities of the DTEs.37
The fourth guarantee is to be found in the exercise of the supervisory power. This power can be exercised a priori over a number of listed acts and a posteriori over other acts,38 which leaves a wide margin of action to the local authorities for the swift execution of their executive programmes during their five-year terms.
The acts subject to a priori control are:
• elaboration of the preliminary draft budget in order to ensure compatibility with the macroeconomic assumptions used in the national budget forecasts, revenue projections, and mandatory expenditure
• the creation of industrial and commercial enterprises and the acquisition of shares in companies;
• the signature of a contract involving financial commitments under various forms of equitable participation
• police regulations
• the execution of work on investment expenditure of the state budget as delegated contracting authority
• acts and actions which may involve structured relations with foreign states and the territorial entities of foreign states and
• the decision to use the public tenders procedure (marché public gré à gré), by way of derogation from the rules for contracts normally subject to public offer procedures.41
A priori control is justified by the need to harmonise the functioning of the state at all three levels of power.42 It also makes possible the technical support of the DTEs (p. 374) by the central government and the provinces. Indeed, territorial decentralisation is not synonymous with separatism: it is a kind of division of labour for strengthening of the authority of the state. In order to consolidate the state’s territorial and political unity, cooperation between the three levels of state power is established. It is in this light that the legislator obliges the provincial governor to support the DTEs in the implementation of their programmes.43
As can be imagined, these relationships between the central government and the provinces can generate conflict, especially where a DTE is run by an opposition political party.
It is important to focus on the judicial status of DTEs authorities before examining the dispute-resolution mechanism put in place by the legislature.44 Members of the legislative bodies (Councils) of the DTEs are entitled to immunity from prosecution.45 In addition, all authorities (deliberative and executive) of a DTE enjoy the privilèges de juridiction.46 The latter concept implies that they cannot be tried by their ordinary courts in criminal matters. The maire and maire adjoint (mayor and deputy mayor) of a city and the President of an Urban Council are tried before the Court of Appeal. However, the members of the Urban Councils, the Municipal Councils, the Councils of the Sector and the Chiefdom, the Bourgmestres, the heads of the sector, and the heads of the chiefdom and their deputies are tried before the Tribunal de Grande Instance.47
In the event of a conflict of competence between the executive authorities of the DTE and the governors, this dispute shall be referred to the competent Administrative Court of Appeal. This is a protection of the competences of the DTEs against abuses by the governors of provinces. It can therefore be said that the separation of powers was respected when the legislature entrusted the resolution of disputes between the DTEs and the provinces to the Administrative Courts of Appeal.
The Organic Law on the Composition, Organization and Functioning of the DTE came into force on 7 November 2008. On the entry into force of this law, the capitals of the territories became cities or municipalities according to the criteria required for these two types of DTEs.48 Without local elections, the DTE authorities were appointed in accordance with the Decree-Law No. 082 of 2 July 1998. It is in this context that we must situate the evaluation of the process of decentralisation in the DRC.
On 8 November 2008, the provisions of the Organic Law came into force, with the exception of those relating to the organisation of local elections. It should be noted at the outset that the failure to hold these elections has blocked the entire process of territorial decentralisation. In fact, one of the fundamental implications of the constitutional principle of libre administration (administrative autonomy) is the existence of elected local bodies.49 The absence of legislative organs and executive colleges deprived the decentralisation process of its effectiveness.
The absence of local elections can be explained by the interruption of electoral cycles. Indeed, the first electoral cycle 2006–2007 was limited to the presidential, legislative, senatorial, and provincial elections. Local elections could not be held without a legal framework for DTEs. After the establishment of the first laws of this framework in 2008, the DRC was two years away from the presidential, legislative, senatorial, and provincial elections. The second cycle of 2011–2013 was interrupted after the presidential and legislative elections of 28 November 2011. The reform of the Electoral Commission continued until the DRC approached the third electoral cycle, which at the time of writing was at the heart of the latest Congolese political crisis. This chapter provides some explanation of the root causes of the failure to hold local elections.
The current local authorities have been appointed. They are representatives of the central government and the provinces within the DTEs which they run without actually being local authorities within the meaning of the Constitution.50 As such, they are subject to hierarchical control and to removal ad nutum. This situation seriously undermines the autonomy of the DTE in the DRC. In Kinshasa, for example, the Bourgmestres (mayors) of a commune are vulnerable to arbitrary control of the (p. 376) governor of the city. One Bourgmestre was dismissed for failing to respond to an appointment. Another was dismissed for claiming the proceeds of the financial transfer from the central government. This shows to what extent the authorities of the DTE are subject to the arbitrary power of the provincial governors.51
In terms of finances, the situation is virtually the same. Much of the revenue of the DTE is made up of public funds transferred by the provinces, which in turn receive these funds from the central government.52 In 2007, this transfer represented only 6–7 per cent of the resources to which the provinces were entitled.53 In turn, the provinces return only unpredictable and irregular amounts to the DTEs. The share of revenues that the provinces transfer to the DTE, does not correspond to the 40 per cent stipulated by the Organic Law—which is due to the fact that the provinces themselves do not receive sufficient funds from the central government. Overall, it is a situation that does not allow for community development projects.
To take the example of the Commune of Mont Ngafula in Kinshasa, in the 2008 financial year it realised revenue of nearly 43,616,485 Congolese Francs, or US$109,021, derived from tax duties and transfers from the city of Kinshasa.54 This sum of money was used entirely for the current expenditure of the municipal authorities and their services, which meant that community projects were not implemented. In this enormous municipality, the authorities undertook no erosion-control activities, there were no public lights, and gutters were not cleared.55
The reality is that in all economic sectors, the revenues due to the DTEs, which are controlled by the central services and paid into the Public Treasury account, have not been properly allocated between the different levels of government. In the forestry sector, the forest area tax (FAT) was introduced with a precise allocation formula of 60 per cent revenue to the central government and 40 per cent to the provinces. The 40 per cent due to the provinces is then further shared with 25 per cent going to the provincial administration and 15 per cent to the DTE where the extraction site is located. Law No. 13/001 of 23 February 2013, transformed the FAT into a Common Interest Tax distributed between the provinces and the DTEs, with of 60 per cent of this going to the provinces and 40 per cent to the DTEs. However, since 2002, neither the central nor the provincial governments have transferred these revenues to the DTEs.56
In practice, the constitutionalisation of territorial decentralisation is extensive. This has raised local communities’ awareness of decentralisation to the extent that they firmly believe it is a path to pursue for the future and an opportunity for them to advance their own development.57 Nevertheless, as this chapter has demonstrated, the process of territorial decentralisation has made no significant impact on the development of local communities, still less on the objective of ensuring the effectiveness of state authority throughout the national territory.
In the absence of local elections,58 one cannot speak of multiparty democracy at the local level. On the contrary, the system is evolving into veiled one-party rule, given that all the authorities of the DTEs are activists or cadres of the ‘Presidential Majority’, the ruling coalition of political parties in the DRC.59 Having the privileges of power, these authorities do not hesitate to use them to muzzle opposition parties at the local level, a tendency that was especially evident in the presidential and legislative elections held in 2006 and 2011.60
Legal provisions relating to the settlement of disputes have not been enforced by the courts or tribunals. It should be noted that the Administrative Courts of Appeal, which are competent over the matter, have not yet been established. It is in principle the administrative sections of the Courts of Appeal of the ordinary courts that exercise this jurisdiction on a transitional basis. The current local authorities do not have enough autonomy to take legal action against their hierarchical authorities—bold action of this kind would be sanctioned by dismissal.
The Constitution of 18 February 2006 recognises customary authority.61 A customary chief has the possibility of exercising an elective public mandate.62 According to Law No. 15/015 of 25 August 2015 on the status of customary chiefs, a customary or traditional chief is a person designated in accordance with local custom, recognised by the public authorities, and entrusted with the task of running a community. This law distinguishes three types of traditional chiefs: the chief of first class (chef de chefferie), the chief of second class (chef de groupement), and the chief of a village or chief of the third class.
• ensuring cohesion, solidarity, and social justice within his jurisdiction
• safeguarding and upholding traditional moral values, cultural heritage, and ancestral vestiges, including sacred sites and places of worship
• ensuring, in accordance with the law, the protection of land areas under local community land and
• promoting good relations with neighbouring entities.
The status of a customary chief is incompatible with the functions of members of the defence and security forces, public officials, magistrates, activists of political parties, permanent employees, and members of the legislative organs of the executives of the ETDs, with the exception of the chiefdom (Article 29).
The administrative framework of the DRC includes a number of chiefdoms as DTEs, since the population inhabiting these chiefdoms is homogeneous. The traditional authority becomes the authority of the DTE concerned and exercises his power in accordance with the Organic Law on DTEs. Heterogeneous traditional entities, where several ethnic communities coexist, have been divided into sectors. These entities are managed by elected authorities. The traditional leaders of the first class in sectors, and all chiefs of the second and the third class,63 are integrated into the public administration as a deconcentrated territorial authority.64 They constitute the extension of the central government in their respective jurisdictions.
The Constitution65 and the electoral law provided for a system of co-option of traditional chiefs in the provincial assembly.66 Such co-option is arranged in the presence of all of the traditional chiefs of the province and according to the territory of origin and the ethnic diversity of the province.
The integration of customary authorities in the administration and in political institutions served a real need, as the majority of the Congolese population are under their authority. National cohesion, and even the country’s developmental objectives, cannot be achieved without their involvement. The integration of customary leaders into political institutions also makes it possible to modernise their power, in that their power ceases to be without limit. It is limited, in particular, by the requirements of respect for human rights and the fundamental freedoms of citizens. This brings significant advantages for the consolidation of democracy and constitutionalism at the local level.
The only danger that undermines traditional authority, however, is political manipulation. Sometimes the governor of a province may recognise traditional authorities that have been designated as such in violation of custom, a situation that in the region of Kasai has led to the ongoing conflict known as the case of Chief Kamwina Nsapu.67
The constitutionalisation of territorial decentralisation in the DRC raised high hopes among citizens,68 who have held on to it and do not seem ready to give it up.69 The prospects for the future depend on how the numerous challenges that the country faces now in implementation decentralisation process are overcome.
Since 2008, the year in which the Organic Law on DTEs was promulgated, the process of territorial decentralisation has faced four kinds of challenges: legal, material, financial, and political. It took a long time for any of the expected implementing legal texts to be adopted. The material and financial problems would not have been serious had there been political will.70
According to a study by the Ministry of the Home Affairs in 2008, the government needed US$1,015,000,000 for the development of infrastructure in 1,015 DTEs.71 It is difficult to see how the Congolese state was unable to raise this amount of money over the past eight years. As always, it is a question of lack of political will. This can be discerned in the gap between political rhetoric and actions. Whereas in their speeches the central political authorities have not ceased to affirm their commitment to decentralisation, their lack of political will is manifested in practice by the following:
• The slow pace of the adoption of legislation on territorial decentralisation. The first text was adopted in 2008 and the last one in 2015, meaning that a single stage of decentralisation took seven years to complete. It demonstrates the lack of interest of the government and parliament in this process.
• The blockage of elections: the local elections will not likely be held within the scheduled time. The electoral cycle is supposed to start by national and provincial (p. 380) elections according to the political agreement of 31 December 2016. There is no sign that any of these elections will be held because of the crisis caused by the President trying to extend his mandate.
• The refusal to transfer resources that are owed to the DTEs.
The lack of political will72 to accelerate territorial decentralisation thus remains a major challenge.73 It manifests itself in the refusal, given under false pretexts (particularly in relation to financial resources), to apply the constitutional and legal provisions on decentralisation. This results in an infringement of the constitutional principle relating to the free administration of the DTEs. The long delay in adopting laws, along with the absence of any allocation of funds for the establishment of the DTEs, is symptomatic of the authoritarian agenda being pursued by the government of President Joseph Kabila and with the complicity of the political parties in the Presidential Majority. The only route through which to secure the effective establishment of the DTEs remains the democratisation of Congolese political institutions. This in turn is possible only through a change of government and the departure of President Joseph Kabila, who has already exhausted his two constitutional mandates.
The process of decentralisation is irreversible in the DRC. With the legal bases having been laid down during, and lessons having been learnt from, the first decade of the implementation of the Constitution, it is imperative to launch the second stage of territorial decentralisation. This must start with the holding of local elections.
Stakeholders will have to take steps to remove any obstacles to such elections by 2020. The holding of the elections will allow the installation of DTEs institutions. This is possible only with political stability at the national level. To achieve this, it is necessary to bring about a peaceful and democratic transfer of power from the outgoing head of state. It is very likely that the new regime emerging from elections will be more favourably inclined to territorial decentralisation, and that if the DRC sees a successful alternation of power at the apex of the state, the next government will be more democratic than the current one.
In terms of research, there is abundant Congolese literature indicating the direction in which action is needed to achieve the objective of territorial decentralisation. Local actors are also committed to supporting this process, and need only clear-sighted political leadership committed to the full implementation of decentralisation.
Territorial decentralisation is an issue of great importance for the future of the DRC. The recurrence of this subject in political debate attests to the place it occupies in the political and social imagination of Congolese politicians, intellectuals, and ordinary citizens. This chapter has shown that the framers of the Constitution pursued the objective of bringing the people closer to the administration, this by constitutionalising DTEs as centres of local decision-making that could promote bottom-up development from the country’s base. Decentralisation has been sees as the solution to the problems caused by state asphyxiation through the centralisation and concentration of powers. These problems are not yet resolved, as this chapter demonstrates.
The adoption of legal texts alone was not enough to advance territorial decentralisation; what has been required is political will at the central government level—and its absence is a major impediment to this process. The consequent violations of the constitutional and legal provisions concerning territorial decentralisation have seriously affected the prospects for constitutionalism in the DRC, and the only way for it to be revived is through a democratic change of regime. The future of decentralisation thus lies in holding free, transparent, and credible elections at the national, provincial, and local levels within the framework of the existing constitutional order.
- Banque Africaine de Développement, République Démocratique du Congo. Etude Economique et Sectorielle. Développement Economique Régional au Bas-Congo dans le Contexte de la Décentralisation en RDC (Département des Opérations par Pays, Région Centre 2009) https://www.afdb.org/fileadmin/uploads/afdb/Documents/Project-and-Operations/DRC_Etude%20decentralisation_french__001.pdf (last accessed 10 January 2017)
- Cihunda J.H., ‘Analyse Critique de la Loi Organique No 08/016 du 7 Octobre 2008 Portant Composition, Organisation et Fonctionnement des Entités Territoriales Décentralisées et Leurs Rapports avec l’Etat et les Provinces’ Presentation at the workshop organised by Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa (EISA) for the Delegates of Civil Society and Political Parties, Kananga (Province of Western Kasaï) (21–22 April 2009)
- Cihunda J.H., ‘Communication Interne et Externe au Sein d’une Organisation Non Gouvernementale’ Presentation at the workshop organised by EISA for the Delegates of Civil Society of the Eastern Province, Kisangani (August 2009)
- Cihunda J.H., ‘Les Mécanismes de Contrôle et de Tutelle en République Démocratique du Congo’ Presentation at the workshop organised by the Cellule d’Appui Politologique en Afrique Centrale for the Animators of DTEs and Civil Society of the Province of Bandundu, Bandundu (1–3 December 2009)
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1 (CREEDA, www.creeda-rdc.org). I would like to thank my colleague, Balingene Kahombo, for his valuable contribution to the finalisation of this chapter. I express also my profound gratitude to Professors Charles Fombad and Nico Steytler for their pertinent observations.
2 Joseph Hengelela Cihunda, ‘Forme de l’Etat dans la Constitution du 18 Février 2006 en République Démocratique du Congo. Réflexions Critiques sur les Choix Des Options Fondamentales et Evaluation de Leur Mise en Œuvre’ (2013) 480 Congo-Afrique 770. See also Pamphile Mabiala Mantuba-Ngoma (ed.), Le Processus de Décentralisation en République Démocratique du Congo (Publications de la Fondation Konrad Adenauer 2009); M. Odéric Nyembo-Ya-Lumbu, La Constitution de la Troisième République est Fédérale: Regard Critique sur la Décentralisation (Editions Universitaires Africaines 2009).
11 See Ordinance-Law No. 82-006 (1982) on the territorial, political, and administrative organisation of the Republic and Ordinance-Law No. 82-007 (1982) on the organisation of legislative, local, and municipal elections, arts. 4–71.
12 Vunduawe te Pemako (n. 10) 466.
13 ibid 468. It should be noted that Professor Félix Vunduawe te Pemako is the author of the draft laws on territorial decentralisation in Congo in 1982, in his capacity as Commissaire d’État (Ministry of Home Affairs).
17 Vunduawe te Pemako (n. 10) 479.
18 Vunduawe te Pemako (n. 10) 483.
21 Cihunda (n. 2).
23 Mulumba (n. 4) 121.
24 This is defined as a traditional community organised on the basis of custom and established as an administrative district under the authority of a chief designated in accordance with custom recognised by the public authorities. More simply, it is a set of villages.
27 Organic Law No. 08/016 arts. 108–112. See Joseph Hengelela Cihunda, Mécanismes de Financement des Provinces et des Entités Territoriales Décentralisées en République Démocratique du Congo (2011) Communication à l’intention des Animateurs des Entités Territoriales Décentralisées et Déconcentrées et de la Société civile de la Province du Bas-Congo à l’occasion du Séminaire atelier organisé par la Cellule d’Appui Politologique en Afrique Centrale.
28 Organic Law No. 08/016 (n. 25) arts. 115–16.
30 For more detail, see section 3.1 of this chapter.
31 Article 242 of the Mining Code provides: ‘The mining royalty shall be paid by the holder of the mining title to the State Treasury. The latter is responsible for distributing the revenue from the mining royalty according to the following formula: 60% will remain vested in the Central Government, 25% will be deposited in an account designated by the Administration of the Province where the project is located and 15% to an account designated by the City or Territory in whose jurisdiction the operation is carried out. The fund resulting from the apportionment referred to in the preceding paragraph of this Article in favour of the above decentralised Administrative Entities shall be used exclusively for the construction of basic infrastructure of Community interest.’
32 Ambroise Kamukuny Mukinay and Joseph Hengelela Cihunda, ‘Régionalisation, Décentralisation et Naissance Effective de Vingt-Cinq Provinces en RD Congo: Défis et Perspective de Prévention des Conflits’ (2009) 434 Congo-Afrique 295.
33 Organic Law No. 08/016 (n. 25) art. 93.
36 The Administrator of the territory and his deputies are both representatives of the central government and of the province. See Loi Organique No. 10/011 (2010) portant fixation des divisions territoriales à l’intérieur des provinces, JORDC 7.
37 Organic Law No. 08/016 (n. 25) art. 95. According to art. 5 of Organic Law No. 10/011 determining the territorial subdivisions within the provinces (2010) JORDC, the territorial administrator plays the role of initiation, coordination, advisory support, and inspection of the action of the state and the province. See also Joseph Hengelela Cihunda, ‘Statut Juridique des Entités Territoriales Déconcentrées en République Démocratique du Congo’ in Jean-Michel Kumbu ki Ngimbi (ed.), La Décentralisation Territoriale en République Démocratique du Congo sous l’Empire de la Constitution du 18 Février 2006. Bilan et Perspectives (CDHC 2014) 57–64.
38 Organic Law No. 08/016 (n. 25) art. 96.
39 Law No. 13/014 on the ratification of Ordinance No. 013/001 of 23 February 2013 fixing the nomenclature of taxes, duties, taxes and royalties of Provinces and Decentralised Territorial Entities and their distribution (2013) JORDC 14, arts. 12–13.
41 Organic Law No. 08/016 (n. 25) art. 97.
42 Joseph Hengelela Cihunda, Les Mécanismes de Contrôle et de Tutelle en République Démocratique du Congo, (2009) Communication à l’intention des Animateurs des Entités Territoriales Décentralisées et Déconcentrées et de la Société civile de la Province du Bandundu à l’occasion du Séminaire atelier organisé par la Cellule d’Appui Politologique en Afrique Centrale.
43 Organic Law No. 08/016 (n. 25) art. 102.
44 Joseph Hengelela Cihunda, Les Modes de Résolution des Conflits de Compétence en République Démocratique du Congo (2009) Communication à l’intention des Animateurs des Entités Territoriales Décentralisées et Déconcentrées et de la Société civile de la Province du Bandundu à l’occasion du Séminaire atelier organisé par la Cellule d’Appui Politologique en Afrique Centrale.
45 Organic Law No. 08/016 (n. 25) art. 120.
46 Under the principle of immunity, no member of the Councils of the DTEs may be prosecuted, sought, arrested, detained or tried for opinions or votes issued by him in the exercise of his duties. No member of the Councils of the DTE may be prosecuted or arrested, except in the case of flagrante delicto, during the sessions, with the authorisation of the Council to which he belongs. Outside sessions, they may not be arrested without the authorisation of the Bureau of the Council, except in cases of flagrante delicto, authorised prosecution or final judgment. The detention or prosecution of a member of the Council shall be suspended if the Council of which he is a member so requests. As for the privilege of jurisdiction, it confers on the members of the Councils and the Executive Colleges of the DTEs the advantage of being judged by a superior judge to their natural judge.
47 Organic Law No. 08/016 (n. 25) art. 121.
48 According to art. 66 of Organic Law No. 08/016 (n. 25), a ‘town’ is ‘the capital of a province’ or ‘any agglomeration of at least 100,000 inhabitants possessing the collective facilities and the economic and social infrastructures to which a decree of the Prime Minister has conferred the status of city’. According to art. 46 of the same Organic Law, a ‘commune’ is ‘any chief town of territory’ or ‘any subdivision of the city or any agglomeration with a population of at least 20,000 inhabitants to which a decree of the Prime Minister will have conferred the status of commune’.
49 Roger Thamba, ‘Organisation des Elections Locales en République Démocratique du Congo: Quels Enjeux?’ in Jean-Michel Kumbu ki Ngimbi (ed.), La Décentralisation Territoriale en République Démocratique du Congo sous l’Empire de la Constitution du 18 Février 2006. Bilan et Perspective (CDHC 2014) 203–18.
51 Intervention of the Bourgmestre (Mayor) of the Commune of Gombe on the occasion of the workshop on the challenges of the good management of the communes organised by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation in Kinshasa on 22 June 2016.
52 Angelo Mobateli, ‘Rétrocession de 40 Pour Cent: Les Provinces Reçoivent des Forfaits du Pouvoir Central en RDC’ (2013) www.lepotentielonline.com (last accessed 8 January 2017)
53 Banque Africaine de Développement, République Démocratique du Congo. Etude Economique et Sectorielle. Développement Economique Régional au Bas-Congo Dans le Contexte de la Décentralisation en RDC, (Département des Opérations par Pays, Région Centre (ORCE) 2009) www.tralac.org/files/2012/12/AfDB (last accessed 10 January 2017).
54 Commune de Mont Ngafula, Rapport Annuel d’Activités (2009) Exercice 2008 40.
55 Paulin Punga Kumakinga, ‘Les Relations Entre la Commune et la Province. Autonomie Juridique et Financière de la Commune de Mont Ngafula à Kinshasa’ (2010) 5 Librairie Africaine d’Études Juridiques 100.
56 Florent Kay, ‘Transparence et Redevabilité sur la Perception et la Redistribution de la Redevance Forestière dans la Province Orientale en RDC’ (2016) Communication à l’atelier national sur la gouvernance de la rétrocession de la redevance forestière en RDC.
58 Joseph Cihunda Hengelela, Elections Urbaines, Municipales et Locales: Enjeux Pour les Entités Territoriales Décentralisées en République Démocratique du Congo (2011) Communication à l’intention des Animateurs des Entités Territoriales Décentralisées et Déconcentrées et de la Société civile de la Province du Bas-Congo à l’occasion du Séminaire atelier organisé par la Cellule d’Appui Politologique en Afrique Centrale.
61 Constitution (n. 19) art. 207. See Law No. 15/015 (2015) on the status of customary chiefs, JORDC.
62 Constitution (n. 19) art. 207.
63 The chief of Groupement has the same competences as the neighbourhood leader in urban areas. As for the village chief, he is responsible for the administrative census of the population, hygiene and sanitation in his village.
67 Chief Kamwina Nsapu was one of the customary authorities of the territory of Dibaya in Central Kasai. He was assassinated by the soldiers of the National Army on 12 August 2016. This triggered an insurrection that spread to all four provinces of Grand Kasai (Kasai, Kasai-Central, Kasai-Oriental and Lomami). This sixth Kamwina Nsapu (his real name being Jean-Prince Mpandi) was an opponent of the regime of Joseph Kabila before reaching the throne. To silence him, the central government decided to officially recognise his challenger to the throne.. It is his resistance to this that resulted in his assassination and this has led his supporters to instigate insurrection to avenge his death.
68 Joseph Hengelela Cihunda, ‘RDC: Les Promesses Non Tenue de la Décentralisation’ (2009) Pambazuka www.pambazuka.org (last accessed 10 January 2017).
69 Interviews during my interventions as a trainer in the provinces. See Joseph Hengelela Cihunda, Analyse Critique de la Loi Organique no 08/016 du 7 Octobre 2008 Portant Composition, Organisation et Fonctionnement des Entités Territoriales Décentralisées et Leurs Rapports Avec l’Etat et les Provinces (2009) Presentation to workshop organised by EISA for Delegates of Civil Society and Political Parties of Western Kasai on Territorial Decentralisation; Joseph Hengelela Cihunda, ‘Communication Interne et Externe au Sein d’une Organisation Non Gouvernementale’ (2009) Presentation to the workshop organised by EISA for the Delegates of the Civil Society of the Oriental Province.
70 Joseph Hengelela Cihunda, ‘L’installation de Nouvelles Provinces en République Démocratique du Congo: Contraintes Juridiques et Politiques’ in Jean-Michel Kumbu ki Ngimbi (ed.), La Décentralisation Territoriale en République Démocratique du Congo sous l’Empire de la Constitution du 18 Février 2006. Bilan et Perspectives (CDHC 2014) 18–23.
73 Paulin Punga Kumakinga, ‘Autonomie financière des Provinces et problématique du principe constitutionnel de la retenue à la source de 40 pour cent des recettes à caractère national. Essai d’évaluation à mi-parcours’ in Jean-Michel Kumbu ki Ngimbi (ed.), La Décentralisation Territoriale en République Démocratique du Congo sous l’Empire de la Constitution du 18 Février 2006, Bilan et Perspectives (CDHC 2014) 144.