The Democratic Republic of Congo is repeatedly considered one of the poorest states in the world by different rankings. Along with that, according to Transparency International, the DRC is also among the most corrupt states in the world. Although there are many possible causes for poverty, the great diversity of corruption practices both on state and individual levels is undoubtedly one of the main ones. The abundance of natural resources like oil and minerals in the state corresponds to the prevalence of the oil and mining sector which are susceptible to corruption as well. This paper will argue that the high levels of corruption in the DRC contribute to the state’s underdevelopment manifesting in the diminishing rule of law, low standard of living, and violation of people’s rights.
The problem of corruption lies in the structure of the governance, regime, culture, and the instability of the political order itself, leading to the lack of the rule of law. As Titeca and Edmond state, corruption can even be perceived as a part of the culture and informal institutions serving as a moral contract between the actors (543). Therefore, even though some actions were taken to eliminate corruption, in reality, there has never been enough political will and desire to do so. The laws remain unapplied and can be theoretically prevented from implementation by ruling elites. Another reason is that these anti-corruption institutions are indeed corrupt (Kahombo 304). As everyone benefits from corruption to a greater or a lesser extent, there is not much sense in an actual fight against it. Lastly, the lack of autonomy of these agencies from the leader of the DRC, who is one of the main targets of the anti-corruption policies, is self-explanatory. Hence, corruption is extensively incorporated into governance, and the attempts for its elimination appear to be in vain.
The rule of law and constitutionalism occur to be under tremendous pressure. Following the line of Acemoglu and Robinson, the extractive political and economic institutions, created under the rule of Mobutu, continue to prosper till now (182). Although the Constitution of the DRC assumes it is a State of law based on democracy with the existence of separation of powers, in reality, it is not the case. The monopoly of the head of the state over resources and his respective unequal distribution of them to the branches led to insufficient financing and, thus, increased corruption. Furthermore, as there are virtually no sanctions for this fraud, it gives rise to a sense of impunity. Thus, the rule of law as one of the main components of political order is significantly violated if not ceased its existence.
The violation of people’s social, economic, and political rights, as well as poor standard of living, are other unfortunate consequences, which are somewhat connected to the distortions in the Constitution of the DRC. Due to the corrupt practices and tax evasion of the elites, the budget left for welfare projects and ensuring citizens’ well-being is limited. Low wages, absence of protection resulting in high levels of violence, and ongoing epidemics contribute to the unhealthy climate in the state. Moreover, it cultivates corruption on the local level as people do not earn enough money to exist and thus, see such methods as the only possible way to survive (Alexandre 570). The socio-economic situation in the state is also critical: according to The World Bank, less than half of Congolese have access to water resources or basic facilities, and about 70 percent live below the poverty line (3). Thus, it leads to the absolute absence of faith in the government and state institutions.
As for political rights, the declared democracy experiences a crisis. Although the elections should take place regularly, they are constantly postponed or abolished due to the inability to finance the electoral commission (Kahombo 308). Even the judiciary branch of power, usually considered the most independent, is distrusted. Different surveys identify that less than a quarter of the DRC population believes in fair treatment at the courts. Another factor following that is the rising political engagement because of its prospects and relatively easy way to enrichment (Kahombo 309). For instance, only in 2011, there were almost nineteen thousand candidates for the seats in the National Assembly. Another inference from the situation is the apparent disinterest in other professions, such as healthcare workers, teachers, and so on. Hence, the violation of political and socio-economic rights and poor living conditions of the citizens of the DRC is the direct consequence of corruption.
To conclude, the extractive political and economic system of the Democratic Republic of Congo is continuously deteriorating by widespread corruption in the state. Being arguably the main reason for underdevelopment and the poverty of the nation, it negatively influences the political system and challenges the rule of law. At the same time, the people do not have access to their basic needs and exist on the brink of survival. Although some attempts have been made to change the situation, they were undermined by the unwillingness of the elites.
Kahombo, Balingene. “Corruption in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and its Impact on Constitutionalism and Respect for the Rule of Law.” Corruption and Constitutionalism in Africa, edited by Charles M. Fombad and Nico Steytler, Oxford UP, 2020, pp. 287-315.
Titeca, Kristof, and Patrick Edmond. “The political economy of oil in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC): Corruption and regime control.” The Extractive Industries and Society, vol. 6, no. 2, 2019, pp. 542-551.
Alexandre, Ali Bitenga. “Perception of corruption by traffic police and taxi drivers in Bukavu DR Congo: the limits of moral analysis.” Journal of Contemporary African Studies, vol. 36, no. 4, 2018, pp. 563-574.
Acemoglu, Daron and James A. Robinson. Why Nations Fail: the Origins of Power, Prosperity, and poverty. Crown Publishers, 2012.
The World Bank. DRC Electricity & Water Access and Governance Project (P173506). 2020.
Transparency International. CORRUPTION PERCEPTIONS INDEX. 2021.