CIVIL SOCIETY AND GOVERNANCE IN THE DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO (DRC)I. INTRODUCTIONThe term ‘Civil Society’ is often employed in the context of mutual rights and responsibilities.From the mid-nineteenth century onwards, distinctions between civil society and the statebecame more pronounced, reflecting the view that independent sectors (within civil society)can defend themselves from a state. More recently, the notion of capitalist endeavours beingat the heart of civil society has been replaced with a central concept of a sphere in whichsocial activity protects the substance of democracy and governance.iNon-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) are often considered to be the backbone of civilsociety, yet informal social institutions, professional associations, and interest groupsconstitute further examples.ii Although the degree of institutionalisation among civil societiesmay vary widely, the strength of civil society is generally believed to be critical in providingprotection and institutional hedges for individuals and groups against potentialauthoritarianism or intrusive government. Under such circumstances, governments and civilsociety groups commonly find themselves at odds with one another.The ineffectiveness or failure of some states to provide the citizens with basic services hassometimes resulted in suggestions that entities outside the government might better performsuch tasks. Civil society has proven effective in some instances at performing suchresponsibilities, with environmental groups working to clean and maintain public spaces,some organisations providing social services, and others playing roles in governance.iiiWhat is the case in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)? This paper therefore, will focuson the nature of the Congolese civil society, the environment in which they have to operate,the opportunities and the challenges they face and will make some recommendations in orderto strengthen civil society input into governance processes in the DRC.II. CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK
Different concepts that are mentioned in this paper need to be clarified in order to give betterunderstanding to the subject matter. The main concepts that have been defined are ‘civilsociety’ and ‘governance’. Also, there is a need of reflecting on the link between those twoconcepts. However, before defining those concepts, a brief background of the DRC politicalcontext is necessary for a better understanding of the environment in which civil societyoperates and their nature.2.1. Brief background of the DRCThe DRC is emerging from more than 32 years of brutal and corrupt dictatorship underMobutu Sese Seko. Immediately after independence in 1960, the country collapsed into armymutiny and its mineral-rich province of Katanga declared its independence from the rest ofCongo. A year later, the first prime minister, Patrice Lumumba, was captured and executed inKatanga province by troops loyal to the then chief of the army, Colonel Joseph-DésiréMobutu.In November 1965 Mobutu seized power from President Kasavubu and later in 1972 renamedthe country Zaire and himself Mobutu Sese Seko Kuku Ngbendu Wa Za Banga. His rule wasoverthrown in May 1997 by rebel forces led by Laurent-Désiré Kabila with support fromRwanda and Uganda. In August 1998, Kabilas expulsion of Rwandan and Ugandan officialssparked a full-scale armed conflict that has since involved nine African states, 20 differentarmed factions. It is estimated that this war has caused as many as four million deaths andnearly 600.000 displaced people, branding it "Africas World War."Despite Laurent-Désiré Kabilas assassination and replacement in January 2001 by his son,Joseph Kabila, and the subsequent negotiation of peace agreements with neighbouringstates, the fighting has continued, drawing in local ethnic groups, proxy militias, UN forces,and breakaway forces of the national army. However tenuous, the recent political transitionbrought about by the Inter-Congolese Dialogue (DIC) and the 2002 Pretoria agreementoffered a relative reprieve and created opportunities for the government to pursue its missionto broker peace, create a new and integrated army, organise elections, and set the stage for anew political order. Despite these notable accomplishments, atrocities against civilianscontinue largely unabated, particularly in the volatile regions of Ituri, North Katanga, and theKivu Provinces, where civilians continue to perish from violence, hunger, and disease everyday. The first fully democratic general elections since independence from Belgium in 1960took place on 30 July 2006, with 32 presidential candidates and 9,709 parliamentarycandidates.2.2. What is civil society?
The concept of ‘civil society’ has inspired much debate and controversy. There are differentapproaches to defining civil society, as well as different types of definitions, the most commondistinction being made between empirical and normative conceptions of civil society. It is usedfor different ideological and political purposes and has multiple meanings, which need carefulunravelling. Most definitions of civil society move beyond a narrow focus on developmentalnon-governmental organisations to include, community-based organisations, faith groups,professional and interest groups such as trade unions, the media, private businesscompanies, bar associations, human rights groups, independent consultants, universities,employers’ associations, advocacy groups, recreational groups and independent policy thinktanksiv. However, some define civil society to include only non profit organisations or NGOsand this is the case for some donor agencies; others define it to include only self-organisingcommunities of common interest; others apply the descriptor to all forms of non governmentalcooperation including big business, while yet others define it to exclude all forms ofinstitutionalised human activity.vThe traditional definition of civil society is that it comprises all organisations and institutionsupwards of the family and up to the state (national, provincial and local).vi The London Schoolof Economics Centre for Civil Society working definition is: “Civil society refers to the arena ofuncoerced collective action shared interests, purposes and values. In theory, its institutionalforms are distinct from those of the state, family and market, though in practice, theboundaries between state, civil society, family and market are often complex, blurred andnegotiated. Civil society commonly embraces a diversity of spaces, actors and institutionalforms, varying in their degree of formality, autonomy and power. Civil societies are oftenpopulated by organisations such as registered charities, development NGOs, communitygroups, women’s organisations, faith-based organisations, professional associations, tradeunions, self-help groups, social movements, business associations, coalitions and advocacygroups.”viiCivil society is also defined as a “sphere of society distinct and independent from the statesystem, the means of economic production, and the household. This collective realm, or‘public space’, includes networks of institutions through which citizens voluntarily representthemselves in cultural, ideological, and political senses…”viiiAs it can be noticed, all these various definitions do not include political parties and thoseactors of ‘political and economic society which are directly involved with state power andeconomic production, which they seek to control and manage’.ixWhile debate about the precise definition and nature of civil society will continue as there arenumber of conflicting definitions, one should note that there is widespread agreement thatduring the past few decades, civil society receded and political/commercial society advancedin terms of their impact on people’s lifestyle. That is true as civil society institutions varied andperform a myriad of roles in society. The role of civil society in bringing about goodgovernance is an important, not to say critical, dimension to the ongoing debate. Civil societyis an actor without whose participation good governance cannot be achieved. However, moreoften than not, civil society has been cherished in theory, rather than in practice.
2.3. What is governance?The complexity of governance is difficult to capture in a simple definition. Governance is aconcept that has developed considerably since it emerged in discussions of developmentissues around the late 1980s. Governance is increasingly seen as a concept thatencompasses a series of mechanisms and processes designed to maintain the system, toempower the population and to ensure that society owns the process.xThe World Bank uses the following definition: "By governance we mean the manner in whichpower is exercised... in the management of a countrys social and economic resources.”xiGovernance is also defined as "the use of political authority and exercise of control in societyin relation to the management of its resources for social and economic development".xii Thisdefinition reflects both the role of public authorities in creating the framework for the activitiesof economic agents and in making decisions about the distribution of benefits, as well as thenature of the relationship between government and the governed.Governance has the following attributes: accountability, efficiency and effectiveness,independent legal framework, responsible and equitable administration at all levels ofgovernment. In this regard, one could distinguishes between three dimensions of governance:the nature of the political system; mechanisms for using authority in managing a countryssocial and economic resources; the capacity of public authorities to define and implementpolicies, and to perform their duties.xiiiGovernance is also defined as “the exercise of political, economic and administrativeauthority to manage a societys affairs. It is a broad concept that encompasses theorganizational structures and activities of central, regional and local government, theparliament and the judiciary and the institutions, organizations and individuals that comprisecivil society and the private sector insofar as they actively participate and influence theshaping of public policy that affects peoples lives.”xivFrom these definitions, we observe that the need for governance exists whenever a group ofpeople come together to accomplish a purpose. It is clear that the central component ofgovernance is decision-making. It is the process through which group of people makedecisions, that directs their collective efforts. Therefore, governance is complicated given thatit involves multiple actors, not a single helmsman. xv These various actors articulate theirinterests, influence how decisions are made, who the decision-makers are and what decisionsare taken. In this paper, we focus our interest on civil society as an important actor ingovernance.
2.4. The significance of civil society for governanceThe literature on links between civil society and governance and democracy has their root inearly liberal writings of Alexis de Tocqueville. However, they were developed in significantways by 20th century theorists like Gabriel Almond and Sidney Verba, who identified the roleof civil society in a democratic order as vital.xvi They argued that the political element of manycivil society organisations facilitates better awareness and a more informed citizenry, whomake better voting choices, participate in politics, and hold government to account better as aresult.xvii More recently, Robert Putnam has argued that even non-political organisations incivil society are vital for democracy. This is because they build social capital, trust and sharedvalues, which are transferred into the political sphere and help to hold society together,facilitating an understanding of the interconnectedness of society and interests within it. xviiiThe involvement of civil society in governance programmes is quintessential for pledging awider and more inclusive level of local ownership. The participation of CSOs is crucial due totheir potential giving voice to the wider population and indigenous local communities.Although the plurality and representation of CSOs is crucial for ensuring their legitimacy, veryoften governance programmes have focused primarily on the state and have failed to engagecivil society. Therefore, their intervention should be targeted to address the overarchingobjectives of democratic governance.Civil society has a critical role to play in governance as a beneficiary, informal overseer,partner and advocate of reforms. On the one hand, its contribution is particularly usefulbecause it brings issues of human rights, governance to the fore. On the other, and given thatin fragile states non-state providers deliver up to 80% of security and justice servicesxix,support to civil society takes on great significance. Others, however, have questioned howdemocratic civil society actually is. Some have noted that civil society actors have nowobtained a remarkable amount of political power without being directly elected by anyone.xxIII. CIVIL SOCIETY IN THE DRC3.1. Understanding the CSO in the DRCThe experience of ‘civil society’ in the DRC entered in an ordinary political discourse after theend of the Cold War. It started to be widely used during the first political transition(1989-1992). And the reality it represents is multiform and complex. Its most understandabledemonstrations are developmental NGOs in the Kivu and Bas-Congo provinces. This
movement spread to the other provinces thereafter. These developmental NGOs organisedthemselves later in a National Council of Developmental NGOs (CNONGD), “Conseil Nationaldes ONGs de Développement”. It is through the initiative and under this platform that theCongolese civil society will organise itself.On 21 April 1991, while under preparation of its participation in the national forum known asthe Sovereign National Conference (CNS), “Conference Nationale Souveraine” -held from 25April 1991 to 6 December 1992- the Congolese civil society expressed the need to organiseitself as a single body and consequently hold its first assembly. Since then, it tries more andmore to define itself:In the document entitled “Agenda pour la Paix en RDC”, Agenda for Peace in the DRC, theNational Campaign for Sustainable Peace in DRC (CNPD) defined the civil society as “…Group of Congolese citizens conscious of their rights and duties, patriots of peace and libertythat militate for the destiny of Congolese people. We represent associations of citizens;human rights, civic education and developmental NGOs; trade unions; etc. We areresponsible civil society that wishes to extricate lessons of the past and the present in orderto participate efficiently in the (re) construction of the future. Our mission is to make echoes ofcitizens’ needs, preoccupations, anguishes, frustrations and hopes. We are social leaders,trade unionists, university professors, journalists, women and youths, etc. We are the voice ofthose who cannot speak…”xxiOn the occasion of its last meeting in 2003, the Congolese civil society defined again itself as,“a sphere of various recognised organisations and citizens’ associations, active and notbased on family relations, aimed at promoting welfare of the Congolese populations andwhose actors are inspired by certain values, such as respect of life, dignity, peace, unity,promotion of democracy in liberty and tolerance…”With regard to its composition, activities and the values it defends, the civil society in DRCcould be considered as a network of citizens organised in associations outside thegovernmental and institutional power of the state, interested in the improvement of the qualityof life of the population.3.1.1. Composition of the Congolese CSOThe composition of the Congolese CSO has also been a question under discussion. TheSovereign National Conference (CNS) had regrouped eight different structures andassociations representing the civil society. These components are:Youths, educational, women and families associations;Social, cultural and sports associations;Confessional and religious associations;
Non-profit and humanitarian associations;Developmental associations;Professional associations (groups of physicians, lawyers, nurses, etc.);Academia and scientific associations and;Trade unions.It’s important to note that the Congolese CSO does not have a unique national leadership.Several tentative to regroup organisations at the national level under a unique coordinationdid not succeed. These efforts always stumbled because of disparity of organisations, theirnumbers and the existence of several tendencies and ideologies.3.1.2. Assets of the Congolese CSODespite its problems, the Congolese CSO in all its diversity is important. In fact, since almostfifteen years, the civil society has played a first plan role in the DRC. During the SovereignNational Conference (CNS), it represented 40% of the participants and the chairperson of thishistoric national forum was one of its members, Monsignor Laurent Monsengwo, thearchbishop of Kisangani.Between the end of the Sovereign National Conference and the 1996 war led by Laurent-Désiré Kabila, civil society played a major role in pushing and educating the populations toresist the dictatorship of the Mobutu regime. After the Alliance of the Democratic Forces forthe Liberation of Congo (AFDL), led by Laurent-Désiré Kabila, seized the power on 17 May1997, civil society did not stop denouncing atrocities that preceded the hold of power. Evenduring the second war (1998-2003), the civil society did not stop exhorting all thestakeholders to come out of the vicious circle of holding power by force.Thus, the civil society was invited to play an active role during the political transition in theDRC. Despite the fact that negotiations for the Lusaka agreement in 1999 were held in itsabsence, the different actors (national and international) agreed to recognise the CSO as animportant actor and partner in the conflict resolution process in the DRC. And since thePretoria agreement was reached, the civil society has actively participated in the transitionalprocess while presiding inter alia the five commissions purported to support the transitiontoward democracy.In the Congolese context, the civil society constitutes the critical conscience of the populationand wishes to be an instance of control of the governmental and opposition actions by
citizens. Depending on circumstances, the civil society plays the role of spokesperson of civilpopulations, sometime the role of substitute, complement and sometime the role of alternativeto the state power.In spite of the length of the transitional period in the DRC, the civil society did not stop to fightfor democratic elections. It has done tremendous work with regard to the recent electoralprocess through the civic, electoral education programmes, monitoring and observing of theelectoral process. In this particular context, it should be bear in mind that the IndependentElectoral Commission (IEC) coordinates the civic and electoral education programme, whichis provided by Non State Actors (ANE). This refers to Congolese NGOs and non politicalinternational institutions and organisations, within a discussion framework set up by the IEC toincrease the implication of the civil society in the process.xxii3.2. Analysis of the civil society in DRCThis point gives a brief evolution of the Congolese civil society and considers four periodswhich characterised this evolution: - 1990 to 1998; - 1998 to 2001; 2001 to 2003 and ; - 2003to 2006.3.2.1 The civil society of 1990 - 1998In the middle of 1980s, the dictatorship of Mobutu had already extensively mined the DRC(ex-Zaire). Organisations appeared then to offer services previously considered to be underthe state responsibilities: rural development, education, health, saving, etc.The fall of the Berlin Wall induced the end of the one-party system in Zaire as in severalAfrican countries. Free press and media as well as some independent trade unions wereestablished. The Congolese civil society appeared more and more as fishpond from wherecame the voices for democracy, respect of human rights and the end of arbitrariness.Despite this new evolution of the civil society, it faced some complex and difficult challenges.Thus, in contrast to his opening speech, the dictator Mobutu succeeded to block the processof democratisation started in the beginning of 1990. At that time, the civil society, as a newactor in the political stage, was clearly organised in some parts of the country, namely inSouth Kivu province, where it was already sufficiently organised through united churches,NGOs, students’ organisations, etc. At this stage, one would clearly understand the role thecivil society of South-Kivu was going to play in the structuring of the civil society at nationallevel. Due to internal and external pressure, Mobutu accepted the principle of holding of theNational Conference for reconciliating the people of Congo and transforming the political
arena into democracy. In preparation of this forum, associations and NGOs from Kinshasaorganised a consultative meeting from 20 to 22 April 1991, convened by the CRONGDKinshasa, under the initiative of the Solidarity Peasant, an NGO of South-Kivu. The objectiveof the meeting was to unite and organise the civil society for efficient participatation in theworks of the CNS (Sovereign National Conference) and for influencing positively its decisionsand findings. It was at the end of that meeting that was born the formal Congolese civilsociety in its meaning and in its present configuration, as a coordination regrouping organisedassociations and NGOs. For the first time at national level, the strong social delegation wascalled civil society and that, to the difference of two other components of the CNS (thegovernment and the opposition).Nevertheless, the CNS was going to end in a context where the dictatorship of Mobutu,although weakened considerably, continued to exercise the "divide and rule" strategy andsome members of the civil society were given money and others were nominated in thepolitical sphere. For this reason, the national coordination of civil society disappeared, lettingthe civil society affirm itself in scattering of various denominations and places.The blockage of the democratization process accelerated the decay of the state; the NGOsbecame then actors in the political and economic life of the country. As the agonisingMobutu’s dictatorial regime continued to commit human rights violations, numerous humanrights NGOs were born all over the country. The National Council of Developmental NGOs(CNONGD), along with its provincial components, concretised the need of a national civilsociety. The CRONGDs became then a pole for gathering and structuring the whole civilsociety all over the national territory.Few weeks after President L.D. Kabila took power in 1997, the CNONGD organized a newnational symposium in Kinshasa under the theme, “reconstruction and of democratisation inDRC”, followed by some provincial meetings. A national structure for dialogue of the civilsociety, known as the “Committee of follow-up of the civil society” was established. Kabila’sregime tempted to minimise and undermine the role of civil society using, it triggered therepressive methods, i.e. leaders were jailed for variable periods and there were attempts toinstitute finicky measures of control, etc. However, after many months of strategic folds, theCongolese civil society came back on the scene well determined to fight for democracy, ruleof law and contribution of citizens in their own development and welfare.The ‘1990-1998’ period marks the emergence of civil society as meaningful actor of the life ofthe nation in the DRC.3.2.2 The civil society of 1998 - 2001
This period was characterised by the war launched in August 1998 by two rebel movementsrespectively backed by Rwanda and Uganda.Two months after the beginning of this new war, in September-October 1998, the civil societymet and elaborated “the agenda for peace”, which recommended the need for negotiationsbetween all belligerents. Thereafter, the civil society launched the National Campaign for aLasting Peace (CNPD). The CNPD was aimed at contributing to stop the conflict and topursue the democratisation process interrupted by the war in 1998. The CNPD wascomposed of 18 members, representing all categories of civil society components:developmental NGOs, human rights NGOs, Catholic Church, Protestant Churches, Unions ofteachers, Unions of civil servants, women organisations, youth organisations, independentpress, professional associations, etc.The work of civil society through lobbying and advocacy and the agenda for peace provokedan echo in terms of the Lusaka agreement signed in August 1999. The Lusaka agreementtook in consideration the main propositions of the agenda for peace proposed by the civilsociety. The Lusaka agreement also established that the civil society had to participate in the“Inter-Congolese Dialogue” (DIC) at the same level with the Government, the belligerents andpolitical parties. One may argue that this marked the recognition of the role of the Congolesecivil society in searching for peace.After President L.D. Kabila’s assassination in the beginning of 2001, his son, PresidentJoseph Kabila, obviously supported by the international community restored the Inter-Congolese Dialogue. This new development reactivated significantly the relations betweenthe Government and the civil society, and consequently some of civil society leaders wereappointed as members of the new Government.It is necessary to underline that in spite of this tremendous work done by the civil societyduring these difficult moments, i.e. since the beginning of the 1990s, the Congolese civilsociety was an object of any king of manipulation by political parties, individuals, etc. Thisresulted in divisions among civil society members and more globally, to loss of credibility andinfluence.3.2.3. The civil society of 2001 - 2003This period corresponds to the preparatory, the holding and the conclusion of the “InterCongolese Dialogue” (DIC). The civil society had pushed for the DIC as means to find a
solution to the war and conflicts in DRC. One could argue that the invitation made to the civilsociety to participate in the DIC constituted a victory. Many people thought that the DIC wasgoing to allow the civil society to increase its influence and to push for the democratisation ofthe country. However, like in the beginning of the 1990s, the DIC proved to be in fact a trapthat diverted leaders of the Congolese civil society. That is true given the fact that theinvolvement of the civil society to the DIC was acquired; its leaders began to fight againsteach other in order to be chosen as delegates. This led to the liquidation of the CNPD at thetime of the designation of delegates to the DIC towards the end of 2001 and the beginning of2002.Benefiting from internal divisions, several opportunist individuals, without adherence to therecognised components of civil society, were named delegates of the civil society to the DIC.Surprisingly, despite these confusions, the civil society succeeded in influencing the work ofthe DIC. In fact, almost 37 resolutions on important questions proposed by the civil societywere adopted by consensus at Sun City (establishment of Institutions, developmental policies,etc.) However, the civil society’s influence as a distinct component disappeared whenparticipants began discussing the power sharing. Civil society delegates to the DIC gave freecourse to their personal ambitions. Finally, they nominated themselves as representatives ofthe civil society in the institutions of the transitional period.3.2.4. The civil society of 2003 - 2006This is the period of the transitional Government of national unity and other institutionssupporting democracy in the DRC. It was also during this period that the constitutionalreferendum and general elections took place. Therefore, it can be argued that civil society hasplayed an important role during this period. At the national assembly level, the senate ispresided by a member of the civil society, and a religious. In addition, there is aparliamentarian group representing the civil society.In institutions supporting democracy one should be concerned about the composition of theiroffices. This constitutes a real trap for the civil society, as only the President emanates from itand the other members coming from other components, especially from former warringfactions or belligerents. The fact that there is a clear probability for the president to be put inminority should be taken into consideration.3.3. Relationship between civil society organisations and other institutionsOne of the most crucial questions that may be asked is whether civil society in the DRC isequipped enough to play the key role of bringing about good governance that is expected. Infact, four decades of violence and conflict have devastated the DRC, leaving government,
civil society as well as institutions in ruin. It is true that fundamental challenges are present inthe DRC in the area of governance and popular participation of civil society. However, afundamental transformation of the relationship between the state and civil society is needed ifdemocracies are to endure and if good governance is to prevail. Unfortunately, some leadersconsider civil society organisations as political competitors that need to be controlled ratherthan fostered.3.3.1. Civil society, Government and political partiesIt can be argued that as soon as a political party gains power, it becomes the Governmentand can therefore not be described as part of civil society. However, civil society’s role ingovernance is regarded by government as political opposition or strategical movement,especially when CSOs involve in criticism or exposure of government’s misdeeds orincompetence. This may be a result of misconception as the government considers CSOsand their objective to be incompatible with any involvement in such programs. Suchmisconception has been obvious among local government officials at lower levels in theadministration due to lack of awareness regarding human rights principles, lack of self-confidence, etc. Nonetheless, even higher officials of the Ministry of Justice (the Ministry thatis responsible for registering CSOs) also believe that CSOs should not get involved in thedemocratisation process. We should also note that political parties, especially those from theopposition easily support the agenda of civil society organizations in criticising the policy ofthe Government.Several times, some staff members of CSOs have been jailed for allegedly being involved inpolitical agitation and for having encouraged the community to oppose the government’spolicies. Sometimes, CSOs have their offices closed down or their work banned the case withan NGO named “Solidarité Katangaise”, (Katangese Solidarity). In fact, on 21 May 2005, theGovernor of the Katanga province, Mr. Urbain Kisula Ngoy ordered closure of the association“Solidarité Katangaise”- an NGO involved mostly in civic education and development- througha provincial decree forbidding the association to work in Katanga province, on the ground that“its activity [is] not legally authorised”. Yet, nearly a year before, on 18 July 2004 ‘SolidaritéKatangaise’ had sent to the Minister of Justice a request for obtaining legal personality andfollowing the request, the Ministry had authorised on 11 August 2004 the provisional runningof the association. According to article 5 of the Law n° 004/2001, legal personality should tobe granted if the Ministry does not respond to the request within six months. Consequently,the matter was taken to Court and after a judiciary battle the NGO won the case and is stilloperating in the country.3.3.2. Legal and regulatory frameworkIt is important to understand the legal and regulatory frameworks governing civil society. Thisincludes legalisation relating to such issues as the right to associate; to form a trade union; to
establish an organisation and freedom of press. Legal and regulatory frameworks canencourage or deter the development of civil society. For instance, complicated registrationprocedures or financial requirements can make the process of setting up an organisation longand tedious. Certain frameworks can restrict specific organisations. Groups may not bepermitted to organise because of religious beliefs, political ideology or ethnicity. Howeverlegal and regulatory frameworks can also prevent arbitrary state intervention and guaranteefor citizens and civil society the right to hold government officials to account.In the DRC, suffice is to say that during the dictatorial regime, the space for associational lifewas, to varying degrees, regulated and constricted. Advocacy, pro-democracy or humanrights groups and even trade unions were not welcomed, especially under the Mobutu’sregime, as the single state-party, Mouvement Populaire de la Révolution (MPR), wasconsidered to be the only one organisation to which all citizens were obliged to belong.Nevertheless, the situation improved in 1990 as some space were opened for in the politicalarena, allowing competition for political power and programmatic political parties opened upopportunities for civil society organisations to influence the political activities and the agendasof competing political parties. This creates an incentive to influence the policy process.The civil society in the DRC is organised by Law n° 004/2001. Several times, CSOs andespecially organisations involved in human rights activism complained that they faceddifficulties for being registered by the Ministry of Justice. However, government’scumbersome regulations and overzealous administration is an obstacle to the operations ofCSOs in general. The regulations and supervisions become stricter when coming to CSOsthat are involved in advocacy and democratisation programs.In several cases, human rights NGOs could not get registered for even five years after theirestablishment. This creates difficulty on their operation since certain government institutionsrefused to provide required support and services to them on the ground that they were notregistered. Others have to go through a similar experience where they faced lengthybureaucratic processes for about three years, in order to be registered and obtain a legalcertificate. This affects surely their effectiveness and independence.3.3.3. The question of independence of civil society in the DRCThe Congolese civil society and media have an important role to play, as they ought to becloser to local populations and developments on the ground. However, within the DRC, mediaand civil society have a hard time in their role as watchdogs, as they are harassed,imprisoned, even killed, and their publications censored, etc. The independence of the mediaand civil society is fragile due also to lack of resources. The media can be easily abused toincite populations, misinform, etc.IV. CONCLUSIONOne should note that up to now collaboration between government and civil society has, beensomewhat ineffective. This may be due to lack of clear guidelines on partnership, and
because NGOs and civil society in general remain weak and divided, seldom able to presenta common front on issues affecting them.For future, it is important that the government stop seeing the civil society sector as aninstrument of nuisance to it. Government should recognise that civil society groups are oftencloser to the communities that government development programmes want to reach. There isa clear need of an operational partnership for the country, its citizens and their civicorganisations, as well as the government, which is the policy-making body. Althoughdemocracy is a difficult process, which requires vigilance and reinforcement, it is extremelyessential for good governance. Congolese civil society should establish an expectation thatdemocracy must be the rule. Clearly, civil society is booming and is already making an impacton democracy and governance. This positive role needs to be strengthened and we believethat Civil Society have a strategic role to play. It is a fundamental right of the people to fullyand effectively participate in the determination of the decisions which affect their lives at alllevels and at all times.For that, civil society organisations need an environment in which they can operate freely andengage in dialogue with the government. Usually, governments fear civil organisations andcivil organisations fear governments.This paper concludes with a quote by Jusu-Sheriff: “ Civil society has helped set standardsfor politicians preparing for public service in order to help them provide competent, honestleadership: accept defeat graciously; and become more effective opposition. Open,disciplined, and democratic civil society organisations can provide alternative models forpublic life. Groups within civil society must thus be careful not to allow their individual politicalaspirations to subvert the freedom of speech and association that have been painfully clawedback from government in the past decade. They must not convert the hard-won civic spaceinto just another arena for the party politicking.”xxiiii For further reading, see Patrick Chabal and Jean-Pascal Daloz, Africa Works: Disorder as political Instrument(Oxford, James Curry, 1999).ii Christopher E. Miller, A glossary of terms and concepts in peace and conflict studies, 2nd edition, University forPeace, 2005, p.20iii Such as the community based groups in Thailand that assisted in drafting the constitution.iv The OECD defines civil society as “the political space between the individual and the government, expressedby membership of NGOs, social groups, associations and other organisations and networks” OECD-DAC (2005),Issues Brief, Engaging With Civil Society, in http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/26/55/35785435.pdfv Civil Society as ‘the ultimate third way; at http://pages.britishlibrary.net/blwww3/3way/civilsoc.htm (accessedon 25 july 2006)vi Charm Govender, ‘ Trends in civil society in South África today’, at
http://www.anc.org.za/ancdocs/pubs/umrabulo/umurabulo13m.html (acessed on 26 July 2006)vii London School of Economics (LSE) definition; in Edwards Michael, ‘civil society’, Cambridge, England: PolityPress, 2004viii Christopher E. Miller, op.cit., p.18ix Cohen and Arato, Civil Society and Political Theory (1992), ix, cited in Steiner, H.J., and Alston, P. (2000).International Human Rights in context: Law, Politics, Morals; text and Materials, 2nd ed., OxfordUniversity Press, p.939x UNDP, Report on the Workshop on Governance for Sustainable Human Development, MDGD, New York,April 1996.xi World Bank, Managing Development - The Governance Dimension, 1994, Washington D.Cxii DAC_OECD, DAC Orientations on Participatory Development and Good Governance, December 1993.xiii Ibid.xiv UNDP, Decentralized Governance Programme, New York, 1996.xv Governance is neither simple nor neat by nature it may be messy, tentative, unpredictable and fluid.xvi Gabriel Almond and Sidney Verba; ‘ The Civic Culture: Political Attitudes and Democracy in five Nations’,1989, Sagexvii Ibid.xviii Putnam, R.; Making Democracy Work: Civic Traditions in modern Italy; 1993; Princeton.xix OECD-DAC (forthcoming 2006), Enhancing the delivery of justice and security in fragile statesxx Agnew John; 2002; “Democracy and Human Rights” in Johnston, R.J., Taylor, Peter J. And Watts, Michael J.(eds); 2002; Geographies of Global Change; Blackwell.xxi Campagne Nationale pour la Paix Durable (CNPD), Agenda pour la Paix en RDC: proposition de la societecivile,xxii See PACO & UNOPS, International Observer Handbook: Presidential and Legislative Elections DR Congo,July 2006, p.19Jusu-Sheriff, 2004:284 in Christopher E. Miller, op.cit., p. 20xxiii