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First Meeting of Congo Research Network

First Meeting of Congo Research Network

December 11, 2010

U. of Birmingham, Edgbaston Campus

Arts Building, 2nd Floor, Danford Room

http://www.birmingham.ac.uk/Documents/university/edgbaston-map-09.pdf – in the red zone – R16

how to get there? By train: from New Street Train Station (main train station in Birmingham), take the train to University Campus (approx. 7 a 10 min) or bus 61, 63 (via Bristol Road)


10.30- 11: introduction

Historical Challenges

11-11.30 Loffman, Reuben, Keele University

African elites and the shaping of early colonial politics on the Katangan frontier, 1906 – 1917

11.30-12 Lauro, Amandine, University of Cambridge,

Maintaining law and order in the colonie-modèleUrban (dis)order and the policing of racial boundaries in the Belgian Congo

12-13: lunch // discussion about future CRN events

Media and Contemporary Challenges

13-13.30 Long, Nic, BBC and independent researcher

The Media’s Contribution to Good Governance in a Fragile State       

13.30-14 Udo, Jacob, Leeds University

Rethinking Information Intervention in Violently Divided Societies: MONUSCO’s Public Information Operations and Conflict Transformation in the Democratic Republic of Congo

14-14.30 Pype, Katrien, University of Birmingham

Kabila and Lumumba: Heroes for the Present. Visual Media, Memory and Politics in Kinshasa (2010)

14.30-15 Perks, Rachel, University of Reading

Global Economy and Local Conflicts: Challenges and Ways Forward

15.30-16 Congolese Community + Consulate





Dr Amandine Lauro (University of Cambridge)

Wiener-Anspach Research Fellow, Faculty of Historyalauro@ulb.ac.be or al605@cam.ac.uk


Maintaining law and order in the colonie-modèle

Urban (dis)order and the policing of racial boundaries in the Belgian Congo

The stimulating renewal of colonial studies in the last two decades has little influenced Belgian colonial history. In spite of some recent interesting studies, colonial history is still widely disregarded in Belgium and has not much benefited from public controversies about the national colonial past. These recent debates have indeed tended to attract much attention on the two periods of the Belgian colonial presence in Africa which are, paradoxically, the most well-known (namely the beginning -the Leopoldian era- and the end -the years around the Independence-). The actual long period of Belgian administration remains particularly under-researched.

Policing systems and strategies of maintenance of law, order and security are no exception to that rule and have almost never been studied. Congolese colonial military forces (theForce Publique) have yet attracted scholars’ attention, but mainly for their role in colonial wars. Their functions as guardians of everyday colonial order (when treated) have been reduced to their involvement in “great” particular events such as the repression of –rare- major protests movements, reinforcing the impression of a “peaceful” colony in which Independence came unexpectedly.

In this paper, I would like to question these silences and more precisely their links with the colonial rhetoric of the Belgian Congo as a model-colony (perfectly and overall “naturally” ordered), developed as soon as from the 1920s by Belgian authorities in a national and international context. Nevertheless, if police and (in)security questions were rarely publicly discussed, they had been constant concerns for colonial rulers, especially in the growing urban spaces on which this paper will focus. Marked by social and cultural innovations which were seldom in conformity with colonial norms, Congolese cities became quickly considered as places of danger and disorder. In white perceptions, urban residents troubled both the imagined order of the “traditional” African community and the socio-political and moral order promoted by colonialism. Their proximity with the white community especially crystallized the social and security anxieties nourished by colonial authorities about those “detribalized” floating populations and their potential crimes. Explorations of the –central- role played by the securing of racial categories and of hierarchies of rule in security politics will thus be used as a starting point to assess some specificities of Belgian colonial urban ordering.

Reuben Loffman, Keele University


African elites and the shaping of early colonial politics on the Katangan frontier, 1906 – 1917

This paper reconsiders the myth of an all-powerful Catholic Church that supposedly established itself in Eastern Congo during the early twentieth century. This misconception emerged from the work of historians who focused more on metropolitan agreements than on local archives. Instead, this study takes the polyglot territory of Kongolo, in Northern Katanga, as its case study and examines the experiences of the two Latin missions there in turn; those of the Society of Missionaries of Africa (henceforth MOA) and the Spiritans. The two sections on each set of missionaries will follow and introduction that highlights the weakness of the secular administration during the transition from the Congo Free State to the Belgian Congo.

Although the concordat Leopold II signed with Rome in 1906 catalysed the growth of Catholic out-stations, missionaries struggled to expand their congregations in the face of concerted opposition from the local gerontocracy and the strength of the rural economy. The leaders of the MOA and the Spiritans lacked the personnel and resources to impose their agendas in full in the face of these obstacles, which added to the power local big-men wielded in their relationships with European priests. The negotiations between these sets of actors have been greatly understated in the literature on Catholicism in Congo, which has yet to make the transition from its concentration on male-dominated missionaries to congregations. Rather than imposing Christianity unproblematically on local tabula rasa, African elites substantially altered the mission experience in Kongolo and the Tanganika-Möero district writ large.

Local leaders dictated both the loci of mission activity and, often, the constitution of their congregations. It was only through making compromises with Kienge, a local big-man, that Spiritan missionaries were able to gain a foothold in Miswale, near to the town centre of Kongolo. The MOA were less willing to bend to the wishes of local chiefs. Even before he arrived in Tanganika-Möero, Victor Roelens, the bishop of the Upper Congo diocese, took a very dim view of chiefs. He believed that their extortionist rule would only be remedied by a strong theocracy, which would also counter the neglectful conduct of African parents. However, the hostility Roelens felt towards local rulers and families alienated his missionaries from the majority of rural Africans. As a result, the MOA retreated to fortified abbeys in the wilderness. It was only during the course of the First World War that chiefs began to convert to Christianity.

Dr Long, Nicholas


(Nick Long has an MSc in Communications for Development from Reading University, and a PhD in Land Economy from Cambridge University. He currently works as a journalist for the BBC World Service and other media.)


The Media’s Contribution to Good Governance in a Fragile State.       

In the past two decades western donors have increasingly emphasised the role of a free media in promoting good governance and development. A DFID white paper (2009) asserted that ‘freedom of expression’ is ‘essential for building peaceful and prosperous societies’, and committed the British government to spending 5% of its bilateral aid on ensuring that civil society, local media and other actors can monitor the use of the aid. Much of DFID’s media spending has been targeted at fragile states, although ‘policy relevant research on the relationship between media and democratic and development outcomes in fragile states seems extremely limited’ (Deane, 2009).

This presentation will look at some of the findings of that research, particularly with reference to sub-Saharan Africa, before focusing on the evidence for aid’s impact on the media, and through the media on governance, in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The research to be discussed in this presentation is ongoing. Two media support projects in particular are to be examined in detail: these were implemented by the NGOs PANOS and Search for Common Ground, and funded mainly by the UK, France and the US. Preliminary results suggest that in the case of the PANOS project, targeting funding at small community radio stations may have led to sub-optimal outcomes, as these media appear to be more averse to political risks than some larger, more commercial outlets. Questions should also be asked about the size and location of their audiences.

The trend in the DRC over the next few years is likely to be towards a reduction of media freedom, particularly for smaller media enterprises. In that context, the presentation will look at the argument for donors in the DRC refocusing support for the media more directly on monitoring aid programmes.

Perks, Rachel, U. of Reading


Global Economy and Local Conflicts: Challenges and Ways Forward

Whereas CSR has been embraced as good practice in most Western extractive countries, its precise role and function in Africa remains a concern. In particular, it is argued by civil society that where Government accountability is weakened by corruption and the absence of regulation, CSR is not required as part of a mining company’s ‘social license to operate’. In this article, this assertion is probed. Growing evidence suggests instead that the multiplicity of pressures facing mining operations is driving extractive companies to seek conflict and risk mitigation strategies in difficult operational contexts. However, whilst policy and institutional frameworks governing extractive operations have produced significant industry guidance on doing business in ‘high risk’ environments, mainstreaming into practice in the direct operational environment remains a challenge. This article suggests that public-private partnerships (PPPs) provide one model for increasing the connection between policy and practice on conflict sensitivity in business practice as expertise and resources are leveraged for mutual benefit. Two specific case studies from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are discussed with implications on future policy and practice.

Dr Pype, Katrien, U. of Birmingham, UK

Newton International Fellow, Centre of West African Studies, U. of Birmingham



Kabila and Lumumba: Heroes for the Present. Visual Media, Memory and Politics in Kinshasa (2010)

This year, the Congolese of DR Congo are celebrating the 50th anniversary of political independence. As both De Boeck (1998) and Jewsiewicki (2007) have discussed for Kinshasa’s public culture, since the mid-1980s, a crisis of meaning is ongoing. This crisis not only refers to the experience of the present as “anormal” and utterly distressing, but also to the fact that the State was not able any more to voice a unified historical narrative. Nearly two decades later, and faced with the independence festivities, the Congolese State (or at least the political leaders) feels compelled to engage with the past, and to situate itself in a historical framework. A totally new politics of the past is taking off. The presentation will zoom in on the commemorations of P.E. Lumumba and L.D. Kabila as they were held in Kinshasa January 2010. The main questions dealt with are: how is public memory produced today in that city? And, in which way is the representation of key figures of the national past (in casu Lumumba and Kabila) tied up to current political processes? First, I will juxtapose the initiatives of the government, local intellectuals, voluntary associations, and TV patrons, and specify the various “usable” and “disposable” pasts that are emerging in contemporary Kinshasa. Second, visual media will be identified as important sites for memory production. This is tied to the enhanced mediatisation of local politics.

Dr Jacob Udo, U. of Leeds

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Rethinking Information Intervention in Violently Divided Societies: MONUSCO’s Public Information Operations and Conflict Transformation in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Institute of Communication Studies


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Radio Okapi, is a novel UN Mission Radio collaboration between the UN and a Non-Governmental Organisation.   While programmes are under the general authority of the UN Stabilisation Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO), the radio station, including programme contents are managed by Swiss-based NGO, Hirondelle Foundation.  The paper draws on in-depth personal interviews with leaders of Hirondelle Foundation, MONUSCO and humanitarian workers in eastern DRC, to explore the successes and unique challenges of this novel IGO/NGO collaboration.  Though both organisations appear to have a similar mission, their approaches are dissimilar and are defined mainly by the strategic demands of  a Chapter VII mandated UN Mission on the one hand and a civil-society centred NGO on the other.    While Hirondelle Foundation seeks to provide a media space for the Congolese to access objective “humanitarian” information,  MONUSCO’s strategic objective is to “stabilize” the country by influencing  Rwandan Hutu combatants to disarm and repatriate to Rwanda for reintegration and resettlement.   These asymmetric objectives are reproduced in the discourses and ideological representations of both organisations.  The paper explores how they are represented in the production and narrative frameworks of two intervention programmes on Radio Okapi – Gutahuka and Dialogue Entre Congolais.  The emerging implication of UN/NGO information intervention partnerships on the traditional ‘apolitical’ role of NGOs is also discussed.


About Congo Research Network

The Congo Research Network (CRN) is a community of researchers working on DR Congo and its diaspora across the Humanities


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