War and the Political Economy of Kinshasa

  • Tom De Herdt
  • Claudine Tshimanga

Abstract

The first visible connection we saw between the war in Eastern Congo-Zaire and livelihoods in the capital city of Congo was one of the ‘sheets’ or covers the United Nations had distributed in the Rwandan refugee camps in 1994 with the purpose of giving the homeless a semblance of a roof over their heads. Within months, these sheets began to travel around the country and some even appeared in the suburbs of the capital city, 2000 kilometres west of the refugee camps. This is of course but a trivial illustration of a far more complex issue, namely that of the interconnection between the war and economic life in the city. The hypothesis that wars, besides being massive machines of material and human destruction, are also sources of rising rural-urban inequalities comes in two versions. The first version goes back at least to Max Weber, who described the situation of the ancient cities as one of chronic war: Indeed, it was war that ‘enriched the city, while periods of sustained peace were not supported by the class of citizens’ (1923, 284). It was by military means that the city appropriated crucial economic resources, land and slaves. Further, the resources captured through contemporary warfare in Africa also connect the city to global capitalism — be it to the flipside of globalization (Bayart, 1994). Thus, resources are captured in the interior transit important cities that act as gateways towards an international market. Most of the internal value added is consumed precisely at these gates, where it can be spent on imported goods.

Keywords

Sugar Maize Economic Crisis Transportation Income 

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Copyright information

© Tom De Herdt and Claudine Tshimanga 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tom De Herdt
  • Claudine Tshimanga

There are no affiliations available

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