Mob justice, traditional authority, and witchcraft in the DRC

Judith Verweijen has written an interesting post about her recent research on justice populaire in the Kivus.  I’ve always thought of mob justice as a reaction to the state’s inability to provide security or prosecute those accused of wrong-doing, but Verweijen points out that it may also be a response to the declining authority of customary officials.

In some places, vigilante committees, sometimes dominated by demobilized soldiers, have been key in orchestrating the killings. This has been especially the case where vigilantes have taken on the role of assessing witchcraft allegations, which are the second major source of mob justice next to crime suspicions. … The events in the chefferie (chiefdom) of Wagongo in Mahagi territory seem to corroborate this conclusion. In the course of a recent visit, I was told that there had been a strong increase in witchcraft-related mob justice since a conflict around customary power had split the vieux-sages (old, wise men) into two opposing camps, thus reducing their capacity to credibly deal with these cases.

The whole piece is worth reading.

Shopping for land rights in Bukavu

I had a short but interesting conversation with Fons van Overbeek (@fvanoverbeek) recently about how people acquire land rights in Bukavu, which he allowed me to Storify:storify 1 storify 2 storify 3I haven’t read much of the economics literature on land titling and development, but what I have read (like Field 2007, PDF) seems to indicate that land tenure is viewed as a binary variable: either formal or informal.  The situation in Bukavu clearly looks different.  I wonder if this is attributable to the extreme weakness of the Congolese state, or if state provision of multiple overlapping land titles is common in all low income countries.

The defeat of M23?

The recent push by FARDC and the FIB to uproot M23 from some of their strongholds in North Kivu looks, as Jason Stearns put it, historic.  African Defence Review has the single best article I’ve seen on how the FARDC has started getting its act together and the FIB has taken advantage of its component forces’ air power to take the fight to M23.  Jason also points out that Rwanda has largely stayed out of the fighting, under diplomatic pressure from the US and UK.  Digital Djeli has a good piece on how amnesty for M23 leaders is the “elephant in the room” at the Kampala negotiations; it will be interesting to see how the negotiations proceed now that the rebels’ military position is weaker.

Violent struggle and authoritarian durability

I’m only a few months behind the curve on this one – Steven Levitsky and Lucan Way had a very interesting article in December’s issue of Perspectives on Politics called “Beyond Patronage: Violent Struggle, Ruling Party Cohesion, and Authoritarian Durability” (earlier ungated version at SSRN).

This paper argues that institutionalized party patronage — the focus of recent studies by Barbara Geddes, Jason Brownlee, and Beatriz Magaloni — is an ineffective source of elite cohesion. Patronage may preserve elite unity during normal times, but it is often insufficient to ensure elite cooperation during crises. The most durable party-based regimes are those that are organized around non-material sources of cohesion, such as ideology, ethnicity, or bonds of solidarity rooted in a shared experience of violent struggle. In particular, parties whose origins lie in war, violent anti-colonial struggle, revolution, or counter-insurgency are more likely to survive economic crisis, leadership succession, and opposition challenges without suffering debilitating defections. To demonstrate this argument, we compare post Cold War regime trajectories in Kenya, Mozambique, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Pure patronage parties in Kenya (KANU) and Zambia (UNIP) that were not founded in violent struggle suffered severe defections and fell from power after the Cold War. By contrast, Frelimo in Mozambique and ZANU-PF in Zimbabwe, which were both the outgrowth of long and violent liberation struggles, remained highly cohesive and retained power in the face of powerful opposition challenges and significant economic downturn.

The RPF in Rwanda fits this narrative quite well, and in a 2006 article, Filip Reyntjens noted that the CNDD in Burundi also enjoyed some legitimacy among the Hutu majority because of its role in the civil war. I wonder if this has something to do with Joseph Kabila’s unusual longevity in power, as well.  He doesn’t appear terribly interested in either governing or politicking, but he does seem to lean on his father’s legacy, perhaps getting a boost from any legitimacy he might have earned during the first war.  When I was in Kinshasa in 2009 I remember noting that all of the political posters featured Kabila père rather than the current president.  Would be curious to hear thoughts on this from people who are more familiar with the elder Kabila’s political legacy than I am.