Burning down the tent: Violent political settlements in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

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Authors

Colleges, School and Institutes

Abstract

There is a growing consensus among those working in conflict affected states that political settlements – the formal and informal negotiations, bargains, pacts and agreements made between elite actors – are central to peace and development. Indeed, many now subscribe to the idea that inclusive political settlements are required for positive developmental change. This is based on a notion that political settlements “tame” politics by creating consensus around the rules of political competition, and eliminate the need for political violence. However, especially in conflict-affected states, a focus on political settlements often ignores the (violent) processes by which elites come to power, and the extent to which elites may have incentives to maintain violence, even if a political settlement is reached. Through a case study of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), this article shows that political settlements are not always alternatives to violence, and that even relatively stable and inclusive political settlements may be heavily underpinned by violence. A political settlement alone is therefore not a sufficient condition to ensure peace and development in a country. If the political settlement is based on an understanding of the rules of the game which incentivises violence and coercion by elites, then the outcome will necessarily be a violent one. As the DRC shows, unless a political settlement directly addresses these predatory incentives, the settlement itself may be a driver of conflict, violence and underdevelopment.

Details

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)628-644
JournalJournal of International Development
Volume29
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 6 Jul 2017