Tangled! Congolese provincial elites in a web of patronage

This paper sets out features of this web of patronage


Expectations that Congolese decentralisation would result in improved provincial governance were predicated upon an understanding of provincial elites as autonomous from Kinshasa. In reality, they are deeply embedded in informal patronage networks that reach out across the country, emanating from the presidency outwards. These networks are highly centralised, weaving a web that largely neutralises the political, financial and administrative autonomy of provinces. Features of this web include:

  1. the informal control of political and administrative appointments, that should be provincially allocated, by elites in and around the presidency

  2. financial poaching of provincial actors

  3. predatory extractive pressures by central elites

  4. the use of political ‘godfathers’ to maintain indirect oversight of provincial elites

  5. the use of provincial legislative authorities as tools for sanctioning unreliable governors.

Under these conditions, effective decentralisation remains elusive. For possibly better odds of success, donors could consider interventions that seek to build on the existing patronage structure rather than seeking to eliminate or ignoring it.

This research is part of the Secure Livelihoods Research Consortium (SLRC) programme


Jené, L. and Englebert, P. (2019) Tangled! Congolese provincial elites in a web of patronage. Working paper. London: Secure Livelihoods Research Consortium.

Tangled! Congolese provincial elites in a web of patronage

Published 19 January 2019