Congo Masquerade. The political culture of aid inefficiency and reform failure

Trefon, Theodore
Zed Books, London and New York, 2011, ISBN: 978 1 8481 3836 0, 160 pp.
Reviewed by or other comment: 

Mieke Berghmans

Democratic Republic of Congo, Broederlijk Delen


Development aid and reform initiatives in Congo keep on failing. There seems to be change without improvement. In Congo Masquerade, Theodore Trefon argues that this failure of development initiatives is a shared responsibility of international actors and Congolese authorities. Bilateral and multilateral actors do not start from the complexity and the reality of the political situation and political culture of Congo. Nor do these actors harmonise their approach or develop a coherent master plan for the DRC. Instead they often apply a standardised or theoretical approach, ignoring the political reality in Congo. The Congolese authorities for their part resist change in order to stay in power. Trefon calls the interplay between the Congolese authorities and international stakeholders a masquerade. Both parties play a game in which they wear masks that conceal their real interests and hidden agendas. They pretend to be someone they are not and pretend not to know who is behind the other mask. This masquerade leads to the failure of reforms and interventions.

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