South Kivu Province of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has experienced recurrent wars for more than 15 years. This Research Report explores the way local systems of governance and networking in South Kivu have been affected by the civil war and the ways in which local communities have tried to cope with chaos and the absence of the state.
Most community groups in South Kivu consider that violence and conflict were imposed on them and dissociate themselves, as communities, from violence, this being the work of some organised groups which should not be confused with the communities themselves. The fundamental causes of the wars lie in the ways in which Rwanda and Burundi, to different degrees, involved themselves with these other actors.
The report also explores the role of various local organisations and groups in conflict and post-conflict governance. Governance does not completely disappear when the state collapses. Its structures remain hidden and in retreat, but ready to sprout into existence again. This is especially true for the structures of local and rural governance, and the networks of the church.
South Kivu remains volatile and filled with suspicion. The behaviour of many groups is determined by fear of another cycle of war. When some communities can draw on external backing, the extension of such networks establishes another dimension of distrust.
A post-conflict state has need of decentralisation. Multi-layered, networked governance is a reality and is much less of a threat to viable states than might be imagined. However, when the state is incapable of assuring the security of its own population against external threats, when its own protective services engage in arbitrary activities and live off the people, and when impunity goes unchecked, it is difficult for social mechanisms and local institutions alone to substitute for the lack of a functioning state.