Democratic Republic of the Congo

Autonomy Arrangements in the World (Online Compendium), March 2019, at

35 Pages Posted: 2 Jan 2019 Last revised: 7 Dec 2022

Date Written: March 14, 2019


With a critical brush, this study depicts the history, the legal basis, the financial aspects and more generally the complicated process of decentralization in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), from the colonial days (1908-1960) to the provincial elections held in December 2018. A recurrent fixture of institutional design throughout the country’s turbulent history, decentralization constitutes one of the most ambitious projects of the 2006 Congolese Constitution and certainly one of the most challenging areas of administrative law in the DRC. Short of a federal state, the DRC is in terms of the Constitution a highly decentralized state. The Constitution divides the former 11 provinces into 26 new territorial units.

However, the process has hit a slew of difficult hurdles. Overall, it emerges that the rolling out of the decentralization policy and its timing have been significantly driven by political calculations more than resource constraints, recently by an attempt by the ruling government to divide provinces into smaller ones in order to prolong its rule.

Even after the effective partition of the 11 former provinces, the process still suffers further complications, for example, delays and logistic problems in electing new governors in 2015, which in turn led to litigation before the Constitutional Court in September that year. These difficulties take place in a broader context of even greater challenges. The latter include insufficient capacity of provincial administrators, fiscal decentralization, the questionable economic viability of most provinces, and repeated internal wrangling that has already culminated in the removal or resignation of governors in several provinces.

The trials and tribulations of decentralization in Africa’s second largest country – and one of its most populous, least developed yet resource-richest countries – will enlighten experts and policy makers in other countries. This case study straddles the fields of law, politics and history. It can thus considerably serve constitutional lawyers, policy makers and historians in other countries.

Suggested Citation

Zongwe, Dunia, Democratic Republic of the Congo (March 14, 2019). Autonomy Arrangements in the World (Online Compendium), March 2019, at, Available at SSRN:

Dunia Zongwe (Contact Author)

Alliance University ( email )

Anekal Chandapura Road
Bangalore, 562106

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