Negotiated Peace for Extortion: The Case of Walikale Territory in Eastern DR Congo
Silvia Sergio, Nicholas Garrett, Koen Vlassenroot – 2009
War in the Democratic Republic of Congo has increasingly been explained as a means to get access to natural resources and as a strategy to get control over informal trading networks linking the DRC with global markets. In most of these accounts, the complexity of war economies is underestimated. One element that is often missing is that systems of economic exploitation, which have been developed by armed groups during the Congolese war, tend to persist in the post-conflict context and seem to be hardly affected by the peace process. Based on an evaluation of the case of the Congolese National Army's (FARDC) non-integrated 85th Brigade, a former Mayi-Mayi militia now operating under the banner of the FARDC and deeply involved in the exploitation of cassiterite in Walikale (North Kivu), this paper illustrates how mechanisms of exploitation that have been instituted during the war can largely survive in peacetime conditions. In purely economic terms, this case would suggest a departure from patterns of profit accumulation in war conditions towards profiteering under the seeming order of the DRC's reestablished state institutions. The same case also suggests though that in the present situation of no-war-no-peace, a negotiated, mutual accommodation of economic and political interests linked with security provision can be found. This accommodation explains the “success” of this exploitation structure yet at the same time disincentivizes the national government to undertake serious attempts to dislodge this brigade from the Walikale territory. Eventually, these pockets of parallel economic and political control, which are still being observed in many parts of eastern DRC, undermine the DRC's reconstruction process, as it prevents the expansion of a formalized peace economy. The first part of this paper analyses the role of natural resources in North Kivu's economy. The second part describes the structure and functioning of artisanal mining in the Walikale territory. The third part explores Walikale's “war economy” and the role played by the 85th Brigade of the FARDC. The final parts aim at illustrating local processes of negotiating peace in return for extortion.