Elections and the Politics of Autochthony in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
This chapter examines the politics of authenticity revolving around the concept of Congolité in the Democratic Republic of Congo from mid-2006 onward. Emerging shortly before the country's first democratic elections in more than four decades, Congolité—best translated as “Congoleseness”—dominated discussions of the elections so much that substantive policy debates about postwar reconstruction became unimaginable. Alongside the “non-Congolese” or outright “foreigners,” presidential candidates or groups supporting them were included or excluded according to where they belonged in a set of overlapping binaries: western Congolese or eastern, Lingalaphone or Swahiliophone, Francophone or Anglophone. It is argued that the elections were the catalyst that caused this new discourse to crystallize out of a number of distinct but related preexisting elements. This reveals a paradox at the heart of the liberal project of postconflict state building. The process of constructing democratic institutions can in fact electrify discursive forms of violence that are either homegrown or imported.
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