Soon after coming to power in May 1997, the new government of Congo initiated a national reconstruction process, based on the principles of decentralization, and participation, to overcome the centralist, and authoritarian legacies of the past. The Government also prepared, and adopted a decree-law in 1998, with a view to institutionalizing these two principles during a transition period of two years. Despite the resurgence of war in August 1998, the Government’s decentralization policy remains, by and large appropriate. After presenting the legacies of Mobutu’s rule that propel the current need for decentralization, and participation, the paper discusses what these ideas mean to people at the grassroots level. Harnessing some of the many ideas expressed in consultations, and conferences sponsored by the Government, the paper discusses the substance of the Government’s decentralization policy, and the extent to which it was applied. The paper goes on to explain the growing role of traditional, and religious actors within Congolese society, and discusses their relationship to the new Government. Finally, the paper suggests building on the policy already initiated by the Government, to institutionalize participation, and decentralization, and use them to overcome the divisions left by decades of conflict.
The world breathed a sigh of relief at the announcement of a new Iraqi government on 21 December 2010. After nine months of wrangling following the 7 March elections, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki finally engineered a deal that kept him in place at the head of a 42-person cabinet. Maliki was unable to name a full coterie of ministers; ten of the portfolios, including the main security ministries, are being managed on a temporary basis by other ministers until permanent nominations are made. Nevertheless, approval of the cabinet brought to an end a crisis that left the political system in limbo and saw a deterioration of the security situation.
But now the deed is done, a much bigger question looms: will the government be able to manage Iraq, stabilise the country further and heal the internal divisions that threaten its long-term security?