Patrick Wight MRP Defense: "From Mobutu to Mobutuism" | College of Arts

Patrick Wight MRP Defense: "From Mobutu to Mobutuism"

Date and Time


2020 MacKinnon Extension


Patrick Wight's Major Research Paper Defense will take place Friday, April 15 on the University of Guelph Campus.
Advisor: Femi Kolapo
Title: From Mobutu to Mobutuism: On the Origins of the Parasitic Culture in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
Abstract: Despite possessing an estimated US$24 trillion in natural wealth, the post-colonial history of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has been characterized by a cycle of underdevelopment that has seen the country fall to 167th of 168 nations measured by the United Nations’ Human Development Index. Successive governments formed under Joseph Désiré Mobutu, Laurent-Désiré Kabila and Joseph Kabila have emphasized the state’s parasitic capacity rather than its developmental one. This has resulted in a crisis of state formation in which Congolese governance structures expropriate from the citizenry, yet provide little in return. When explaining the origin of the this parasitic state class, the current historiography is divided between scholars who emphasize the importance of the Congo’s colonial heritage and those who point to a return to pre-colonial modes of associational politics. Mahmood Mamdani and George Nzongola-Ntalaja argue that the Congolese state is a neo-colonial one, while Jean Francois-Bayart’s analysis of patrimonialism emphasizes the notion of the “longue durée” of historical development. This paper seeks to bridge the gap between these disparate positions by arguing that, while using the innovations offered by the centralized colonial state, economic relations in the post-colonial DRC have been governed by pre-colonial relationships. The larger implication of this analysis is that at the heart of the crisis of state formation has been continual tension between attempts to create a state on Léopoldian lines and a built-in fragmentary mechanism based on the Congo’s pre-colonial heritage. This indicates that the key to governance reform in the DRC is the need to create a unified political culture that transcends ethnic tensions. It is therefore essential that international and national efforts promote democratically representative and decentralized administrative structures, implement security sector reform and enact legislation that ensures the equitable distribution of state revenues.