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Reinventing Order in the Congo

Reinventing Order in the Congo

Theodore Trefon


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Kinshasa is sub-Saharan Africa‘s second largest city. The seven million Congolese who live there have a rich reputation for the courageous and innovative ways in which they survive in a harsh urban environment. They have created new social institutions, practices, networks and ways of living to deal with the collapse of public provision and a malfunctioning political system. This book describes how ordinary people, in the absence of formal sector jobs, hustle for a modest living; the famous ‘bargaining‘ system ordinary Kinois have developed; and how they access food, water supplies, health and education. The NGO-ization of service provision is analysed, as is the quite rare incidence of urban riots. The contributors also look at popular discourses, including street rumor, witchcraft, and attitudes to ‘big men‘ such as musicians and preachers. This is urban sociology at its best - richly empirical, unjargonized, descriptive of the lives of ordinary people, and weaving into its analysis how they see and experience life.
'This is an outstanding social anthropology of Kinshasa in the context of state collapse, the development of numerous survival strategies for food, water, healthcare and dealing with the sickness and death of loved ones, together with the mushrooming of NGOs dependent on external assistance for coping with the tragedy.' Georges Nzongola-Ntalaja, Oslo Governance Centre 'This is a pioneering work whose relevance extends well beyond the confines of Kinshasa, and applies not only to Africa, but also to other so-called "developing" areas.' Edouard Bustin, Boston University 'A superb contribution to our understanding of the informal economy of sub-Saharan Africa‘s second largest city.' Rene Lemarchand, University of Florida 'The contributors provide multiple perspectives through which to theorize African urbanization.' African Studies Review
Dr Theodore Trefon was educated at Boston University. He is an independent researcher and consultant currently based at the Free University of Brussels. He is also President of the Brussels Centre of African Studies.

Table of Contents

Section Title Page Action Price
Cover\r cover
Contents v
Acknowledgements viii
Figures and Tables vii
1. Introduction: Reinventing Order 1
Theodore Trefon 1
Kinois and the state 1
Research space 5
Key concepts: overlaps and contrasts 8
Being Kinois 17
Notes 19
2. \rThe Kinshasa Bargain 20
Anastase Nzeza Bilakila 20
Anomie and the (a)morality of survival 21
Les mamans manoeuvres: crafty port traders 25
Money changers: outlaws or alternative bankers? 26
Khadafis: fuel on the spot – for a price 28
Facilitating public transport 29
For how long can this organized disorder last? 31
Notes 32
3. The Tap is on Strike: Water Distribution and Supply Strategies 33
Angéline Maractho Mudzo Mwacan and Theodore Trefon 33
REGIDESO: a stingy supplier 35
Inventive supply strategies 38
Turbid water – precarious health 42
Water thanks to international partnerships 43
A thirsty future 45
Note 46
4. Food Security in Kinshasa: Coping with Adversity 47
Eric Tollens 47
Poverty, purchasing power and hunger 48
Food prices 49
Table 4.1 Results of malnutrition surveys in Democratic Republic of Congo, 2000–2001 50
Nuancing malnutrition rates 51
The food supply situation 51
Table 4.2 Contribution of food items in the diet of the Kinshasa population (1996) 52
Table 4.3 Percentage of agricultural tonnage supplied to Kinshasa by river boat 54
Table 4.4 Number of boat arrivals registered in Kinshasa, 1996 and 1999 55
Food imports 56
Cassava crisis 57
Changes in cropping patterns 58
Innovations in food marketing strategies 58
Food security in the war zone 61
Conclusion 62
Notes 64
5. The Miracle of Life in Kinshasa: New Approaches to Public Health 65
Peter Persyn and Fabienne Ladrière 65
Historical context 67
The Kinshasa health-care market today 72
AIDS and HIV 74
New needs, expectations and strategies 76
Perspectives 79
Notes 81
6. The Diploma Paradox: University of Kinshasa between Crisis and Salvation 82
Télésphore Tsakala Munikengi and Willy Bongo-Pasi Moke Sangol 82
From Lovanium to UNAZA 83
Financial constraints: creative responses 85
The institutional context 88
The student 91
Table 6.1 Enrolment, academic year 1999–2000 92
University health care 94
Perspectives 95
Conclusion: ‘My pen is my shovel’ 97
Notes 98
7. Acting on Behalf (and in Spite) of the State: NGOs and Civil Society Associations in Kinshasa 99
Marco Giovannoni, Theodore Trefon, Jérôme Kasongo Banga, Charles Mwema 99
The NGOization of Kinshasa 99
NGO Relations with the state 102
Types of NGOs 105
NGO survivability and perspectives 112
Notes 114
8. Hidden Families, Single Mothers and Cibalabala: Economic Regress and Changing Household Composition in Kinshasa 116
Tom De Herdt 116
Table 8.1 Hidden households in Matete, Kinshasa 1996 117
Theorizing households and marriages 119
Households, families and impoverishment 121
Table 8.2 Variation in family structure and household wealth (∝=.7, θ=.85) 122
Table 8.3 Child–parent relationships, Kisenso 1997 124
Table 8.4 Child under-nutrition and family configuration of household, Kisenso 1997 126
Table 8.5 Relation between age of child and absence/presence of parents, Kisenso 1997 127
Discussion 128
Conclusion 131
Annex I Construction of indicators of wealth and well-being 132
Annex II Multivariate regression results 133
Table 8.6 Regression results: determinants of underweight children 134
Table 8.7 Regression results: determinants of well-being based on height-to-age 135
Notes 136
9. When Kinois Take to the Streets 137
Gauthier de Villers and Jean Omasombo Tshonda 137
Crowds and might 137
Crowds and violence 145
Crowds and power 149
Notes 154
10. On Being Shege in Kinshasa: Children, the Occult and the Street 155
Filip De Boeck 155
Children and second world realities 155
Children, witchcraft and the street in Kinshasa 157
Churches and child-witches 162
Geographies of inclusion and exclusion 164
A crisis of kinship models and gift transactions? 168
Note 173
11. The Elusive Lupemba: Rumours about Fame and (Mis)fortune in Kinshasa 174
Bob W. White 174
Rumours and rumouring 176
The raw material of rumour 178
Fame and (mis)fortune 181
The elusive lupemba 184
Morality in Kinshasa 187
Notes 190
Bibliography 192
Chapter Abstracts in French 205
Contributors 210
Index 215