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Civil society, dams and underdevelopment of the Democratic Republic of Congo : a study of communities affected by the Inga Hydropower Projects.

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This research examines development aid, development agencies, international financial institutions, successive governments of the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Congolese civil society organisations as well as their transnational advocacy network allies in conflicts surrounding the Inga Hydropower Projects. The contradictory roles of these actors in the development of the DRC are considered through the lens of the Inga Hydropower Projects’ impact on affected communities and Congolese citizens at large. The study supports the argument that the failure of development initiatives in the DRC is caused by a combination of internal and external factors. The domestic factors consist of the incapacity of the state to build on the fragile economic foundations left by colonialism, and the attitudes of local post-independence elites and ordinary people who do not support or promote inclusive and sustainable development initiatives. The external factors consist of western powers and aid agencies which have provided military, economic, and ideological support to DRC governments, including dictatorships, thereby strengthening their patron-client relationships. This study contends that positive aid outcomes in mega-development projects depend on prevailing economic policies, donor agencies’ political interests, the capacity and contribution of civil society to promote public accountability, and the ability of a state to efficiently allocate resources where they are needed. Sustainable solutions to failed development efforts are mainly emerging from within civil society. This study makes three main contributions. It documents the impacts of the IHPs on affected communities and the DRC at large, the strengths and weaknesses of the IHPs as high-modernist projects, and the stakeholders’ understanding of the IHPs. The study also explains why the increase of CSOs paradoxically sustained Mobutu Sese Seko’s dictatorship, the role of CSOs in Inga 1 and Inga 2, and how civil society is addressing further developments of the IHPs. Lastly, this research reveals the responsibility of individuals, development aid, and multinational corporations involved in Inga 1 and Inga 2 to predict the outcomes of further development of the IHPs through Grand Inga in the DRC.


Doctor of Philosophy in Development Studies. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban 2015.


Theses--Development studies., Energy development., Civil society--Congo (Democratic Republic), Dams--Congo (Democratic Republic), Hydraulic structures--Design and construction.