What the World Bank Means by Democracy

The World Development Report 2011

The World Bank trademark (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I spent the evening with the new Journal of Modern African Studies (cause I’m just that fascinating) and I highly recommend Denis M. Tull’s “Troubled state-building in the DR Congo: the challenge from the margins”.

Apart from learning things about Kongo kingdom relgio-nationality in the west of the DRC, what was most interesting was his argument that what he calls the “liberal democratic process” (democracy limited to periodic national elections in which the winner takes all) serves outside interests much more than local ones.

This ‘democratic’ process is pushed by donors and foreign entities for their ends: international legitimacy for their Congolese client “partners”, stability, business climate, foreign government support for Congo based projects. When faced with sectional, popular movements, democracy so understood must turn to repression to survive. One need look no farther than the current elections in Haiti and Guinea to see examples of this same process. Foreign entities such as the World Bank push for continuity of authoritarian central governments with the imprimatur of newly elected heads of state. Foreigners can maintain their relationships with “reliable partners” (even when not so reliable), and do not have to enter the uncertainty of continually recasting ties with a myriad of local popular leaders. This has obvious advantages for Africa’s leaders. It does not, though, look much like democracy. And we cannot be surprised when the outcomes are not very democratic.

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