Since 2008 the Royal Museum for Central Africa (RMCA), in collaboration with the Centre d'Études politiques (CEP) in Kinshasa and Centre d'études et de recherches documentaires sur l'Afrique centrale (CERDAC), and with the support of Belgian Development Cooperation, has been conducting a research programme on decentralisation in the DR Congo.
It comprises two complementary components: a study of the future provinces on the one hand, and an analysis of the decentralisation process on the other.
The former is in the form of a collection of monographs, three of which (Maniema, Haut-Uele and Kwango) have been published to date. Collection of data from the different provinces is well underway, while the team of researchers from RMCA, CEP, and CERDAC are drawing on their experience with the first monographs to refine their work methods.
La Décentralisation en RDC : de la Première à la Troisième République (1960-2011) is the title of this publication which launches the second component. A second volume, slated to appear in 2013, will gather contributions from about a dozen experts from around the world, selected by the RMCA for their reputation and field of research. Each author was invited to discuss a topic relating to Congo's decentralisation. In-depth discussions tackle the questions of governmentality and Administration, borders, geography and land planning, finance and the economy, citizenship, identity, and human resources. These topics are essential for an informed and critical reading of the ongoing political process, given the ambiguities and wait-and-see attitudes on the ground that obscure the perception of decentralisation itself.
This first volume by Paule Bouvier owes its originality to the way the author traces the path taken by the decentralisation process as an institutional component of the Congolese state, from independence to the present day, its high moments and its low points. Like other events of the past, certain decisive moments in decentralisation have been quietly forgotten in the official narrative.
Paule Bouvier gained her expertise on African and Congolese politics from her academic work combined with her experience in the field.
Bouvier arrived in the Belgian Congo in 1956 to join the teaching and research institutions created in Élisabethville (Lubumbashi) by the Institute of Sociology of Université libre de Bruxelles. Starting out as a teacher and researcher in the African quarters of the period, she followed events on the ground from the earliest days of decolonisation and would continue to witness the country's political evolution. Bouvier became an advisor of the Union Mongo (UNIMO) political party, participated in the Belgo-Congolese Round Table of January-February 1960 that granted independence to Congo, monitored UNIMO's electoral campaign (April-May 1960) in Équateur province, and saw the establishment of institutions in Léopoldville (Kinshasa) as well as the chaos that erupted in the days following 30 June 1960. Her doctoral thesis, defended in 1964, discussed the Belgian Congo's accession to independence.
Bouvier's academic career began as a researcher and ended in 1997, by which time she was a professor at ULB. In her many years in academia, she taught courses on issues encountered in developing countries – a role that put her in close contact with Congolese students who would later become major players in that country's political scene.
Alongside her university work, Paule Bouvier continued to make regular trips to Congo to keep abreast of local developments. She would also host conferences at the universities of Kinshasa and Kisangani. In 2002, Bouvier was named an expert for the Inter-Congolese Dialogue held in South Africa and the contribution of Francesca Bomboko, with whom she would write a book – published by the RMCA – on the event.