Congo Masquerade

The Political Culture of Aid Inefficiency and Reform Failure

Theodore Trefon


A unique and original study of aid inefficiency in one of the 21st century's major attempts at reconstructing a failed state in Africa.
Congo Masquerade is about mismanagement, hypocrisy and powerlessness in what has proved to be one of Africa's most troublesome and volatile states.

In this scathing study of catastrophic aid inefficiency, Trefon argues that whilst others have examined war and plunder in the Great Lakes region, none have yet evaluated the imported 'template format' reform package pieced together to introduce democracy and improve the well-being of ordinary Congolese. It has, the book demonstrates, been for years an almost unmitigated failure due to the ingrained political culture of corruption amongst the Congolese elite, abetted by the complicity and incompetence of international partners.

Startling and provocative, Congo Masquerade offers a critical examination of why aid is not helping the Congo.

Author Bio

Theodore Trefon heads the Contemporary History Section of the Belgian Royal Museum for Central Africa. He is contributing editor to the Review of African Political Economy.

Table of Contents

  • Preface and Acknowledgements 
  • The Crocodile and the Scorpion: a Parable 
  • Timeline 
  • Map of Democratic Republic of Congo 
  • 1. Why State-Building is Not Working 
  • 2. The Political Economy of Broken Promises 
  • 3. A Patchwork of Unrealisitic Reforms 
  • 4. The Administrative Juggernaut 
  • 5. Culture Matters 
  • 6. Conclusion 
  • Bibliography


'Indispensable reading for all those interested in post-conflict state-building.'
Crawford Young, University of Wisconsin

'Sure to create controversy, this book makes for a compelling read and calls for an understanding of Congo and the Congolese on their own terms.'
Pierre Englebert, Pomona College

'Written in simple prose and short chapters, this book will provide a more convincing explanation of what is happening in the Congo than most other books available today.'
Patrick Chabal, Kings College London

'This is an excellent introduction to the Congo's complex problems.'
Nicolas van de Walle, Department of Government, Cornell University

'In a nuanced yet compelling way, Trefon argues (as others have done for Liberia and Sierra Leone) for the need to "put the state back in" and to reform it in such a way as to give it the capacity to deliver public goods.'
Edouard Bustin, Boston University


Publication Date: 8 September 2011
176 pages

Product ISBNs: Paperback: 9781848138360
Hardback: 9781848138377
eBook ePub: 9781848138391
eBook PDF: 9781848138384
eBook Kindle: 9781780324180

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