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The governance of natural resources in hybrid political orders (part 2)

Gilles Carbonnier and Lara Atanasijevic

Several recent initiatives have sought to improve the governance of extractive resources in weak states, with a particular focus on war-torn provinces of Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Implementing these initiatives presupposes a modern, Weberian state that fulfills security, welfare and representation functions. However, resource-rich areas in fragile, violent environments are contested spaces under the control of a variety of overlapping and competing sources of power and authority. In this two-part series, Gilles Carbonnier and Lara Atanasijevic highlight the relevance of focusing on hybrid political orders and reflect on what this entails based on recent fieldwork in North Kivu.

Initial results from field research in North Kivu

In our first post we discussed resource extraction in hybrid political orders. The mineral-rich province of North Kivu in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) can be described as a ‘hybrid’ political order to the extent that the state is only one among several actors holding de facto power and authority and fulfilling ‘classical state’ functions.

Several supply chain transparency initiatives devised in recent years have started to be implemented in North Kivu, in addition to Section 1502 of the Dodd-Frank Act mentioned in the first post in this series. For example, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has introduced due diligence guidance for companies on how to implement supply chain due diligence processes on trading minerals from eastern DRC. The international Tin Supply Chain Initiative (iTSCi), launched by the International Tin Research Institute (ITRI), seeks to enhance transparency and traceability along the minerals supply chain, focusing on tin ore.

In addition, the Trading Centres (Centres de Négoce), promoted by the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in DRC (MONUSCO), seek to curtail the funding that armed groups can get from mineral resources in order to ensure the commercialization of conflict-free minerals. The Certified Trading Chain Initiative (CTC), sponsored by the German Government, aims to support responsible mining practice and good governance in the artisanal mining sector via the certification and tagging of gold, tin, tantalum and tungsten ores. Finally, the Regional Certification Manual (PDF) of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) offers a set of chain-of-custody tracking standards to ensure transparent, traceable conflict-free supply chains from the mining pit to the point of export.

Extracting and sharing revenues

Field research on the artisanal mining sector in the province of North-Kivu (in the territories of Masisi and Walikale) confirms that the de facto governance of valuable minerals is characterized by an ever-evolving but reasonably well-established system of cooperation, competition, coordination and hierarchical subordination involving actors such as traditional leaders, state outposts and their representatives, the military, non-state armed groups and customary societal entities. These coalesce in a variety of operational, logistical and tax arrangements in fluid systems that evolve in parallel with moving spheres of influence in mining zones and along trading routes.

Power and authority obviously depends partly on military strength and political influence, which translate into the allocation of varying revenue shares. The prevailing tax system involves informal agreements between top leaders regarding extortion and protection of artisanal miners, members of cooperatives, transporters, traders and managers. In Walikale and Masisi, interviews with key informants suggest that state officials sometimes share a portion of the taxes raised on the mineral trade with either non-state armed groups or the military, or both.

The example of the Masisi Territory

In Rubaya (Masisi territory), for instance, interviewees indicate that minerals are first taxed by those owning the mining site, followed by a bargain in Rubaya between the local and provincial (mining) administration, the security forces including the military or non-state armed groups and other actors involved in the mining business. In February and March 2013 the armed group Nyantura, which had been superficially integrated into the DRC armed forces (FARDC), was de facto controlling Rubaya and its immediate surrounding. According to various interviewees, Nyantura shared the proceeds with the local public administration and the military establishment.

Once the minerals left Rubaya, taxes were levied at various checkpoints and were again distributed from time to time between state and non-state actors, be it from Rubaya to Bihambwe (controlled by FARDC and Nyantura), from Bihambwe to Sake (controlled by FARDC and the Alliance des patriotes pour un Congo libre et souverain, APCLS), or from Sake to Goma (FARDC). Such arrangements are consistent with theoretical predictions in that rational actors seek to maximize profits while minimizing risks, whereby collaboration appears often more profitable and less risky than violent confrontation, while maintaining a given level of insecurity contributes to impunity.

While FARDC and non-state armed groups are recognized as power-holders by virtue of military strength, traditional authorities tend to enjoy the respect of the local population on the basis of social bonds, trust and overall legitimacy. Traditional authorities include the highest and most respected chief—the so-called Moami—as well as clan chiefs, so-called ‘groupement’ chiefs, and locality or village chiefs. Many interviewees hinted at the fact that traditional leaders enjoy greater respect than government representatives and are more often called on to resolve disputes (e.g. land, family and clan disputes).

In a nutshell, power, profit and authority are shared to varying and evolving degrees between competing actors including customary entities and traditional authorities, government officials, non-state armed groups and military units. In such contexts, the role of traditional authorities cannot be understated. 

The next steps

The first question is to determine if the introduction of transparency and accountability initiatives in such contexts is helpful with regard to peacebuilding. Provided this is the case, the key question then is how, and how far, to engage non-state actors when seeking to implement initiatives that promote transparency and accountability with regard to natural resource extraction and commercialization. There is an obvious trade-off between engagement—which may provide some sort of legitimacy to non-state actors and antagonize the executive—and exclusion that results in transparency initiatives being ineffective at best, or counterproductive at worst.

North Kivu arguably represents an extreme case of state fragility, a special environment where promoting transparency and accountability in the extractive sector is particularly challenging. Further research should examine how far the same dynamics are at play in a variety of contexts characterized by different degrees of institutional weakness and political hybridity. Building on the preliminary insights from North Kivu, we plan a comparative study involving other DRC provinces and neighbouring countries.


This blog post is published as part of a collaborative partnership between SIPRI and Economists for Peace and Security (EPS).


Gilles Carbonnier is a researcher at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva.
Lara Atanasijevic is a PhD student at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva.