Daily Bread, Daily Dread - everyday interactions between security staff and small-scale economic operators in the DR Congo

Researchers: Maria Eriksson Baaz , Judith Verweijen and Ola Olsson

The ill-resourced security services in the DR Congo are commonly described as “predatory” and known for informal taxation and revenue-generation practices. Yet civilians also collaborate with and use these services in their own income-generation schemes. At the same time, lower-ranking staff and their families belong to the poorest segments of Congolese society and engage in similar economic activities as found in the Congolese survival economy at large.  

This Sida-funded research project, (2013-2015) conducted by Maria Eriksson Baaz (project coordinator), Judith Verweijen and Ola Olsson analyses the income-generating strategies of both security staff and citizens in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and how these intersect, conflict and collide. The project investigates the impact of such interactions on local economies and on the livelihoods and security of small-scale economic actors. It also analyses the factors that shape this impact, such as gendered identities and institutional arrangements within the security sector.

The project looks at the following main questions:

- In what ways are small-scale economic actors targeted for wealth extraction by state security personnel and what is the impact on their livelihoods?  

- What strategies do small-scale economic actors resort to in their dealings with security sector staff? How do they circumvent, manage, or instrumentalize their interaction with these actors? What are the spaces of negotiation? To what extent – and under what circumstances – do security staff become part of the social capital that people actively draw upon in their livelihoods strategies?

- In what ways are the income-generating strategies of both security staff and civilians gendered? To what extent and how do economic activities involve and benefit female security staff and female dependents of security staff? In what ways are male and female economic operators affected differently and what are their respective possibilities to strategize with security staff?

The project intends to make a comparison between conflict-affected areas in the eastern DR Congo, with zones in the west, in order to gauge the impact of conflict and militarization on civilian-security staff interactions.

The project is funded by the Swedish Research Council.

Central Africa
Congo DR
Judith Verweijen
Maria Eriksson Baaz
Ola Olsson
Private sector
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