A Systemic Analysis of Corruption in the Criminal Justice System in Lubumbashi, DRC

July 19, 2016 | Peter Woodrow

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CDA has been working with local stakeholders and partners to develop a thorough understanding about how corruption works in the criminal justice system in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). After completing a broad national level analysis, the project has focused on Katanga Province in southeastern DRC. The main approach has been to support the establishment of a local network of people, including judges/magistrates, lawyers and others dedicated to promoting change in the system of corruption in the criminal justice sector. Click here to see the theory of change for the project.

Corruption is a complex adaptive system, and implementers must continuously reassess the system and the effects of an intervention and adjust programming accordingly.  In this vein, I traveled to Lubumbashi in April, 2016 to facilitate a systems analysis among the local anti-corruption network. During analysis we paid particular attention to abuse of preventive detention and police custody.

The analysis of information provided by members of the local network generated a systems “map” of corruption, which was then refined and validated by network members. The systems map is not an end in itself; rather, it is a tool that enables participants to consider where and how to intervene to instigate positive changes. As such, the map is an important step towards developing specific action plans for combating corruption in the medium-to-long term.

Click here to view the map in full, and continue reading for a guided tour.

Post 10 - How to Read a Systems Map

The Systems Map of Corruption in the Criminal Justice Sector

Beginning the story: interests of the powerful.  We start the “story” of the system in the upper left corner. The interests of powerful people who engage in abuse of power and/or trafficking of influence, leading, in turn, to arbitrary instructions to subordinates who may be directed to arrange for illegal or arbitrary arrests/detention/retention, or, in some case, non-application of the law (that is, some people with influence remain immune to prosecution).

Subordinates are influenced by a cultural norm of obedience to authority (mental model: “whatever the boss says, I say, ‘yes boss’”), as well as a pattern of doing what is expedient in the moment, without consideration of longer-term consequences (mental model: “I will profit today, forget tomorrow”).

The “routine” of corruption reinforces these interests.  Once someone has been detained and is “in the system,” this, then, is the starting point for the first reinforcing loop (R1).  Detention or arrest presents an opportunity for officials to require illegal payment for “services” and the possibility that the detainee could be released. The system of payments is reinforced by ignorance among the general population, about their basic rights and how the criminal justice system is supposed to work—and the mental model that asserts that it is necessary to make a payment to obtain the release of a friend or family member. Over time, this process becomes normalized and reinforces the impunity of judicial actors, which, in turn, increases the likelihood of illegal detentions.

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Over time, the system of payments becomes routine (“banal”) and considered the “normal” way of doing business (another mental model).  The “banalization” of corruption results in a “culture of giving,” in which it is expected that you will have to pay something to make the system work (R2), as well as overall loss of confidence in the criminal justice system in general—which, then, reinforces the payments for services dynamic.

Post 10 - Map 3

Reinforcement of impunity and emergence of a corruption network. The persistence and routinization of corruption supports—and is supported by—impunity for judicial actors in general (R3), with the accompanying attitude: “I will never be punished.”  Over time, impunity generates the formation of an economic and functional network of people who gain from the system of corruption (R4) and, therefore, actively support the system of payments for services.  For many, this becomes a matter of survival, both in terms of gaining sufficient means for supporting their families, and due to possible reprisals from those who enforce corrupt practices. In the end, impunity reinforces the ability of those in power to undertake illegal/arbitrary detentions and arrests, completing the central dynamic represented by R1.

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Lack of support for sanctions reinforces impunity. At the same time, impunity encourages the powerful actors to consider only their own interests and personal gain (R5), leading to weakening of any existing mechanisms of sanction against corrupt practices, thus enabling impunity.

Counterbalancing dynamics.  There are a few dynamics that counteract the fundamental corruption cycle.  In the balancing loop B1, there are some “malcontents” who recognize the negative impacts of corruption and who feel some professional pride and commitment to service. From time to time, such people are able to resist corruption or, on the other hand, apply the law more strictly. This may reduce, in certain cases, the element of illegal detention / arrest—and they may be able to prompt a review of a case, resulting in release of someone detained in an irregular manner, thus reducing the negative effects of corruption and supporting further resistance to it (R6).

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Meanwhile, we can see (on the left side of the diagram) that there can be positive interventions—or additional trafficking of influence—at the level of the chambre de conseil (hearing before a judge).  We can also see that inspections by the public prosecutor (parquet), accompanied by agents of the UN presence (MONUSCO), can also lead to a reexamination of a case and, potentially, release of unlawfully detained individuals. There have also been cases where the public and civil society become mobilized to protest a particularly egregious case, and engage in public denunciations of illegal detention, sometimes leading to release as well. These actions serve to diminish impunity, if only slightly and only in specific cases.

Post 10 - Map 6

Read the next post in the series, where Peter discusses identifying leverage points in systemic analysis and planning for anti-corruption action. Also, read Peter’s blog post which follows his experience from seven months later, when he came back to visit the network in the DRC and facilitate the process of updating this systems map: “Finding My Way Around the Corruption System with a Map: Mapping the Effects of an Intervention and Extending Systems Mapping to New Areas

About this article

This post is part of the corruption in fragile states series. The series provides a space for conversation about corruption in fragile states. Since its inception in 2016 as part of the CDA Perspectives Blog, the series has sought to challenge status quo thinking with a particular emphasis on exploring systems-based approaches to understanding and acting on corruption dynamics. Topics in the series range from new research findings in Uganda, Iraq or the DRC to provocative thought pieces intended to contest dominant paradigms or practices.

Now hosted by the Institute for Human Security at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, series contributions are inspired by, but not limited to, the Corruption, Justice and Legitimacy project as well as the, now concluded, Central Africa Accountable Service Delivery Initiative. All blog posts published after March 1, 2018, information about submitting guest posts, and subscribing to future series updates is available here.

To receive blog posts on other topics from CDA subscribe here. You may contact [email protected] if you are interested in submitting a guest post on the latest work in the fields of accountability and feedback loops, conflict sensitivity, peacebuilding effectiveness, and responsible business.

About the author(s)

Peter Woodrow joined CDA in 2003 as Co-Director of the Reflecting on Peace Practice Program, and became CDA’s Executive Director in 2013. As RPP Co-Director, he worked with civil society organizations, multilateral agencies and government entities through the Great Lakes Region to apply RPP concepts and frameworks to peacebuilding programming. RPP has been working with systems thinking tools, especially working with causal loop diagrams (systems maps) as an aid in identifying ways to intervene to promote change in a system. He has been supporting the Central Africa Accountable Service Delivery Initiative since CDA became involved in 2012.


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