(2012) JLP 66: 79-108


WHY DO Congolese people GO TO COURT?


TWO justice of the peace courts in LubumbashiA


B. Rubbers and E. Gallez




TAlthough Justice of the Peace (JP) courts did not escape the general deterioration of Congolese administrative structures, Congolese people continue to use these courts to resolve their conflicts. Based on qualitative research carried out in Lubumbashi, this article attempts to understand why people bring their cases to the JP court. How do litigants make that decision in the first place? Once their cases are underway, how do they deal with the trial? The authors emphasise the fact that while litigants denounce the corruption that occurs within the legal system, they continue nevertheless to have confidence in justice itself and in the State. This faith reflects the importance of the law and the formal ideal of institutions that were inherited from the Belgian colonial period in various areas of the daily life of Congolese people. But it also suggests that, counter to the dominant paradigm in the study of the State in Africa, these institutional norms do not simply represent an illusion without basis in reality. Where circumstances allow, these norms do indeed play a structuring role in the functioning of bureaucracy in Congo.