World Bank Suspends Funding for Humanitarian and Development Projects in Democratic Republic of Congo
The World Bank has suspended funding for humanitarian and development projects in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) worth more than $1 billion. This decision comes after the Congolese government dissolved the project fund without prior notice, according to a letter from the World Bank to the DRC’s finance minister, seen by Reuters and confirmed by a World Bank spokesperson.
The suspension will have a significant impact on more than 600,000 beneficiaries, including victims of sexual violence, as stated in the World Bank’s letter. Additionally, the bank has requested documentation regarding the status of $91 million that had already been allocated for the projects out of the total funding of $1.04 billion.
On May 4, President Felix Tshisekedi issued a presidential order dissolving the “Social Fund of the Democratic Republic of Congo” and creating another public fund, citing the evolving legal framework governing public institutions as the reason for the change.
In the letter dated May 12, Albert Zeufack, the World Bank’s director of operations for the country, expressed the bank’s surprise at learning about the decision through the press. Zeufack emphasized the need for the government and the World Bank to agree on transitional measures before continuing to allocate project funds to ensure their proper utilization.
Congo’s finance ministry spokesperson stated that they were awaiting approval from the presidency before providing further comment. However, Presidential spokesperson Tina Salama denied any suspension of funding and mentioned the existence of transitional management for the fund, without addressing the issue of the $91 million.
Among the affected beneficiaries is the Panzi Foundation, led by Denis Mukwege, a Congolese gynecologist and recipient of the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize for his work with sexual violence victims. Mukwege described the situation as a catastrophe for the victims, sharing that he had received prior notice that reimbursement for his program expenses would cease. As a result, victims had to be turned away.
This sudden decision to change the financing structure has raised concerns about poor governance. Valery Madianga, director of a Congolese organization specializing in public finance auditing, questioned how a public service could dissolve or alter its social purpose without informing the World Bank, which had signed a $1 billion program contract.
“How can it be … that a public service, which signed a $1 billion programme contract with the World Bank, has been dissolved or has changed its social purpose without the latter being aware of it?” he said.
In response to the situation, four prominent opposition politicians in Congo have written to the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the African Development Bank, requesting an audit of their funds in the country due to suspicions of misuse.