World Bank suspends $1bn funding for Congo projects amid fund structure changes

The World Bank has announced the suspension of funding towards humanitarian and development projects in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), valued at over $1 billion, following the unanticipated dissolution of the project fund by the Congolese government, Reuters reported.

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Denis Mukwege

Over 600,000 beneficiaries stand to be affected by the suspension, the World Bank revealed in a letter to Congo’s finance minister. Among those impacted are victims of sexual violence. The authenticity of this correspondence has been confirmed by a World Bank spokesperson.

The World Bank is also seeking clarity on the status of $91 million, previously advanced for the projects, out of the total commitment of $1.04 billion.

The “Social Fund of the Democratic Republic of Congo” was dissolved on May 4 by an executive order from President Felix Tshisekedi, who then established a different public fund. The move was reportedly in response to changes in the legal framework governing public institutions, as per the president’s statement.

The World Bank’s director of operations for the country, Albert Zeufack, expressed the institution’s surprise at the decision in a letter dated May 12, revealing that they had discovered the development via press reports. “Before being able to continue to commit the project funds, the government and the World Bank should agree on transitional measures… in order to ensure that the funds are used for the intended purposes,” he stated.

The finance ministry spokesperson for Congo claimed that comments would be made after receiving directions from the presidency. Tina Salama, Presidential spokesperson, refuted the suspension claims and insisted that the fund would undergo transitional management. However, she did not provide any answers regarding the $91 million in question.

This suspension could critically affect various beneficiaries, including the Panzi Foundation led by Denis Mukwege, a Congolese gynaecologist and recipient of the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize for his services to victims of sexual violence. Mukwege described the situation as a catastrophe for the victims, revealing that his program had received a warning that their expenses would no longer be reimbursed.

The fallout from this decision has reached international platforms, with four of Congo’s main opposition politicians writing to leaders of the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the African Development Bank. The politicians have requested an audit of their funds in Congo amid suspicions of misuse.

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