Accepted Paper:

Trade unions and political culture(s) in the mining area of Kolwezi  


Kristien Geenen (Université de Liège)

Paper short abstract:

This paper examines the political culture(s) of the unions in a context of an increasing number of foreign companies with varying understandings of work regime, and puts a particular focus on the mining area around Kolwezi.

Paper long abstract:

This paper is based upon preliminary research carried out in Kolwezi. In view of the recent surge in foreign mining operations in the Congolese Copperbelt, it discusses how trade unions deal with the new investors. How does the presence of foreign companies, with their different and often divergent backgrounds, lead to modifications in the discourses, rituals or practices of the unions. Bearing in mind the fierce competition among the unions since the floor was opened to all in 1990, how do unions approach the new mining companies. In what way did the boom in mining activities and the arrival of the new foreign investors affect union politics in the local community?

To address this last question, special attention is paid to the celebration of Labour Day. An account of the Labour Day Parade, the yearly apogee of the trade unions' public show to the outer world, is used to analyse the interaction between the mining unions and the community of Kolwezi as a whole. Furthermore, the Labour Day Parade also allows to examine the grip of the companies upon the unionists' show.

Panel P160
Political Cultures in the Central African Copperbelt