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According to Reuters, two anti-corruption campaigners have been arrested in Congo-Brazzaville, allegedly for embezzling funds. If true, it is disturbing that people tasked with overseeing fiscal transparency are themselves involved in fraud, and bodes poorly for Congo’s chances of breaking its cycle of wasting public money.

A more likely story is that the charges are false and the government of President Denis Sassou-Nguesso is using the police to silence critics who are trying to expose the racket that is the Congolese budget. If this is in fact what’s happened, then those pushing for donors to be more generous to Congo-Brazzaville have some answering to do. In particular, anti-poverty campaigners, backed by certain shareholders (hint: they share a common language), forced through Congo’s entry into the HIPC debt relief over the objection of World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz just a few weeks ago.

Congo-Brazzaville has, at least on paper, signed up for the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative and made other promises to open its oil account. Arresting the watchdogs suggests this is a total sham--and that Wolfowitz was probably right.

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CGD blog posts reflect the views of the authors, drawing on prior research and experience in their areas of expertise. CGD is a nonpartisan, independent organization and does not take institutional positions.