This contribution analyses the role of taxation in the constitution of authority in the conflict-ridden eastern DRC, where numerous authorities alternately compete and collude over the right to extract resources. Taxation ranges from simple plunder, to protection rackets, to material reciprocation of the recognition of rights.

Focusing on taxation practices of armed groups, the article argues taxation is core to armed groups’ production of public authority and citizenship, and that their modes of taxation are based on long-standing registers of authority and practices of rule originating in the colonial era.

In particular, the article shows that by appealing to both local customary and national forms of political community and citizenship, armed groups can assume public authority to tax civilians. However, their public authority may be undermined by tendencies to reproduce historical patterns in which authorities forcefully impose a heavy tax burden, while providing limited public goods and services in return.