Historical Development of the Law of Contracts in the DRC

A critical analysis with specific reference to the law of sale

Mots-clés: Congolese sales law, legal history, civilian legal system, gap-filling, comparative law.


The legal history of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)
is closely linked to the Belgian colonization of the country. At the
arrival of Belgian colonizers in the DRC, the society was ruled by
unwritten customary laws, differing from one region to another.
Belgian authorities then substituted those customary laws with the
civil law they inherited from France during the Napoleonic era in
order to meet one of the requirements of the 1885 Berlin
Conference, providing adequate legislation for the Congo. They
also enacted some acts dealing with commercial matters, such as
business requirements, which were later referred to as the code of
commerce. That inherited law continued to govern civil and
commercial sales contracts alike for a long period after
independence until quite recently. Owing to a lack of renewal,
Congolese business law rules were becoming out-dated and were
no longer appropriate for modern trade desires and urgently
required modernization. That led to the adoption of OHADA law.
The Uniform Act on General Commercial Law provisions
constitute one of the bases for the Congolese commercial sales law,
in addition to the non-conflicting provisions of the Congolese Code
of Obligations that were not displaced. Implementing new laws creates sometimes transition problems. This article traces and
evaluates critically the above developments. It considers some of
the gaps met in Congolese sales law and the way they were filled,
before demonstrating how OHADA law rules cohabit with former
Congolese sales law rules not revoked.