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Congo (Kinshasa): Call for Real Security Reform

AfricaFocus Bulletin
Apr 25, 2012 (120425)
(Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor's Note

An impressive array of Congolese and international civil society organizations have issued a new call for real security sector reform in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to be impelled by more coordinated pressures from African and other international partners as well as Congolese civil society.

Many will be skeptical of the prospects, given past failures and the recent fraudulent election. But this report argues that simply accepting the status quo, in which the population is threatened by the security forces themselves as well as by multiple other armed groups, is worse than trying to get government action on this central issue. They note that there have been limited successes in promoting greater accountability, although primarily with police rather than military forces, and that the international community has substantial leverage given that external funding makes up nearly half the government budget.

They propose specific measures for greater collaboration among international actors, including not only traditional multilateral and bilateral donors, but also South Africa, Angola, the African Union, and the Southern African Development Community (SADC), as well as with Congolese civil society.

This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains the executive summary of the report, recommendations, and a few additional excerpts from the report.

The full report, with a data annex and endnotes, is available at:

The French-language version of the report is available at:

For additional comments by one of the authors of the report, and replies by Congolese generals, see the Reuters news story "Donors, government failing to reform Congo army - report," Apr 17, 2012

See also the April 19 testimony by Mvemba Dizolele to the UN Security Council, at

For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on the Democratic Republic of the Congo, see


For updates on other topics, between issues of AfricaFocus Bulletins, follow,, or

Recent updates include links on World Bank report on Africa economic growth, Sudan/South Sudan conflict, coming verdict on Charles Taylor, U.S. EPA carbon limits, Graça Machel appointment as president of SOAS, Nigerian parliamentary report on $6 billion in fuel subsidy fund fraud, and Amnesty report on Shell oil spill.

Most recent, and quite interesting, a new report of Gallup polls in 32 African countries ( shows most leaders have high approval ratings. Those at low end, with higher disapproval than approval, include former leaders of Malawi & Senegal, along with Zimbabwe's Mugabe and Angola's dos Santos. Joseph Kabila has a 43% approval to 46% disapproval.

++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++

The Democratic Republic of Congo: Taking a Stand on Security Sector Reform

This report is produced by the following organizations:

International Organizations: Eastern Congo Initiative (ECI), The Enough Project, Eurac: European Network for Central Africa(Consisting of 48 European NGOs working for peace and development in Central Africa), International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH, OENZ: Ecumenical Network for Central Africa, Open Society Initiative for Southern African (OSISA), Refugees International, UK All-Party Parliamentary Group on the Great Lakes Region of Africa (APPG)

Congolese Organizations: African Association of Human Rights (Association Africaine des Droits de l'Homme (ASADHO)), Congolese Network for Security Sector Reform and Justice (Consisting of 289 Congolese NGOs and set up to monitor progress of security sector reform), Groupe Lotus, League of Voters (Ligue des Electeurs), Pole Institute - Intercultural Institute for Peace in the Great Lakes Region

Executive Summary

  1. The 2006 elections were a moment of great hope for the DRC, as the country and its people moved out of the shadow of one of the most destructive conflicts the world has known. The international community has invested heavily in the years since. Official development assistance since the end of the post-war transition totals more than $14 billion. External funding makes up nearly half of the DRC's annual budget

  2. The UN peacekeeping mission, MONUSCO, costs more than $1 billion a year. The international financial institutions have buttressed the DRC's economy, most importantly through writing off $12.3 billion debt and granting access to IMF loans. Trade deals, notably the one struck with China, push the aggregate figure up still further. Taking stock of progress as the DRC moves through its second post-war electoral cycle is sobering. Investment has not resulted in meaningful change in the lives of ordinary Congolese. The country is now in last place in the annual UNDP development rankings, 187th out of 187 countries. Despite slight improvements, life expectancy and child mortality are below average for the region. National income per capita is less than 50 cents a day. The DRC will miss all of its Millennium Development Goals. 1.7 million Congolese are displaced, a further 500,000 refugees outside the country. There are worrying signs of renewed conflict in the East. The investment of billions of dollars has had little impact on the average Congolese citizen.

  3. The central cause of this suffering is continued insecurity. The Congolese government's inability to protect its people or control its territory undermines progress on everything else. An effective security sector - organized, resourced, trained and vetted - is essential to solving problems from displacement, recruitment of child soldiers and gender-based violence, to economic growth or the trade in conflict minerals. This is not a new finding. The imperative of developing effective military, police and judicial structures has been repeatedly emphasized. Yet, far from showing sustained improvement, Congolese security forces continue posing a considerable threat to the civilian population rather than protecting them. The recent allegations of an army Colonel leading his troops to engage in widespread rape and looting of villages near Fizi in 2011 underscores the fact that failed military reform can lead to human rights violations. The military - the Forces Armées de la République Démocratique du Congo (FARDC) -has been accused of widespread involvement in the most serious human rights violations. Police corruption is endemic, and almost any form of judicial protection out of reach for the vast majority.

  4. The root of the failure to implement security sector reform (SSR) is a lack of political will at the highest levels of the Congolese Government. Rather than articulating a vision for Congolese security and marshaling assistance to achieve it, the Government has instead encouraged divisions among the international community and allowed corrupt networks within the security services to flourish, stealing the resources intended to pay basic salaries or profiting from exploitation of natural resources. Unless this is changed, sustainable reform will be impossible. The investment made by Congo's partners could be wasted, and Congo's people will continue to suffer.

  5. The international community also bears significant responsibility. The DRC's international partners have been politically incoherent and poorly coordinated. Little has been spent on security sector reform, despite its paramount strategic importance -official development aid disbursed for conflict, peace and security totaled just $530 million between 2006 and 2010, roughly 6% of total aid excluding debt relief. Spending directly on security system management and reform is even lower, $84.79 million over the same period, just over 1%. A lack of political cohesion after 2006 undermined effective joint pressure on the Congolese government. Poor coordination resulted in piecemeal interventions driven by competing short-term imperatives. The resulting failures have led many to give up on systemic reform altogether.

  6. This is unsustainable and unacceptable. The DRC's external partners, old and new, must take a stand on SSR. As the dust settles after the 2011 presidential elections, many of the DRC's partners are reassessing their programs. The international community must take this opportunity to be more forceful in pressing the DRC government to engage in reform. If international donors acted in concert, and effectively capitalized on their political and economic investment in the DRC, they could positively influence DRC government behavior. Their full weight needs to be brought to bear.

  7. The international community therefore needs to create a new pact with the Congolese government, one that puts in place clear conditions and benchmarks for progress on achieving army reform and minimizing harm to the population in return for continued assistance and recognition. These benchmarks must be based on positive efforts to achieve change. A strategic plan for military reform must be implemented, and a high-level body to coordinate on-going programs set up. And steps must be taken to improve the protection of Congolese civilians, through minimizing human rights abuses carried out by the security forces, and prosecutingthe worst offenders.

  8. This new pact must transcend traditional donors. China will need peace in the DRC for future generations to reap the rewards from its investment. South Africa also has huge and growing economic interests in the DRC. Angola has pressing issues of national security at stake. All need the stability that can only come from effective SSR. The international financial institutions (IFI) have rewarded the stabilization of Congo's macro-economic situation with significant support. They must recognize that continued growth will be dependent on new investment, which in turn demands security. Regional organizations, most importantly the African Union (AU) and Southern African Development Community (SADC), need to play an active role in marshaling effective pressure, and providing a framework for discussion. Critically, this pact must also include the Congolese population. Congolese civil society must have a key voice in defining a global vision for Congo's security, and connecting high-level reform processes with those that matter most, Congo's people.

  9. And the new pact must happen now. Flawed presidential elections have been completed. The DRC's relations with its neighbors have improved significantly in recent years. Though securityin the DRC is precarious, and there are worrying signs of a resurgence of violence in the East, challenges to the Congolese government from non-state armed actors have receded. In fact, the biggest threats perhaps now come from within the army itself. The government needs effective SSR, particularly of the military, to rebuild its reputation at home and abroad, an imperative reflected by President Kabila in his speech to the UN General Assembly in November 2011. Since the elections there have been some promising signs of greater receptivity on the part of the Congolese government. The opportunity to engage in an honest dialogue with the Government must not be missed.

  10. Though the picture painted above is bleak, it is leavened with hope. There are signs that, with the right will and appropriate support, change is possible. Increased numbers of prosecutions for sexual violence (including of a senior officer19) and the reintegration of child soldiers show that justice can be done. FARDC formations trained by the US, South Africa and Belgium have performed well in intervening in delicate domestic environments. A census of military personnel is nearly complete. If these glimmers of hope are to be sustained and magnified, robust action is necessary. With the right political will in Kinshasa, endemic corruption can be tackled, salaries paid, and the worst abusers removed. Once the right conditions are in place, the long term and large scale work so clearly necessary - reducing the size of both police and military through retirement or new demobilization programs, vetting, reinforcing capacity and increasing the combat effectiveness of troops - can begin in earnest.


To the Congolese Government

Recognize the urgent need for serious reform to create an effective, professional security sector, especially the military. Overcome previous suspicions and engage positively with the international community in building a new coalition to assist with SSR efforts. Ensure that the voices of the Congolese people are heard in elaborating a new vision for security in the DRC.

1. Renew political commitment to security sector reform at the highest levels. Make military reform a top political priority of the new government. Remove from office those individuals that are obstructing SSR and take all necessary steps to achieve effective reform.

2. Urgently develop and implement a global vision for security and defense in the DRC in collaboration with Parliament and Congolese civil society, and implement a strategic action plan for achieving the vision of the FARDC set out in legislation. Request international expertise or assistance as appropriate.

3. Positively engage with international partners, notably in a high-level international forum on security sector reform, including though allocating a senior co-Chair, and agree on transparent, measurable benchmarks for progress.

4. Collaborate with international partners in re-launching a working-level cooperation body for military reform, based in Kinshasa, including through nominating a high-level coChair. Agree on an international partner to provide appropriate technical and administrative support.

5. Take urgent action to address the most pressing shortterm requirements for amelioratingthe performance of the security sector, notably the progressive demilitarization of the East, effective action to end corruption in the security services, and bringing the worst military human rights abusers to justice, including through requesting appropriate international support to meet short-term resource gaps.

To all DRC's international partners

Overcome the legacy of frustration and failure built up since 2006, and use political space opening up in Kinshasa and the new government's need for support to generate new political will on security sector reform. Provide high-level political commitment and coordination, including the appointment of sufficiently senior officials to provide momentum and leadership. Robust benchmarks and nuanced conditionality will be essential. Assistance must be sustained for the long term, and founded on a realistic understanding of what is possible.

6. Re-energize efforts and cooperation on security sector reform in the DRC through concerted pressure at the highest level for Congolese Government commitment to effective security sector reform.

7. Collaborate in a broad-based coalition of international and regional actors engaged in the DRC, notably through the launch of a high-level forum on security sector reform in the DRC.

8. Agree benchmarks for progress with the Congolese government, to include; progress on the human rights record of the security services, development of a global vision for security and a strategic reform plan for the military; and the establishment of an effective coordination body on military reform. Put in place a binding series of conditions for on-going political and programmatic support.

9. Ensure that the imperative of effective SSR, and the benchmarks and conditions agreed at the high-level forum, are reflected in any new programming decisions or bilateral agreements.

10.Assist with short-term quick-win projects to raise confidence and open space for broader reform, notably progressive demilitarization of conflict-affected areas, anti-corruption activities and effective judicial action against human rights abuses committed by the security forces, as requested by the Congolese Government, and urge for long-term, sustained reform efforts.

To the Great Lakes Contact Group (US, UK, EU, UN, France, Belgium and the Netherlands)

11. Catalyze diplomatic efforts to build a new coalition on SSR, though pro-active high level diplomatic contacts with key partners, notably Angola, South Africa, China, the AU and SADC, and their inclusion in an expanded Great Lakes Contact Group. To the UN Security Council and MONUSCO

12. Generate renewed engagement on security sector reform through an urgent debate on the issue. Encourage, in parallel with the AU, the organization of a high-level forum on security sector reform in the DRC.

13. Amend the mandate of MONUSCO to include assisting the DRC government on all aspects of SSR, including military reform.

14. Increase the resources allocated to the MONUSCO SSR unit, notably in fulfilling its mandated task of collating information on existing and planned SSR programs. Remind all member states of their responsibility to share information.

15. Extend the UN sanctions regime to include political and military leaders impeding effective SSR and direct the group of experts to provide information about the identity of these individuals.

16. Ensure that the UN system has sufficient in-country resources to make a comprehensive assessment of the human rights performance of the Congolese security services.

To the EU

17. Renew the mandates of EUSEC and EUPOL, and reflect the imperative for progress on SSR in the planned 2012 program review. Stand ready to offer technical assistance to the DRC in elaborating a strategic reform plan for the army.

18. Extend targeted sanctions to individuals hindering effective SSR.

To the AU

19. Encourage, in parallel with the UN, the organization of a high-level forum on security sector reform in the DRC

20. Participate actively in the high-level forum and technical cooperation mechanism, including through agreement of benchmarks and conditions.

To the World Bank and IMF

21. Expand the assessment criteria for on-going support to the DRC, notably access to the IMF loans, to include progress on security sector reform and budget allocations to key priority areas, especially justice.

Insecurity: Congo's Achilles Heel

1. Taking stock of progress in the DRC since 2006 is sobering. The war has been over for a decade. An elected government has served a full term. Between 2006 and 2010, the DRC received considerable external assistance, including more than $14 billion in official development aid and a UN mission costing more than $1 billion a year. Yet this investment has yielded little result. Life expectancy and child mortality remain far below the Central Africa average. National income per capita is less than 50 cents a day. In fact, the DRC has slipped to last place in UN development rankings, 187th out of 187 countries. Public discontentment is rife, and there are concerning signs of renewed violence in the East. A decade on from the end of a devastating war, and all that has been invested in the DRC risks going to waste. The Congolese people deserve better.

2. The proximate cause of this failure is simple. Congo's population continues to suffer, directly and indirectly, at the hands of men with guns. There are an estimated 1.7 million internally displaced people in the DRC, most in the conflict- affected Eastern provinces, driven from their homes by fear of a variety of armed groups - from the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) in the North East, to Mai Mai groups, bandits and Front Democratique pour la Liberation de Rwanda (FDLR) rebels further South - and at the mercy of malnutrition, ill-health and pervasive fear. Nearly half a million are refugees outside the country. UNICEF estimates that thousands of children are still being used in various capacities by armed groups in DRC, including by the Congolese Army.

3. This failure is not just indicative of the inability of the Congolese security apparatus to defeat these groups. It is also the result of abuses at the hands of the security services themselves. A survey of more than 10,000 households in North and South Kivu cited the FARDC as the second most common source of insecurity, after banditry. In June and July 2011, UN human rights monitors recorded more abuses at the hands of the FARDC than armed groups. Congolese soldiers are responsible for some of the rapes reported across Eastern DRC. Members of the security services are also responsible for pervasive low-level predation, including involvement in illegal resource exploitation and theft. Many abuses have been perpetrated by deserters from the military, or by those reacting to abuses at the hands of the army.

4. Abuse by Congolese security forces extends beyond immediately conflict-affected zones. The abuse has been most visible in the brutal suppression of political protest or internal unrest, notably in the suppression of the Bundu dia kongo group, the crushing of MLC forces loyal to Jean-Pierre Bemba in Kinshasa, and heavy-handed responses to political protests around the 2011 elections. It has also been felt in the arbitrary arrest or killing of regime opponents, human rights activists and journalists, as well as day-to-day predation and lack of access to even-handed justice.

5. This is not a new insight. The establishment of an effective security sector is the fundamental step to meeting all other objectives, from ending the humanitarian crisis, preventing human rights abuses, encouraging investment and growth, stopping the trade in conflict minerals and preventing regional tensions from escalating. Adequate security is widely acknowledged to be a development, economic and geostrategic imperative. The Congolese Government recognized its pivotal importance in the 'Governance Compact' it produced immediately after the 2006 elections, repeated again by President Kabila in his address to the UN in November 2011. All major bilateral and multilateral actors have engaged in a wide variety of security sector reform programs, from capacity building in the justice system, to rebuilding key infrastructure, or training military and police. The UN considers SSR to be the process of enhancing effective and accountable security in a country and the transformation of "security institutions to make them more professional and more accountable". Security institutions can include the armed forces, police, judiciary and others.

6. Yet despite this consensus, military reform efforts have failed, both during the transition and afterwards. They have failed for two primary reasons. The first is the lack of political will on the part of the Congolese government; the second inadequate and poorly coordinated assistance from the donor community.


The Shared Imperative of SSR

20. In combination, these factors have resulted in the view that the Congolese security sector, and particularly its military, are simply too dysfunctional for reform to be achieved. The result has been an increasing detachment on SSR. Support for military reform is now frequently subsumed under wider stabilization efforts, or framed as a response to a specific threat, such as the US project to train units to tackle the LRA. ...

21. This is compounded by the view that pushing the DRC government to take serious action is too dangerous to attempt - that effective sanctions would generate a political backlash, disrupt bilateral relationships, and risk defections, mutiny or insurrection. This is certainly the case in relation to entrenched corrupt networks and the impunity of the most infamous war criminals.

22. But this view must no longer be allowed to dominate. The status quo, of failed reform and popular discontent, presents far greater dangers. The most significant risk of renewed conflict comes from within the Congolese security services itself, particularly the FARDC, and from the inability of the Congolese government to control its territory or protect its people. Reform of the security sector would no doubt bring short-term pain, but the longterm risk of inaction is far greater. The human, political and financial cost of the DRC again collapsing back into war is difficult to fathom.

23. Yet these costs would be felt by all of the DRC's external partners. China struck a landmark deal with the DRC government in 2007, exchanging a $6 billion investment in infrastructure - building roads, hospitals and universities - in return for long-term access to Congolese mineral resources, extending decades. Internal and regional stability will be vital for this deal to come to fruition, demanding an effective security sector. South African companies have invested heavily in the DRC, and peace in the DRC and across Central Africa will be vital for its long term prosperity. And Angola, the DRC's key regional security partner, considers chaos across the border to be a core threat to its national security. It too needs an effective Congolese state. All three states have already engaged in bilateral reform and retraining.

24. Regional organizations, most importantly the African Union (AU) and the Southern Africa Development Committee (SADC) have a pressing and legitimate interest in regional prosperity and stability. And the international financial institutions - frequently cited as the actors with the most significant leverage and access in Kinshasa - are committed to helping the DRC achieve sustained economic growth. The IMF is the only actor currently providing direct budget support to the DRC government.

25. Reform is not only vitally necessary, it is possible. Compared to 2003 or 2006, political and military conditions in the DRC are now such that renewed, joint efforts on SSR could yield real and lasting results. ...

26. These constraints are now less acute. Congolese nonstate armed groups may be reduced in number and scope. Foreign armed groups are significantly less powerful than in the past. Though both remain a considerable threat to civilians, neither presents the same challenge they once did to regional peace and security, or to the Kinshasa government. The political context has also changed. President Kabila and his government are facing a crisis of legitimacy. The 2011 elections were roundly criticized by international and Congolese election monitors, and have little popular credibility. The single most telling step that the government could take to rebuild its reputation at home and abroad, and to improve the lot of the population, would be to undertake meaningful reform of the security apparatus. ...

27. The overriding need for meaningful SSR cannot be questioned. There is a broad synergy of interests across the international community and the DRC's neighbors, economic partners and population. The timing is right. It will be a long and difficult road, but the first step to unlocking a more hopeful future for the population is simple. The Congolese government must take responsibility for serious, sustained and strategic reform, particularly of the military, backed by political commitment at the very highest levels.

28. The international community must recognize this imperative. It must act on it. All other objectives - humanitarian, developmental, economic or security-related - will be difficult or impossible to achieve without concerted SSR. The DRC's external partners must make a collective stand on serious security sector reform, both to engender political will and to support resulting Congolese reform processes. The Congolese government has received significant financial and diplomatic support since the end of the war. The weight of these commitments must be brought to bear.

A New Deal on SSR

29. It is a new political commitment that is urgently needed above all, on both sides. The international community should seek to strike a new collective pact with the Congolese Government on SSR. This need not involve the immediate allocation of significant new resources. In the absence of political will and the establishment of oversight structures, significant new programs could be counterproductive, replacing functions that need to be carried out by government. Though investment will certainly be necessary, a new push on SSR need not be expensive in the short-term.

30. Such a pact would see political backing and coordinated, targeted programmatic support exchanged for Congolese leadership and robust benchmarks on progress towards mutually agreed goals. It would need to involve all international actors engaged in the DRC, including the traditional donor community, newer international actors including China and South Africa, the DRC's neighbors either bilaterally or through regional organizations (AU and SADC), and the international financial institutions. It would demand renewed commitment, coordination and communication, robust benchmarks, and quick-win confidence raising projects.

31. It should be launched in a spirit of transparency and collaboration, recognizing that a new effort on SSR is a need shared by the Congolese government, its people, and all of its economic, diplomatic and development partners. An overly confrontational attitude on the part of the international community could cause an unhelpful political backlash - managing tensions will require astute and fleetfooted diplomacy, and a leading role to be played by African actors. But equally, no one should be under any illusion as to difficulties that will need to be faced - there is no magic bullet to security sector reform in the DRC. It needs sustained political commitment above all. There will be disagreements, with Congolese Government, and between elements of the international community. Such a push will need sustained, high-level political commitment, and must be backed by real conditions.


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