DR Congo’s Electoral Law for 2011: Choosing Continuity
DR Congo’s Electoral Law for 2011: Choosing Continuity
Supporting Dialogue and Demobilisation in the DR Congo
Supporting Dialogue and Demobilisation in the DR Congo
Commentary / Africa

DR Congo’s Electoral Law for 2011: Choosing Continuity

On 15 June 2011 the Congolese Parliament adopted, after nearly three months of debate, the new electoral law.[fn]The government’s proposed electoral bill was introduced in Parliament upon the opening of the spring plenary sessions and was finally adopted on 15 June 2011, the last day of this Parliamentary session.Hide Footnote The Senate, or upper house, controlled by the opposition, and the National Assembly, or lower house, controlled by the ruling coalition, both voted for an electoral law which ultimately remains very similar to that governing the 2006 elections. Parliament took three months of debate to reject most of the amendments proposed by the ruling party (PPRD). In doing so it demonstrated that the executive could not simply trump its interests.

The government’s proposed amendments

An atmosphere of great suspicion greeted the ruling party’s proposed new electoral bill last March. In the wake of constitutional changes widely perceived to benefit President Kabila[fn]On 15 January 2011, President Joseph Kabila put several controversial constitutional reforms to the vote during a joint session of with both houses of parliament, in order to change the presidential elections from two rounds to a single round. This waived the requirement that the winning presidential candidate needs more than 50 per cent in the first round to avoid a second round and allowed a candidate to win the presidency with less than 50 per cent of votes. For more information, see Crisis Group’s Africa Briefing, No. 157 “Congo: The Electoral Dilemma”, 5 May 2011.Hide Footnote , rumours that the proposed electoral law would seek to exclude certain candidates on the basis of their age, residency or tax returns were persistent. The text presented by Tunda Yakasendwe, national deputy for the PPRD, offered significant modifications to the Congolese electoral system, starting with the voting system.

Perhaps most important, it proposed changes to the way in which deputies are elected. Its Article 119 modified the current system of proportional representation.[fn]Article 118 of law 06/006 (9 March 2006) regarding the organization of presidential, legislative, provincial, urban, municipal and local elections. According to the existing voting system for the lower house, 500 deputies are elected by proportional representation with open lists from 169 districts, which each elect between one and four deputies depending on their number of registered voters.Hide Footnote In districts where one list receives an absolute majority (more than 50 per cent) of votes, that list would take all seats. In districts where no one list attains an absolute majority, proportional representation would be retained, with lists receiving seats based on their vote totals.[fn]Article 119 of the proposed bill regarding the organization of presidential, legislative, provincial, urban, municipal and local elections, registered with the secretariat for the cabinet of the president of the National Assembly on 11 March as No. 0856, and with the bureau for [parliamentary] sessions on 14 march as No. 015.Hide Footnote

This amendment, which favoured big political parties, sought to reinforce the ruling party’s grip on the National Assembly which, to date, includes 69 parties and in which the PPRD only has 111 seats out of 500. Such an electoral disposition would have obstructed independents (63 were elected in 2006), eliminated some smaller parties from national representation (56 parties currently have less than 5 seats, including 31 with only 1 seat) and, as such, would have put an end to the necessity of political alliances which has dominated parliamentary life during this legislature.

The proposed bill put forward by the government included other innovations which, while not as fundamental as the amendment to lower house elections, were no less strategic. These included higher deposits for candidates, new modalities for co-opting traditional leaders, revising Kinshasa’s electoral districts and new campaign rules.

In 2006 the non-refundable deposits for presidential and legislative candidates were set at $50,000 and $250 respectively. The proposed bill increased these to $100,000 and $5,000,[fn]Article 106 and 132 of the proposed bill concerning the organization of presidential, legislative, provincial, urbane, municipal and local elections, registered with the secretariat for the cabinet of the president of the National Assembly on 11 March as No. 0856, and with the bureau for [parliamentary] sessions on 14 march as No. 015.Hide Footnote imposing significantly more restrictive financial barriers on eligibility.

It also transferred responsibility for the appointment of traditional leaders’ as provincial assembly members from the Provincial Assemblies themselves to the Ministry of Internal Affairs.[fn]Paragraph 5: on co-opting traditional leaders, articles 151, 152, 153 of the proposed bill concerning the organization of presidential, legislative, provincial, urbane, municipal and local elections.Hide Footnote As in some other African countries,[fn]From South Africa to Chad, attempts at politicizing traditional chieftains by political powers are numerous. Cf. C-H Perrot and F-X Fauvelle Aymar (eds) Leretour des rois. Les autorités traditionnelles et l’Etat en Afrique contemporaine, Paris, 1999. For a recent example in Chad, cf. Crisis Group’s Africa Briefing, No. 78 “Chad’s North West: The Next High-risk Area?”, 17 February 2011.Hide Footnote this sought to affirm the state’s role in provincial and traditional affairs and allow the ruling party to impose sympathetic traditional leaders.

Finally, the new text stipulated that the 24 communes of Kinshasa would become electoral districts, replacing the four existing districts.[fn]Article 115 of the proposed bill concerning the organization of presidential, legislative, provincial, urbane, municipal and local elections, registered with the secretariat for the cabinet of the president of the National Assembly on 11 March as No. 0856, and with the bureau for [parliamentary] sessions on 14 march as No. 015.Hide Footnote Kinshasa is currently a bastion of the opposition, but this new division would have created several districts in the capital favouring the ruling party or its allies.[fn]In 2006, the presidential majority obtained 17 seats in Kinshasa, including 4 for the PPRD, out of 58 in the legislatives, and 8 seats out of 44 in the provincial elections. Numbers cited from Thierry Coosemans, Radioscopie des urnes congolaises, Paris, 2008.Hide Footnote

Parliamentary resistance

The ruling party expected the legislature to take only a few days to rubber stamp its changes, but instead parliamentarians spent three months over the bill, during which they amended it extensively. The text adopted by both houses on 15 June 2011 rejected several proposed changes, preserved others, but on the whole returned to the system used for the 2006 polls.

The prospect of changes to the voting system used for deputies crystallised opposition against the proposed law. Scared by prospects of an increased dominant ruling party[fn] Interview by Crisis Group with a politician from the presidential majority, Kinshasa, 4 June 2011.Hide Footnote – and, in some cases, of losing their seats – deputies rejected the proposed bill on 11 May 2001 with 236 votes, against only 23 who favoured the bill and 12 who abstained. The bill’s rejection, therefore, united opposition deputies and those from the majority, especially those non-PPRD deputies that already felt marginalised in the ruling coalition.[fn]On 18 March 2011, under the impetus of Joseph Kabila, the AMP became the Presidential Majority (PM). While the AMP was an alliance of parties on a pretty equal footing, the PM is structured around the PPRD and only political parties with a national representation can belong to it. The stated objective of this transformation was to assure that the PPRD possessed a majority representation in the heart of the PM, as well as in any future government by reducing the number of alliances with minority parties in the heart of the coalition. Regarding the transformation of the AMP into the PM, see Crisis Groups’ Africa Briefing, No. 175, “Congo: The Electoral Dilemma”, 5 May 2001, p.6.Hide Footnote The National Assembly’s composition, which includes strong representation of small parties and independents, foresaw a coalition of minorities against the electoral bill proposed by the PPRD. Moreover, knowing that the government faced a short window for its reforms,[fn]“RD Congo-Elections 2011: Kabila remet les pendules à l’heure”, Le Potentiel , 15 April 2011.Hide Footnote parliamentarians upped the pressure by delaying their scrutiny of the text, and then linking final debates of the bill to salary negotiations.[fn]“Boycott des plénières – Les Députés très fâchés!”, La Postérité, 25 March 2011; “Désertion des plénières à l’Assemblé Nationale – Des députés revendiquent leurs indemnités de sorties”, L’Observateur, 29 March 2011; “Impayés depuis deux mois: Les élus du peuple refusent de clôturer la session sans argent”, Le Forum des As, 15 June 2011.Hide Footnote

In the end parliamentarians discarded the proposed changes to the voting system, the increase in candidate deposits (which were kept at 2006 levels), the changes to the Kinshasa electoral districts (only four districts remain, as in 2006), and the Interior Ministry’s control over co-opting traditional leaders.[fn]“Loi électorale: le pouvoir recalé”, La Libre Belgique, 15 June 2011.Hide Footnote As in 2006, the diaspora has not been enfranchised. Furthermore the constitutional principle of parity between men and women[fn]Article 14 of the constitution of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Official Journal, 18 February 2006.Hide Footnote was only included as a desired condition, rather than a legal requirement for electoral lists, as requested by some parties.[fn]“Every list is established bearing in mind equal representation between men and woman and the promotion of those living with a handicap. Nevertheless, the non-realization of parity between men and women and the non-presence of those living with a handicap shall not be a motive for the inadmissibility of a list.” Article 13 of the law amending and enhancing law 06/006 (9 March 2006) bill concerning the organization of presidential, legislative, provincial, urbane, municipal and local elections. Women currently represent only 10.4 per cent of the lower house and 4.63 per cent of the upper house.

Although rejecting major changes, the legislature nevertheless introduced several innovations to the new electoral law:

  • Regulating the cooptation of traditional village chiefs and their de-politicisation. Chiefs can no longer undertake two consecutive mandates and cannot belong to provincial assemblies if they are already members of political parties.[fn]Article 154 of the law amending and enhancing law 06/006 (9 March 2006) concerning the organization of presidential, legislative, provincial, urbane, municipal and local elections of June 2011.Hide Footnote The CENI, rather than the Ministry of Interior, determines which chiefs sit in provincial assemblies.
  • New eligibility criteria: those found guilty in courts of last appeal of sexual violence or war crimes are not eligible to run as candidates.[fn]Article 10 of the law amending and enhancing law 06/006 (9 March 2006) concerning the organization of presidential, legislative, provincial, urbane, municipal and local elections of June 2011.Hide Footnote Education criteria were also introduced for all candidates and coupled with criteria for experience. In an attempt to prevent the use of state resources for campaigns, parliamentarians retained the prohibition of the managers of public companies and civil servants competing as candidates. Managers of combined companies (state and private) are, however, permitted to run.[fn]Article 10, paragraph 6 of the law amending and enhancing law 06/006 (9 March 2006) concerning the organization of presidential, legislative, provincial, urbane, municipal and local elections of June 2011.Hide Footnote
  • In order to conform to the constitution,[fn]Article 161 of the constitution of Democratic Republic of Congo, Official Journal, 18 February 2006.Hide Footnote electoral disputes fall under the jurisdiction of the Constitutional Court for presidential and legislative elections, the Administrative Court of Appeals for provincial elections, and the Administrative Tribunal for urban, communal and local elections.[fn]Article 27 of the law amending and enhancing law 06/006 (9 March 2006) concerning the organization of presidential, legislative, provincial, urbane, municipal and local elections of June 2011.Hide Footnote However, as yet these courts have not been created. Thus, as in 2006, the Supreme Court of Justice will settle electoral disputes. On this important point, the recommendations of the European Union have not been heeded by the Congolese legislature.[fn]Mission d’observation électorale de l’Union européenne en RDC, Elections 2006, Rapport final, recommandation 30, 31, 32, p. 64.Hide Footnote

Their adoption of an electoral law devoid of the government’s proposed reforms was accompanied by a rebuttal from both houses of the government’s request to legislate via decree during the parliamentary holidays, as stipulated in article 129 of the constitution.[fn]“Le gouvernement rate son coup au Sénat”, Le Potentiel, 16 June 2011.Hide Footnote Here again lawmakers reaffirmed their authority as a check on executive power.


The adoption of the electoral law by both houses of the national assembly does not signify that the legal framework for elections is complete. Deputies will convene for an extraordinary session in July and the senators will meet in August to finalise the annexes to the electoral law, which include determining electoral districts. However, according to the CENI schedule, candidate registration must take place between 4 August and 6 September. Annexes to the electoral law defining district boundaries and the allocation of seats to districts must be adopted by Parliament before candidate registration starts.

A delay would be all the more problematic given that voter registration – which is nearing its end – has taken longer than expected. Moreover several provinces saw demands to extend it and the opposition has denounced irregularities. On 4 July 2011, a memorandum by the opposition party UDPS complaining of voter registration irregularities gave rise to the first clash between police and protesters in Kinshasa.[fn]Memorandum by the UDPS sent to CENI concerning malpractices observed during electoral enrollment, 4 July 2011. “Le sit-in de l’UDPS dispersé dans la violence”, Afrikarabia, 4 July 2011.Hide Footnote CENI has refuted all accusations of fraud while the UDPS has denounced the exclusion of voters in certain territories of the Kasaï, while in Katanga and Maniema, strongholds of the Kabila family, 103 per cent and 115 per cent of expected voters have been registered.[fn]CENI source.Hide Footnote Crucially, voter registration influences the political weight of provinces, given that the number of seats per province is determined by their numbers of voters.[fn]Article 115 of the law amending and enhancing law 06/006 (9 March 2006) concerning the organization of presidential, legislative, provincial, urbane, municipal and local elections of June 2011Hide Footnote The transparency of the process, especially including the verification of the voters’ list, is, therefore, vital in countering suspicions of manipulation.

Paradoxically, changing the electoral law has been more difficult than changing the constitution. The modifications intended by the ruling party this time sought to shift rules for the election of deputies, which in many cases may have affected their re-election. Parliamentarians sought to maintain an electoral landscape as open as it was in 2006, when some 10,000 candidates competed as national candidates and about 14,000 for provincial office. In a country of more than 400 tribes, where the National Assembly comprises 70 local parties, where parties often possess solid regional bases[fn]The two oldest parties of the Congolese political landscape (Antoine Gizenga’s PALU and Etienne Tshisekedi) have their electoral base Bandundu and Kasaï respectively.Hide Footnote , and where decentralization is still problematic, highly proportional elections are seen to guarantee representation for the numerous groups in the DRC, and to protect against the domination by one province or ethnicity over others. Parliament’s rejection of the ruling party’s reforms served to remind those in power not only that it does not exist merely as a rubber stamp for the executive, but also that the Congolese political system should reflect the country’s diversity.

Commentary / Africa

Supporting Dialogue and Demobilisation in the DR Congo

Rising violence in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo has the Great Lakes region on edge. In this excerpt from the Watch List 2022 – Autumn Update, Crisis Group explains what the EU and its member states can do to help bring stability to the area.

The eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is experiencing an alarming uptick of violence. Fighting between the Congolese military and the March 23 Movement (M23), which resurfaced in November 2021 after suffering defeat in 2013, has surged. So, too, have attacks on civilians and camps for internally displaced people by other armed groups. The bloodshed has the entire Great Lakes region on edge and is creating friction beyond the DRC’s borders. Of greatest concern, the M23’s attacks have opened a rift between the DRC and Rwanda, with Congolese President Félix Tshisekedi labelling the rebel commanders “terrorists” who receive financial and logistical support from Kigali. 

Complicating matters is that the Congolese president has turned to some of his neighbours for support in tamping down insecurity in the east. Bent on rooting out the armed groups, in late 2021, Tshisekedi gave Ugandan and Burundian troops permission to carry out operations on Congolese soil. He then used the DRC’s accession to the East African Community (EAC) in March 2022 as an opportunity to ask the bloc for help. By way of response, the EAC agreed in April to establish a joint force composed of regional troops to battle militias in the east. But the force left out a key player: citing Rwanda’s alleged interference in the DRC’s affairs, Tshisekedi insisted that the country be excluded from the force, angering Kigali. 

So far, plans to stabilise the eastern DRC remain a work in progress. The new force has yet to fully deploy and is likely to face funding challenges. Meanwhile, diplomatic and demobilisation efforts meant to complement the military track show some promise but have yet to make substantial progress. 

The European Union (EU) and its member states should take the following steps in working to address instability in the eastern DRC: 

  • Refrain from providing financial support to the regional force – which some EAC states have already requested – pending greater clarity on its performance and the sufficiency of human rights safeguards.
  • Building on talks between Kinshasa and a select number of armed groups that were held in Nairobi in the spring, work with the DRC’s regional partners to develop plans for the next round of negotiations, focusing in particular on which militias should be included and for what purpose; in addition, provide financial and technical support for those negotiations. 
  • Provide support for DRC demobilisation efforts by pressing for greater clarity on links between the Nairobi political track, the EAC regional force’s mission and the DRC’s nascent community-based national disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR) program. Ideally, groups that participate in the dialogue and express interest in demobilising would be given an opportunity to do so through the program. The program also requires donor support, which the EU and member states should provide if satisfied with anti-corruption safeguards and other criteria.
  • When evidence emerges that the DRC’s neighbours have violated its sovereignty – as was the case when a UN confidential report recently reached findings of Rwandan involvement with the M23 rebels – condemn the violations through bilateral and multilateral channels and underscore the threat that instability in the DRC could grow into a regional conflagration.

Turmoil in the Great Lakes

M23 rebels have once again taken up arms in the eastern DRC, a resource-rich area that has long been the battleground for overlapping conflicts involving regional powers and armed groups. The M23 is principally fighting the Congolese army, with hostilities centred in North Kivu province. This conflict has driven more than 170,000 people from their homes since the rebels re-emerged in November 2021, having previously been defeated and signed a peace deal in 2013. At first, the M23 mainly targeted Congolese soldiers, but since June the group has also been making civilian victims. MONUSCO, the UN peacekeeping mission in the country, has expressed its concern about the M23’s sophisticated firepower and its own limited capacity to ward off the group. In a September interview with France 24 and RFI, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said “the M23 is a modern army with heavy weapons, more advanced than MONUSCO’s equipment”.

Along with the M23 insurgency, other armed groups have also intensified attacks on both military and civilian targets. Notable among them is the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a Ugandan outfit whose biggest faction has sworn allegiance to the Islamic State and whose members kill locals and loot or burn down villages. In late August, for instance, suspected ADF fighters killed at least 40 civilians in North Kivu. Meanwhile, the Coopérative pour le Développement du Congo (CODECO), a loose association of militias of mostly Lendu ethnicity operating in Ituri, has killed dozens of civilians and terrorised many more since the year began in a spate of raids on camps sheltering displaced people.

A confidential UN report … included evidence of continuing ties, indicating that Rwanda has helped reinvigorate the M23.

The stakes are high for Tshisekedi, who plans to seek a second term in office in 2023 polls and has repeatedly pledged to end the turmoil in the east. He has sought outside assistance to make good on his promise. In late 2021, Tshisekedi permitted Ugandan and Burundian troops to enter the country to fight, respectively, the ADF and RED-Tabara, a Burundian rebel group based in the DRC. Tshisekedi pointedly did not seek Rwanda’s assistance, at least partly because he believes that Rwanda is behind the M23’s abrupt reappearance. Rwanda (along with Uganda) did indeed back the group from when it first emerged in 2012 until Congolese and UN forces defeated the movement a year later. As Crisis Group has noted elsewhere, a confidential UN report leaked in August included evidence of continuing ties, indicating that Rwanda has helped reinvigorate the M23.

Tshisekedi’s decision to allow Ugandan and Burundian troops into the DRC but not Rwandans infuriated Rwandan President Paul Kagame, who has rejected Tshisekedi’s accusations concerning Kigali’s links to the M23. Kagame alleges that, to the contrary, it is Kinshasa that is cooperating with the Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda (FDLR), a remnant of the Hutu militia responsible for the 1994 genocide. While some evidence suggests that the Congolese army works with the FDLR in some capacity – the leaked UN report says some army commanders cooperated with a coalition of armed groups, including FDLR members, in fighting the M23 – Kagame’s frustration at being left out likely has other dimensions as well. He may be concerned that Rwanda will be boxed out of access to the eastern DRC’s natural resources, in particular gold, and that the Ugandans will extend their sphere of influence in the region at Rwanda’s expense.

The DRC-Rwanda dispute escalated further after Tshisekedi’s decision to seek support from the EAC in April. The EAC answered that request by deciding to form a joint force composed of regional troops to battle armed groups in the eastern DRC. But Tshisekedi insisted that Rwandan soldiers be excluded from the force, riling Kagame further. Kagame’s sense of grievance – coupled with his conviction that Kinshasa is aiding the FLDR and fuelled by economic interests – may tempt him to order a unilateral incursion to target the FDLR, which he still considers a threat, or to back another proxy.

Meanwhile, components of the regional force are beginning to deploy, but the full force has not yet taken the field. In August, the Congolese authorities reported that a Burundian contingent had entered the DRC under EAC auspices. In late September, the Kenyan defence forces started deploying materiel and troops. South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda are also to send contingents to fight alongside Congolese forces.

A Risky New Force

Aside from the costs of alienating Rwanda, the EAC deploying a regional force carries other significant risks. The force’s draft battle plan says the bloc is to assemble between 6,500 and 12,000 soldiers with a mandate to “contain, defeat and eradicate negative forces”. The new forces will for the most part be joining forces from those countries that are already on the ground either by invitation of the Congolese (in the case of Burundi and Uganda) or as part of the UN peacekeeping mission that operates in the DRC with a civilian protection mandate (in the case of Kenya and Tanzania).

The presence of so many foreign forces in the eastern DRC could spell trouble. In the past, the DRC’s neighbours have repeatedly undermined stability in the east by arming proxy fighters and helping themselves to mineral wealth, such as cobalt, coltan and gold. Some – for example, Burundi and Uganda – may well continue to push their own agendas, even when their troops are placed under joint force command, as appears to be the plan. The force’s deployment could also energise armed groups unhappy with an influx of foreign soldiers, escalating levels of violence, including against civilians. Nor is it clear how the new force will coordinate with MONUSCO, which has an overlapping territorial writ but a different mandate focused on civilian protection. Finally, the EAC has never before deployed a peacekeeping or enforcement operation, much less put in place safeguards for protecting civilians, raising considerable concerns about human rights violations by the troops themselves. 

Funding shortfalls are one reason the joint force has not yet fully deployed. According to the draft battle plan, which outlines the force’s objectives and rules of engagement, each country is to pay for its own soldiers. Some governments will likely struggle to bear the costs, especially if the operation drags on. Kenya has reportedly already asked EU member states, as well as China and the U.S., for money for men and materiel. 

Foreign powers have options beyond funding the EAC regional force to support stabilisation efforts in the eastern DRC.

But foreign powers have options beyond funding the EAC regional force to support stabilisation efforts in the eastern DRC, notably a recently initiated diplomatic track. Back when the bloc’s seven leaders agreed to the joint force, they launched a round of Kenyan-mediated talks with Congolese militia leaders in Nairobi. The first round was scrambled hastily together by the Congolese and Kenyan authorities in April and involved only about twenty of roughly 120 armed groups, excluding among others the M23 branch loyal to its military commander Sultani Makenga (the most active of the group’s two factions) and outfits considered to be foreign such as the ADF and FDLR. The Congolese are discussing a second round but have not scheduled it.

The DRC’s demobilisation strategy is another part of the picture. Launched in April but yet to hit its stride, it focuses on returning former fighters to their communities and helping them build livelihoods outside the military, rather than integrating them in the army or granting amnesties, as previous demobilisation programs did. This demobilisation effort is at least theoretically linked to the EAC’s diplomatic and military tracks. According to the draft concept of operations, the joint force is mandated to support Tshisekedi’s demobilisation efforts, suggesting that the EAC expects armed groups to either commit to demobilising through the Nairobi political track or become targets for the regional force. But the concept offers no detail about how this would play out in practice. 

What the EU Can Do

Given all the uncertainty surrounding the EAC regional force, the EU and member states should hold off on providing its support through the European Peace Facility or other channels pending information about the force’s performance, impact on the eastern DRC’s stability and respect for human rights. On the whole, given the long record of proxy warfare in the area and its harm to the civilian population, the bar for funding the force should be relatively high. Instead, the EU and its member states should support Tshisekedi’s and the EAC’s non-military efforts to stabilise the east, including through dialogue and demobilisation. 

As concerns dialogue, the EU should offer technical and financial support to a second round of Nairobi talks with armed groups active in the eastern DRC. As a threshold matter, EU and member states with strong relationships in the region should work with Kinshasa and EAC states to encourage progress toward a second round and help develop a framework for a meaningful process beyond individual rounds of talks. Fundamental questions, such as which groups should be included and specific topics and goals of the process, still require fleshing out. The EU could also support efforts to establish the Office of the Inter-Congolese Peace Dialogue, which will support the Nairobi talks and oversee implementation of the EAC heads of state agreements on peace and security in the DRC. 

The EU and member states should ... help Congolese authorities breathe life into Kinshasa’s disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration strategy.

The EU and member states should also help Congolese authorities breathe life into Kinshasa’s disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration strategy, which although promising is still in the very early stages of implementation. This line of effort should be of particular interest to Brussels given the EU’s new strategic approach in support of DDR. One way they can help is by encouraging greater clarity on how demobilisation efforts are linked to both the joint force’s mission and the Nairobi political track. There should be incentives for armed group members who wish to come off the battlefield to enter the demobilisation program, including the offer of an alternative to armed activity. 

Financial and technical support will also be important. Donors have been reluctant to foot the bill because previous demobilisation efforts were largely donor-driven, lacking local buy-in, tainted by alleged embezzlement and unsuccessful in permanently dismantling any armed group. Government officials and military officers alike have treated the programs as sources of patronage. The new initiative, however, is designed to send former fighters home to civilian life and help them develop alternative livelihoods rather than integrating them in the army, as previous programs did; diverting them to unarmed vocations may help them sever their links to armed group chains of command. Against this backdrop, the EU should consider providing financial and technical support to the plan to the extent it is satisfied with the adequacy of anti-corruption safeguards and if, as the program rolls out, it assesses that it holds out sufficient hope of genuinely offering low-level insurgents a viable future.

Finally, the EU and its member states should more directly address the challenge to peace and security created by neighbouring countries’ support for DRC rebels. The findings of the confidential UN report regarding Rwandan involvement with the M23 and other sources addressing alleged Ugandan support, for instance, should be the basis for Brussels and member state governments to relay clear messages to Kigali and Kampala condemning violations of Congolese sovereignty and underscoring the threat that instability in the DRC could grow into a regional conflagration. Member states represented on the UN Security Council can urge the Council to reinforce these messages from New York. Standing visibly behind the principle of territorial integrity is particularly important at a time when European states are condemning Russia’s transgressions in Ukraine. They should make clear that violations of this core principle of the UN Charter are to be condemned wherever they take place – in Europe, Africa or elsewhere.

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