The Boiling Regional Crisis in Eastern Congo
The Boiling Regional Crisis in Eastern Congo
Report 104 / Africa

Security Sector Reform in the Congo

No issue is more important than security sector reform in determining the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s prospects for peace and development. Two particular challenges loom large: the security services must be able to maintain order during the national elections scheduled for April 2006 and reduce the country’s staggering mortality rate from the conflict – still well over 30,000 every month.

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Executive Summary

No issue is more important than security sector reform in determining the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s prospects for peace and development. Two particular challenges loom large: the security services must be able to maintain order during the national elections scheduled for April 2006 and reduce the country’s staggering mortality rate from the conflict – still well over 30,000 every month. On the military side, far more must be done to create an effective, unified army with a single chain of command, rather than simply demobilising militias and giving ex-combatants payout packages. International attention to police reform has been much less than that given to military restructuring: the limited efforts have had some important successes but suffer from a patchwork approach that largely neglects the countryside. Establishing a secure environment is not possible without a thorough security assessment that takes into account the country’s risks, needs, capabilities and financial means. A realistic plan is needed that defines the role of the security forces and reconciles their needs and means for a sustainable future.

Reform of the army is far behind schedule. Eighteen integrated brigades were supposed to be created before elections but only six have been deployed, some of which are as much a security hazard as a source of stability, since they are often unpaid and prey on the local population. The police are supposed to be responsible for election security but are no match for local militias in many parts of the country.

Security sector reform continues to be a neglected stepchild both financially and in terms of strategic planning. While donors have already contributed more than $2 billion to the Congo, including generous amounts for demobilisation of ex-combatants, only a small fraction has been dedicated to improving the status and management of the armed forces and the police. While it is understandable that many donors are reluctant to engage with what have often been unsavoury elements, these forces are critical for stability. The current incentive structure to encourage reform is seriously distorted. Fighters are offered allowances totalling $410 to leave the military but a salary of only $10 a month if they choose army service, and even this too often never gets to them. Coordination of international efforts is also inadequate, though the European Union’s police (EUPOL) and military (EUSEC) missions have begun to stimulate improvements.

The army remains weak and could again collapse quickly if faced with a serious threat. Although most former belligerents now form the transitional government and formally support the new army, they and their ex-soldiers sometimes ignore orders from the military hierarchy that they consider to be in conflict with the interests of their respective factions. Indeed, the reluctance to move forward with reform in many security structures is a deliberate strategy on the part of the leaders who fought the 1998-2002 war to preserve their ability to respond with force if the elections do not turn out to their satisfaction.

This report gives special attention to the European Union and its member states’ contributions on security sector reform as part of an ongoing examination of the EU’s growing global role in conflict prevention.

Nairobi/Brussels, 13 February 2006

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