The Security Challenges of Pastoralism in Central Africa
The Security Challenges of Pastoralism in Central Africa
Table of Contents
  1. Executive Summary
The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC): A Dangerous Stalemate
The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC): A Dangerous Stalemate
Report 215 / Africa

The Security Challenges of Pastoralism in Central Africa

Sensible, inclusive regulation of pastoralism that has mitigated tension in parts of the Sahel should be extended to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the Central African Republic (CAR), where conflicts have worsened with the southward expansion of pastoralism.

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The southward seasonal migration of pastoralists with their cattle is a source of friction that has long been ignored in Central Africa. In the last few years, conflicts between pastoralists and local communities have intensified because of a combination of factors: worsening security; climate change, which drives herdsmen further south; the multiplication of migration roads, especially transnational routes; the expansion of cultivated areas and an increase in cattle herds, which have deepened the competition for natural resources. Though security challenges related to pastoralism are not equally serious in the three countries examined in this report (Chad, Central African Republic and Democratic Republic of Congo), governments should take them seriously and promote a regulation of transhumance that includes all relevant actors.

Pastoralism generates wealth and economic interdependence between farmers and cattle herders in some African countries, but it also causes tension and conflicts. Most of these result from competition for vital resources such as water or pasture­lands. In Chad, the Central African Republic (CAR) and north-east Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the conflicts appear to be especially complex, mainly because pastoral ecosystems go beyond national borders and transhumance creates new settlement fronts.

Transnational livestock migrations, particularly by Chadian herdsmen to CAR, have led to clashes between pastoralists and the local population. Even before the start of the CAR crisis in late 2012, violence had taken an alarming turn: after Chadian pastoralists looted their villages, several thousand CAR inhabitants fled their home and sought refuge in internally displaced camps in the country’s north. Weak bilateral cooperation between Chad and CAR on transhumance has contributed to an increase in violence, a change in cattle migration roads, and the emergence of new groups of pastoralists and livestock farmers with different motives and more weapons.

In Orientale Province, in DRC, the recent migration of Peul Mbororo herdsmen from several Central African countries has led to an often tense coexistence with the local population and the Congolese authorities. The latter have at times cracked down on pastoralists, at others started to accept their presence – a moratorium on expulsions was implemented in 2012. But the government has not provided an adequate and effective response to problems caused by the recent settlement of pastoralists in Orientale Province. It should consider their temporary regularisation, which would likely bring economic benefits to the province, in particular through the development of cattle farming in low-populated areas.

Some Sahel countries such as Niger or Chad have received support from donors to regulate pastoralism and have tried to mitigate conflicts. For their part, the CAR and DRC do not regulate transhumance and are unable to deal with increasing violence between communities. Moreover, other priorities top their security agenda. But while national authorities, located hundreds or thousands of kilometres away from the rural areas affected, ignore frequent violence related to pastoralism, local populations, which are the main victims, cannot afford to do so. Deep-rooted issues can degenerate into intercommunal conflicts, and constitute a major factor in the confrontation between the Fulanis and anti-balaka militias in CAR.

The CAR and DRC should regulate the movement of pastoralists by considering some of the measures implemented in Chad. Chadian authorities, together with international partners such as the French Development Agency (AFD) and the European Union (EU), undertook to secure cattle migration roads, amend the pastoral code and reinforce the cattle farming sector. The CAR and DRC should also take steps to improve peaceful coexistence between the Fulani community and the Congolese population, including by promoting a transhumance charter between the populations of Chad and the CAR.

The Congolese government, which intends to boost the agricultural sector, could carry out these measures immediately. In the CAR, implementation depends on the current crisis ending and tension between N’Djamena and Bangui calming. But discussing transhumance under the supervision of the regional organisation in charge of pastoralism before the cattle migration starts this year could be an opportunity to normalise relations between both countries and tackle a dangerous problem.

Commentary / Africa

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC): A Dangerous Stalemate

Political uncertainty and increasing polarisation between government and opposition, combined with escalating violence in many provinces, have set the DRC on a dangerous trajectory. In this excerpt from the Watch List 2017 – Third Update early warning report for European policy makers, Crisis Group urges the European Union and its member states to denounce attempts by the DRC government to further delay the polls and offer technical electoral support to the Electoral Commission.

This commentary is part of our Watch List 2017 – Third Update.

Political uncertainty and instability in the DRC are growing as the one-sided implementation of the 31 December 2016 (Saint Sylvester) agreement has deepened the gulf between a newly invigorated regime and a weakened opposition and civil society. The Electoral Commission (CENI) still has not published a new calendar for polls promised by the end of the year, although, speaking at the UN General Assembly on 23 September, President Joseph Kabila indicated it was imminent. Recent comments by the CENI president indicate that the elections would not be organised before 2019. In this context of political uncertainty, opposition and civil society are renewing efforts to bring people out onto the streets; whether they can do so is unclear, as is whether they could control any protests that do occur. The grave socio-economic crisis, harsh repression by security forces and lack of confidence in political elites make for a potentially explosive cocktail of resentment and frustration. Beyond urban centres, violence is escalating in many provinces, adding to concerns for regional stability.

An increasingly confident regime that lacks a clear strategy

Few, if any, of the 31 December agreement’s signatories sincerely believed in the agreement’s stipulation that elections would be held by the end of 2017. The government has since controlled implementation of that deal and interpreted its provisions to suit its agenda of delay. Meanwhile, domestic pressure to stick to the timeline has diminished, in particular following the February death of Etienne Tshisekedi, the charismatic opposition leader, and in March, after the Catholic Church withdrew from its direct mediation role.

For its part, Kabila’s government has engaged in a two-pronged strategy: violent repression and closure of political space at home on the one hand, intensive regional diplomacy to defuse U.S. and European Union (EU) pressure on the other. The latter track appears to have been particularly successful. African and especially Southern African powers now largely accept the government’s interpretation of the agreement (notably its unilateral choice of prime minister). While they have been more critical behind closed doors and acknowledge that the political manoeuvring and delay tactics increase the risk of violence, their public positioning has given the regime vital breathing space.

A weakened opposition focused on Kabila leaving power

Faced with the regime’s hijacking of the 31 December agreement, opposition and civil society are trying to regain the initiative. In July, Felix Tshisekedi, president of the main opposition coalition, the Rassemblement, suggested a six-month transition if the vote were not held in December, but without Kabila (whose constitutional mandate expired in 2016) retaining the presidency. In August, representatives of civil society platforms (including the youth protest movements Lucha and Filimbi as well as the “Debout Congolais” recently launched by Congolese businessman Sindika Dokolo) adopted a manifesto with a similar proposal. Moïse Katumbi, a prominent opponent in exile, added his name to this manifesto in September. It calls for non-violent actions to pressure the government, reminding the population of its duty, enshrined in Article 64, to defend the constitution against anyone seeking to exercise power by violating its provisions. It hopes such actions will force President Kabila out, with a national conference held afterwards to designate a transitional mechanism.

This approach has scant chance of success. The opposition, weakened by the exile and imprisonment of several of its leaders, is riven by distrust among its factions and lacks internal cohesion. Struggling to organise street demonstrations, or control them when they do take place, its leaders appear for now to be resting their hopes on greater international (particularly Western) engagement. But the opposition faces a paradox: international actors are unlikely to take a more robust position in the absence of a credible domestic dynamic.

Worrying security developments

Meanwhile, several provinces – including the Kasais, Tanganyika, North and South Kivu – are experiencing violent conflict, fuelled by both local tensions and the national political stalemate. Playing the role of pompier-pyromane, the government thus far has contained the fighting while people close to the regime have simultaneously stoked unrest and used it to justify election delays. But this dangerous strategy has increased tensions with several neighbours, notably Angola, which hosts thousands of refugees from the troubled Kasai region. As one of the world’s gravest humanitarian crises, with 3.8 million internally displaced and more than 600.000 refugees, humanitarian support remains under-funded despite some EU and member states contributions, and the recent additional amounts announced this year.

A recent small rebound in copper prices has allowed the government to promise better and more regular salaries as well as to ease currency depreciation pressures. But economic fundamentals remain poor. With families squeezed by rising prices and growing petty corruption, popular discontent is rising along with prospects for urban unrest.

International actors need to step up support for the 31 December agreement

The EU, UN, the African Union (AU), relevant sub-regional organisations and the Chinese, French, Russian and UK governments, together with the DRC government, met on 19 September on the margins of the UN General Assembly in New York. The chair’s summary of that meeting reaffirmed broad support for the Saint Sylvester agreement, despite the inevitability that its electoral timetable will now slip. This is welcome news insofar as the agreement’s core principle – the need to hold elections without amending the constitution – deserves strong support in the face of the regime’s attempts to kill it with a thousand cuts.

But international actors need to turn this support into concrete action that pressures the government and electoral commission to move forward with election preparations. While the EU should offer technical electoral support, as envisaged at the New York meeting, it should denounce attempts by the DRC government to further delay the polls (including through publishing unnecessarily long timetables). It also should condemn, of course, any attempt by Kabila to change the constitution’s presidential two-term limit. International reaction to the soon-to-be-announced electoral calendar will be an initial test – if the timetable stretches too far into the future, as recent communications from the CENI indicate it may, the EU, in concert with other relevant international actors, should make this clear, stressing that elections could be held sooner and offering technical support to reach that goal while actively criticising delay tactics. Alongside this, EU and member states should continue work that supports Congolese civil society and internal voices calling for democracy and constitutionalism.

Effective pressure on President Kabila to move toward elections and stick to term limits requires better international cooperation. Western powers – notably the EU and its member states – should reach out to African leaders to hear their concerns and try to iron out differences. At present, African powers tend to acquiesce in Kabila’s interpretation of the agreement and refrain from criticising (at least publicly) his efforts to remain in power, while the West has adopted a more critical stance. Disagreement thus far has revolved around how best to push Kinshasa toward elections. African leaders are hostile to Western sanctions on DRC leaders put in place over the last fifteen months. While those sanctions may have had some impact in 2016 in deterring violence and helping forge the December agreement, they increasingly have diminishing returns as Kabila’s regime uses them to portray pressure on it as a form of Western imperialism. They ought not be reinforced while efforts are made to align international views.

 

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