Contemporary security and development trends in the Great Lakes Region - Working Paper No. 4
The University of Witwatersrand,
Johannesburg, South Africa
Since its inception in 2002, the Multi-Donor Demobilization and Reintegration Program (MDRP) was tasked with contributing to the stabilization and recovery of the Great Lakes region (GLR) through: a) the establishment of a comprehensive regional framework for country-level disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) efforts; b) the implementation of national DDR programs that would contribute to regional stabilization; and c) regional activities supported through MDRP to facilitate DDR and confidence-building in the region.
The MDRP focused on the following countries: Angola, Burundi, the Central African Republic (CAR), the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the Republic of Congo (RoC), Rwanda, and Uganda. In addition to national programs, the MDRP also designed and implemented special projects targeting specific needs and groups in participating countries. Overall, the MDRP supports the demobilization and reintegration of some 400,000 irregular and regular forces that posed the greatest risk to future cycles of conflict in the GLR.
The MDRP Secretariat commissioned this study to provide a synoptic assessment of the contemporary security dynamics in the region. Since the MDRP was conceived in a regional security environment characterized by intense intrastate and interstate wars, it is important to understand how the prevailing security context may affect ongoing and future DDR programs.
Specifically, the study seeks answers to these questions: What is the current regional security and political situation in the GLR? How is this situation different from or similar to the security context that animated the MDRP? Answers to these questions are important to highlight and telescope some of the regional challenges and their potential impact on future DDR programs. The bulk of the analysis is on security and development trends in core GLR countries - Burundi, the DRC, Rwanda, and Uganda. This is followed by a brief sketch of the regional security environment and concluding remarks on the impact of this environment on future DDR programs.
DDR Programs in Regional Security Perspective
The MDRP's initiatives were conceived and crafted in the circumstances of profound regional insecurity, at the moment when civil conflicts and militarized trans-border wars that scarred the GLR throughout the 1990s were still raging. Although ceasefires and peace agreements had begun to gain prominence as avenues out of violent confrontations, armed groups remained a large part of the regional landscape, causing mayhem across communities and states. In this fragile environment, DDR activities sought to contribute to broader international and regional efforts to lay the foundations for enduring peace and security.
More critical, most of these programs served as preconditions for political reconstruction by demilitarizing society, allowing fledgling and legitimate authorities to reclaim the monopoly on the means of violence, and fostering confidence among formerly warring groups and states in the region. Equally vital, during this preliminary stabilization phase, the MDRP focused on building national capacity for DDR by lending expertise and comparative experiences to states that barely had the resources and institutions to manage such enormous programs.
Over the last seven years, the MDRP has laid the basis for stabilization by substantially reducing the number of armed groups, building functional programs with a modicum of national ownership, and tentatively setting the stage for national and regional recovery. Throughout these engagements, the MDRP has collated valuable lessons and experiences that are important in informing ongoing and future programs.
In contrast to the pattern of regional insecurity in the early 2000s, the current environment is characterized by remarkable strides in the reconstruction of states, societies, and economies in the GLR. For the most part, the region has steadily entered the post-conflict phase, even though signs of a transition to economic recovery have not found a solid footing, and violent conflicts still confront significant parts of some of the states. The core states of the GLR-Burundi, the DRC, Rwanda, and Uganda-have witnessed improvements in peace and security due to political settlements among former foes. In the contiguous states-Angola, the Central African Republic, and the Republic of the Congo-previous widespread challenges to central authorities have gradually weakened. But the lessening of violent conflicts belies formidable obstacles to building durable peace, sturdy governance structures, and sound economic institutions. Armed insurgencies and rebellions in Burundi, Eastern Congo, and Uganda continue to challenge legitimate authorities, exacting a toll on civilians, and impeding the return to economic normalcy. Furthermore, although peace agreements ended the spates of violent conflicts in the GLR, the resulting political compromises still exhibit signs of fragility as elites jostle to adapt to new and untested rules of competition.
These regional security trends form a large part of the transitional uncertainties between conflict and recovery in which regional actors are still refining and defining post-conflict institutions. Some states are further along in rebuilding institutions of order, participation, and prosperity, but others face overwhelming odds in meeting these objectives. Given this context, the dangers of relapse into conflict may potentially overshadow the regional gains in the restoration of durable peace and security. This is particularly pertinent in the GLR which has had legacy of weak regional institutions for security, stability, and development.