Summary overview of security sector reform processes in the DRC

from Institute for Security Studies
Published on 06 Jan 2005
The opinions expressed in this Situation Report do not necessarily reflect those of the Institute, its Trustees, members of the Council, or donors. Institute research staff and outside contributors write and comment in their personal capacity and their views do not represent a formal position by the ISS.


...Security sector reform is the transformation of the security system which includes all the actors, their roles, responsibilities and actions, so that it is managed and operated in a manner that is more consistent with democratic norms and sound principles of good governance, and thus contributes to a well-functioning security framework. Responsible and accountable security forces reduce the risk of conflict, provide security for citizens and create the right environment for sustainable development. The overall objective of security sector reform is to contribute to a secure environment that is conducive to development.2

The Democratic Republic of the Congo's (DRC) transitional government, in power since June 2003, continues to face significant challenges in implementing crucial aspects of the transition, most notably in the area of security. A key component of the transitional agenda, the terms of reference for security sector reform (SSR) are outlined in the resolutions and provisions of the Global and All-inclusive Accord signed in Pretoria on 17 December 2002 (Annex V, article 2a). This accord, a result of input from various Congolese actors, including rebel, political and civil society leaders, aimed at the establishment of long-term peace in the country while countering the decay and disintegration that are the result of 32 years of Mobutist rule and seven years of high intensity conflict.3

As the term suggests, "political transition" is an interim stage - it began with the implementation of the Pretoria agreements and will cease with the establishment of a new political system based on a new constitution adopted by referendum, and an elected government in the DRC. Yet, numerous obstacles and often contradictory priorities have characterized the transition period. Since the inauguration of the transitional government, several delays have obstructed the implementation of crucial aspects of the transition. The most significant of these delays have negatively affected the reintegration of the national army, the nomination of provincial governors and regional military commanders, and the promulgation of key laws such as the amnesty, nationality, land and military law. These delays have been attributed to competing agendas between components of the transitional government, deep-seated distrust between them and an accompanying unwillingness by parties to reach compromise on central issues. In fact, this view was recently affirmed by the International Committee to Accompany the Transition (CIAT) who expressed concern about what it called "delays in implementation of the transition programmes" and "political tensions and obstacles observed of late." In addition, a certain level of technical incompetence within the transitional government has also been noted.4

From its inception, the success of the interim agenda has been thought to depend on a sequential approach to peace-building so that the end state (long-term peace in the DRC, underpinned by a democratically elected government) is reached in a functional manner, with individual critical components of the transition being regarded as interdependent. Coming to a consensus on the hierarchy of priorities has nevertheless been a highly complex and difficult task - yet, most observers would agree that, in this regard at least, security is of paramount importance.

The current stage of peace-building has therefore been dominated by a discourse focused on security and legal/constitutional concerns. Beyond power sharing in Kinshasa, assuring security and freedom of movement for the Congolese people is regarded as a pre-condition for the effective reunification of the DRC. In this process, the security of people, property and institutions is a prerequisite for the attainment of other peace dividends, such as aid for reconstruction and development, job creation and economic rehabilitation, foreign investment, etc.

However, the most recent developments in the eastern provinces of the DRC (North and South Kivu) and in the Ituri District, where sporadic outbreaks of fighting continue despite the presence of a strengthened UN peacekeeping force, are evidence of the scale of security challenges facing the transitional government. Moreover, the recent threat of a return of Rwandan forces to the east of the DRC has not helped improve stability in the area. Rwandan President Paul Kagame has threatened to send soldiers back to the Kivu provinces should the Congolese government fail to disarm and repatriate the Hutu Forces of the Democratic Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) considered as active agents during the1994 Rwandan genocide. Kagame has accused the international community (including the United Nations Mission in the DRC, MONUC) of failing to help in disarming these Hutu forces. On 29 November 2004, the Permanent Representative of the Republic of Rwanda made the following statement before the United Nations Security Council on the Council's Mission to the Great Lakes Region:

...Over the last three months, these genocidal forces have carried out a series of attacks on Rwandan territory. They have killed our people and continue to destroy property. Furthermore, in their planning, these forces do not only intend to attempt to complete the genocide of 1994, they have also targeted key infrastructure, vital for Rwanda's economy.

Ironically, barely a week had passed since, at the end of the Conference on Peace, Security, Democracy and Development in the Great Lakes, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan had optimistically stated that"people of the region now have every reason to hope". Rwanda alleged invasion of the eastern DRC was met with a rapid mobilisation operation and the deployment of hastily 'integrated' Forces Armées de la République Démocratique du Congo (FARDC) to the Kivus. And, even though a verification mechanism had been established between Rwanda, DRC and MONUC (following the Gatumba massacre in Burundi) to investigate instances of border violations between the DRC and Rwanda, the mechanism was not used to verify the alleged invasion of Rwandan Forces into the DRC.

At a time when more than half of the transitional period has lapsed, and only five months until the date agreed upon for elections, the fact that little progress has been achieved in the pivotal area of security sector reform (SSR) is a serious cause for concern. Despite the deployment of Military Regional Commanders (MRCs) in the fall of 2003, tasked with the integration of existing forces into the FARDC, the armed forces in the DRC are far from having been integrated. With the exception of one integrated brigade trained by a Belgian-led team from January to June 2004 MRCs have little control over the armed elements under their command.

The FARDC'spoor command and control structures, and lack of regular support and payment of salariesto its forces, contributes to indiscipline among its ranks, which increasingly depend on the local population for their sustenance. Foreign backers of former belligerents remain influent - posing a serious obstacle to the creation of a new, integrated Congolese national army.

The reform of the security sector therefore lies at the heart of the DRC's transformation process - in fact, the lack of progress on military integration has proven to be a significant destabilising factor affecting several other areas of the transition's agenda.The international community has also identified the need to prioritise reform of this sector, not least the European Union (EU), which speaks of SSR as the "priority of priorities" in the DRC.

The following situation report provides a summary overview of SSR processes in the DRC, with emphasis on the integration of military and police forces and the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) programme.

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