Security Sector Reform in the Congo

Posted in Africa | 14-Feb-06 | Source: International Crisis Group


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.


On police training and reform

To Donors and the United Nations:

1. Agree on a long-term common training program and use the new police reflection group (groupe de réflexion) to:

(a) improve liaison between donors and Congolese institutions, notably the National Police, immediately and harmonise training programs;

(b) conduct a systematic review of the police before elections to evaluate the most important threats to human security; and

(c) match needs with resources in a comprehensive long-term strategy, including creation of a national gendarmerie.

2. Accompany training on human rights codes and conduct with greater emphasis on the practical operational details of policing so that trainees receive a strong grounding in such basics as investigation, forensic evidence collection, interviewing and protecting witnesses and children (especially in sexual violence cases), handling crime scenes, and helping prosecutors build cases.

3. Make completion of a proper accounting of available police manpower a priority.

4. Condition further donor aid on an increase in police salaries and separation of payment of those salaries from the chain of command along the lines of the model now being used for the army as a means to combat corruption and promote loyalty to the force.

To the Congolese Authorities:

5. Establish specially trained and equipped squads to combat the high prevalence of violent sex crimes and create safe rooms for children and survivors of sexual violence in police stations.

6. Recruit proactively and promote women with the ultimate aim of establishing much greater parity in the police service.

On army training and reform

To the Congolese Authorities:

7. Integrate and simplify, in consultation with donors, the national command and decision-making structures so as to improve coordination between the various reform programs and reduce opportunities to stall the process.

8. Conduct, in consultation with donors, a systematic review of the army that evaluates security threats and seeks to match needs and resources in a comprehensive long-term strategy.

9. Reduce the army’s target size from 100,000-125,000 to a more realistic and sustainable 60,000-70,000.

10. Reduce the Presidential Guard dramatically from 12,000-15,000 to 600-800 troops and integrate the remainder into the regular army structure.

11. Move as quickly as possible in the parliament after the April 2006 elections to establish an appropriate defence oversight committee and require the government to detail fully its proposed defence spending in the annual budget.

To Donors and the United Nations:

12. Expand the EU plan to separate salary payment from the chain of command with salary increases and improved living conditions for rank and file soldiers, conditioning further aid to the military on prompt implementation.

13. Establish an International Military Assistance and Training Team (IMATT), including the European Union’s military mission (EUSEC) and participation from such major donors as the EU, Angola and South Africa, as a means of coordinating security sector reform and advisory programs and to:

(a) take a hands-on approach by having technical advisers oversee the payroll and accompany training and subsequent operations of deployed units;

(b) help establish standards and train Congolese trainers; and

(c) oversee rehabilitation of the army’s training camps and enhance its logistical capabilities.

14. Increase donor investment in army integration to match support for the demobilisation process, using funds in particular for equipment, housing, health care and school fees for soldiers’ children, starting with the integrated brigades.

To the European Union:

15. Consult immediately with the Congolese authorities and the UN and deploy additional forces, for example the new EU gendarmerie, to secure Lubumbashi and pacify northern and central Katanga.

16. Continue to adopt a constructive and flexible approach toward the need to increase investment in reform of the military sector, consistent with ODA eligibility under OECD/Development Assistance Committee (DAC) guidelines, as the Commission did recently in justifying its financing of the refurbishment of army integration centres.

To the UN Security Council:

17. Follow-up more aggressively in the Congo Sanctions Committee cases where the panel of experts has identified regional violators of the arms embargo and implement targeted sanctions such as asset freezes and travel bans to help the elected government acquire a monopoly of force in the country.

To the OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC):

18. Review the conditions and guidelines of Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) eligibility in the DAC to satisfy any concerns donors may have about the propriety of engaging more proactively in security sector reform.

Nairobi/Brussels, 13 February 2006

Africa Report N°104