Four months after the contested re-election of President Kabila, and two months after the last MONUSCO briefing of February 7, 2012, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) was again the topic of a Security Council meeting last Friday. This time, however, the discussion was not about the irregularities that had affected the electoral process but about security sector reform (SSR). This “Arria-formula” meeting on “SSR in the DRC” called by France concluded a week of advocacy by a coalition of Congolese and international NGOs around the release of a report “DRC: Taking a Stand on Security Sector Reform.”
The issue is not a new one, and many, including at IPI, have argued that the lack of comprehensive security-sector reform and donor coordination in SSR are the biggest impediments to the creation of conditions that would allow Congolese institutions to effectively take over MONUSCO’s security role, and similar language made it to MONUSCO’s mandate in June 2011 (Resolution 1991). Also, it is not unusual to see a flurry of advocacy efforts ahead of the renewal of the UN DRC mission’s mandate at the end of June every year. What’s new is that this initiative focuses on SSR—with a particular emphasis on defense sector reform (DSR)—and has seen the involvement of many Congolese civil society organizations.
But the key question remains: is the necessary political will of the Congolese government and political cohesion of the international community there this time to make this post-election SSR push work in the DRC?
Although MONUSCO’s mandate includes supporting the development by Congolese authorities of a comprehensive SSR strategy, the political will for SSR has long been missing in Kinshasa.
In spite of President Kabila’s recent declarations on ending military operations in the Kivus and his intention to arrest General Bosco Ntaganda, there is no real indication that these could lead to a larger defense sector reform.
In this context, the idea of an SSR Compact between the DRC government, the international community and the Congolese people/civil society has some validity. The challenge will be for these constituencies to find a common purpose and build a common long-term vision for the security sector, which the government owns.
While the contested elections may have weakened the Kabila regime’s legitimacy, this does not mean that joint donor pressure will work. Rather than trying to leverage aid, the international community and Congolese civil society should focus their efforts on reengaging with the new Kinshasa government at the highest level, with the g7+ New Deal For Engagement in Fragile States as a possible framework.
As usefully recalled at the occasion of the October 12, 2011 Security Council debate on SSR, national ownership and political will are prerequisites for SSR efforts to be both legitimate and sustainable, and SSR are long-term processes. MONUSCO’s latest mandate (Resolution 1991), mindful of these considerations, reiterated the primary responsibility of the government of the DRC regarding the professionalization of its security sector and urges the Congolese authorities, with the support of MONUSCO, to develop and implement a comprehensive national security sector development strategy, and to coordinate the efforts of the international community. It also calls upon all member states and international organizations to fully cooperate with the Congolese authorities in this regard.
While the political will in Kinshasa for a comprehensive SSR has long been missing, recent events have reopened the debate. In an April visit to Goma, President Kabila announced (although in ambiguous terms) the end of Amani Leo military operations in the Kivus, and his intention to arrest defector FARDC General Bosco Ntaganda and deliver him to the International Criminal Court. But even if this plan is implemented, there is however no real indication that it could be the first steps towards a larger defense sector reform, and military operations in the east of the country are likely to continue for some time.
The Congolese authorities have long preferred bilateral arrangements to train and equip the FARDC (European Union, Belgium, France, the US, China, Angola, South Africa, etc.) rather than a comprehensive reform and rebuilding of the state’s security sector. In spite of last year’s law on the armed forces and a 2010 army reform plan, the DRC authorities had in the past given priority to the short-term appeasement of former rebels (including General Bosco Ntaganda, who was integrated into the FARDC as part of the CNDP group) over building a unified professional army.
In this context, the above-mentioned report “DRC: Taking a Stand on Security Sector Reform” makes some useful suggestions. The idea of an SSR Compact between the DRC government, the international community and the Congolese people/civil society has some validity. The challenge will be for these constituencies to find a common purpose and build a common long-term vision for the security sector as a whole, which the government of DRC owns. In addition, while defense sector reform is key and the Congolese army has been a big part of the problem, the building and deployment of an effective police (and justice system) trusted by the people will also have to be part of the solution.
The report also suggests that the international community and donors in particular use their leverage (by expanding benchmarks on aid and placing UN sanctions on DRC army personnel that block reform, among other things) to promote the necessary political will. But while the contested elections may have weakened the Kabila regime’s legitimacy, this does not mean that joint donor pressure will work. Furthermore, international donors have yet to demonstrate that they can act in a coordinated manner in supporting Congolese SSR.
The real opportunity for the international community may lie with the new Prime Minister Augustin Matata Ponyo, who is known as a technocrat, and the Congolese civil society with engaging the new DRC government at the highest level. The endorsement by the DRC of the g7+ New Deal and its five Peacebuilding and Statebuilding Goals (PSGs) including “security” could be an interesting framework for restarting a dialogue between these constituencies, following a contested election that may have further divided them.
Arthur Boutellis is a Research Fellow at the International Peace Institute
About the photo: A model unit for the future of the Congolese military. Photo: US Army Africa/Flickr