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Congo-Brazzaville - Military Personnel

In early 1970 the armed forces, with a strength of about 3,400 men, represented the largest military establishment maintained by any of the four states of the former Federation of French Equatorial Africa (Afrique Equatoriale FrancaiseAEF). The principal elements of this force were the National People's Army (Armee Populaire NationaleAPN) of about 2,000 men, with its small integral navy and air force, and the independently organized National Gendarmerie (Gendarmerie Nationale), which numbered about 1,400.

By August 2001, the army numbered 8,000, the navy about 800 and the air force 1,200. There were 5,000 men in paramilitary forces, comprising 2,000 members of the Gendarmerie and 3,000 of the People's Militia. The latter was in the process of being absorbed into the national army in August 2001. The president is the Supreme Commander of the armed forces.

The minimum age for recruitment into the armed forces is 18. Military conscription does not exist in the Republic of Congo. There has been no conscription in the Republic of Congo since 1969. Enlistment into the armed forces is voluntary. There is no known legal provision for conscientious objection.

The principal source of manpower for the military services was voluntary enlistment, although a compulsory military service system was provided for by law if a sufficient number of volunteers was not obtained. Over the years, however, the inducements of military service had proved attractive enough to have made it unnecessary for the government to resort to conscription to meet established quotas. Physically qualified males between the ages of fifteen and forty-nine were eligible for military services and usually provided enough volunteers to keep the military establishment up to authorized levels. Upon release from active service, conscripts were required to-serve in a reserve status for a total of fifteen years, less the actual number of years served on active duty. The lack of training facilities and budgetary limitations, however, served to limit the emergency capabilities of this reserve manpower group.

Promotion of both officers and enlisted men within the armed forces was by selection, except that promotion to the grade of lieutenant was automatic after two years' service as a second lieutenant. All promotions were based on a specified time in service in the lower grade, demonstration of military qualification, and the recommendations of military superiors. Retirement for officers was based on age and varied from sixty-two years for a general to forty-six years for a second lieutenant. Noncommissioned officers and other enlisted men were eligible for retirement after a minimum period of fifteen years' service.

Since their establishment, all elements of the armed forces have enjoyed a relatively high pay scale. Rates of pay compared favorably to those earned by civilians in the public service and were a motivating factor in the retention of competent personnel on active duty. Early in 1969, shortly after assuming control of the government, President Ngouabi announced new pay increases both for the civil service and the military forces. These increases amounted to nearly 40 percent for those in the lower grades, about 20 percent for the middle grades, and a little less for those serving in the higher positions.

The regular army was traditionally led by officers mainly from northern Congo. A portion of the army reportedly remained sympathetic to Sassou after his defeat by Lissouba in the 1992 elections. Since his return to power, Sassou's control over the army had, however, been tenuous. One of the problems was irregular payment of soldiers' salaries.

Militia groups were created to serve as the private armies of the country's three main political leaders. Militia men were drawn mainly from the home areas of the respective leaders, a trend which resulted in sharp cleavages between regional groups based on ethnic or regional lines. The politics of Congo-Brazzaville are triangular, representing three different parts of the country. Two sides of the triangle become aligned against the third, and those alliances are constantly shifting.

The level of discipline among the militia varied and some have been accused of serious human rights abuses against unarmed civilian populations, further contributing to growing divisions and feelings of resentment. The entrenchment of a militia culture in Congo-Brazzaville was fuelled by several factors, including worsening socio-economic conditions, widespread unemployment and lack of opportunity, a sense of hopelessness, the legacy of the 1993/4 and 1997 civil wars, the pervasiveness of and easy access to weapons and instability in neighboring countries.

Agreements reached after the 1993/4 civil war to disarm or dismantle the militia groups, including one initiated under UNESCO's Culture of Peace program, were never implemented. Another disarmament attempt, started by President Denis Sassou-Nguesso in December 1997, resulted in violent clashes. The militia were reluctant to relinquish their weapons because they serve as a source of power and revenue to them, observers note.

Following the first civil war in Congo-Brazzaville, the belligerents agreed to a ceasefire in January 1994. In December 1994 "the government and opposition formed a coordinating body to oversee the disarmament of militia and the restoration of judicial authority. . . President Lissouba and his opponents, Kolelas and Sassou, signed an agreement to end hostilities." In January 1995 the government of President Lissouba announced the integration of 2,000 disbanded militia into the army. In December 1995 political parties agreed to disarm their militia and integrate 1,200 of them into the security forces. According to Amnesty International, "integration of militia enabled all political parties to have an influence in the security forces, thus adversely affecting morale and discipline. Although as many as 4,000 former militia were reportedly integrated between 1994 and 1996, militia activities continued" (AI, Mar. 1999, p.7).

Only a small proportion of the non-government affiliated militia forces, however, were integrated into the regular army and it was an attempt by the government in May 1997 to disarm the militia group associated with Sassou-Nguesso, following inter-militia unrest, that led to "fierce conflict along ethnic and political lines involving militia groups and opposing factions within the regular armed forces" and to the second Congolese civil war (Newafrica.com, no date).

In the 1990s the army was supported by Angolan troops, who have remained in the country since helping Sassou win the 1997 war. Analysts estimate theirt number at 1,500. 'La Semaine Africaine' newspaper quoted an Angolan officer in Brazzaville as saying Angolan troops would stay in the country as part of efforts to combat the alleged cooperation between the rebel movements seeking to topple the governments of Angola, DRC and Congo-Brazzaville.

Insecurity linked to armed groups allied to Congo's key political figures continued sporadically since the end of the 1997 war. Without a resolution to the militia phenomenon, regional analysts said it was difficult to foresee an end to the instability plaguing the country. The potential for a wider and more explosive conflict would persist even if government forces succeeded in gaining control of the security situation in the immediate term, they say.

UNHCR in February 1999 said it had confirmed that some Rwandans who had been refugees in Congo-Brazzaville had joined the latest fighting in the country. It said 300-400 Rwandans from northern sites and "several hundred men" from the Kintele refugee camp near Brazzaville had been armed and deployed by the Congolese armed forces. Thousands of Rwandan refugees arrived in the country in May 1997 after fleeing their refugee camps in eastern DRC. Rwandan elements were reported to have participated on both sides of the conflict during the 1997 war in Brazzaville.

Opposition groups said other foreign forces, including Cubans, were supporting Sassou, a claim denied by the government. The government, meanwhile, alleged that Angolan UNITA rebels were supporting the Ninja, a claim denied by the opposition.

Former government soldiers who had supported Lissouba or Kollas might be at risk as well. Another group of soldiers who may be at risk are those who have refused to reintegrate the armed forces since the fall of Lissouba and who may thus be accused of supporting the armed opposition or being opposed to the government of President Sassou.

In an effort to sustain peace, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), in partnership with the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) ran a program to disarm former militia fighters and provide them with grants to initiate businesses. Since July 2000, US$8 million was targeted at 15,000 former combatants, but only US$3 million was actually donated by the international community.

The scheme stalled for lack of funds, although Sweden, the European Union and the Congolese Government have pledged more money for the program. The programme reintegrated 7,500 former fighters into civilian life through funds and training to start small businesses. Some 1,800 had been reintegrated, mainly into the army. Additionally, 12,000 small arms were collected and destroyed under the program.

On 6 December 2002 officials announced the end of the IOM project. It had collected 20,000 weapons and reintegrated thousands of militiamen into civilian society. The Government has received 4.6 million Euros from the World Bank to continue its own reintegration program.

From July 18 to July 29, 2016, the French 6th Marine Infantry Battalion Engineers and Infantry Operations Detachments traveled to the Democratic Republic of the Congo to conduct training for the Armed Forces of country. This operational training detachment consisted of three training periods in the Kitona military schools, conducted jointly for 108 trainees, mostly non-commissioned officers. These various courses were completed by the traditional closing ceremonies.

The first, armed by the Infantry Operations Assistance Detachment, was set up to train future Section Chiefs in the Tactical Reasoning and Section Ordering 'infantry. The second, focused on combat in urban areas, formed the "commandos of research and action in depth" to individual gestures and closed combat. With the help of the medical team, the trainees were also trained in urban first aid. Finally, the Engineering Assistance Detachment has taken on the training of future engineering instructors at Kitona schools, particularly in the area of knowledge and implementation of explosives. In addition, a mining and demining component was added to their training.

The variety and complementarity of these trainings are part of a dialogue for the planning of operational cooperation implemented by the EFGs with the FRDCs. These activities contribute to strengthening the know-how of these partner armed forces by responding to their specific needs while participating in their operational readiness for their projection into peacekeeping operations.

As an operational cooperation center, French Elements in Gabon (EFG) complement the training of military personnel from the partner countries of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) during their preparation before engaging in internal or external operations. Nearly 8400 trainees are distributed each year in more than 200 highly specialized courses. The EFG is also an operational and logistical support point in West Africa for the conduct of French army operations.





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