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DR Congo Army

The Army of the Congo does not exist. The Government of the DR Congo [GDRC] purports to have an army, but the formation of that name is not recognizable as an army in modern terms. Possibly Attila the Hun might have recognized this congeries of fighters and commanders and warlords, but it resembles modern armies in name only.

The Forces Armées de la République Démocratique du Congo (FARDC - Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo) is the Congolese national army, such as it is. The army is relatively poorly trained (even by local standards) and has infantry, some armor, air defense and artillery units. The infantry seem to be a conglomerate of ex-FAZ (old Zairian Armed Forces) and recruits collected by the ADFL during the 1997 conflict.

The FARDC was formed in 2003 as a result of the Inter-Congolese Dialogue's Global and All-Inclusive Agreement on the Transition in December 2002, which created a plan for integrating President Joseph Kabila’s Army, the Congolese Armed Forces (FAC - backed by Angola, Zimbabwe and Namibia), the Rally for Congolese Democracy (RCD - backed by Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda) and the Movement for the Liberation of the Congo (MLC - backed by Uganda). Some of these fighters would be demobilized, and others formed into Integrated Brigades consisting of fighters from all three factions.

The overall strength of FARDC was variously estimated to be from 100,000–150,000 troops, with 60,000 troops at or close to retirement. In trying to determine exact strength it is important to keep in mind the Congolese military tradition of exaggerating - and sometimes doubling - numbers. The traditional practice of Zairian / Congolese commanders skimming funds from the payroll, leaving little or no money to actually pay the troops, encouraged inflated claims of troop strength.

The integration of armed groups has resulted in poor loyalty, indiscipline, and disruptions in the chain of command. Integrated Bridages are composed of soldiers with different backgrounds (ex-RCD, ex- MLC, ex-Mai Mai or government) and come from different regions of the DRC. The army suffers from inadequate budget, lack of equipment, lack of pay, and a weak military justice system. North Kivu is under command of the 8th military region and South Kivu is under the command of the 10th military region. FARDC units and commanders from the 8th and 10th military regions are involved in mining in many locations in North and South Kivu.

The Congolese military suffers from low morale, weak command and control, widespread corruption, haphazard administration, poor operational planning, limited training and equipment, and questionable military capability. FARDC units throughout the country regularly engaged in illegal taxation and extortion of civilians. They set up checkpoints to collect “taxes,” often stealing food and money and arresting individuals who could not pay bribes.

State and irregular military forces are responsible for many of the worst human rights abuses in the country. FARDC troops have committed numerous human rights violations. Armed groups, including rebel groups and members of the Congolese National Army (FARDC), continue to recruit and use children in their units. Senior FARDC officers have obstructed UN efforts to oversee the release of child soldiers. The Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo provided training to some police and military personnel on preventing the use of child soldiers, but it did not prosecute any military officers for conscripting or using children for armed conflict. The army is equipped with a wide variety of military equipment, most of which came from the United States, France, and China, and almost all of which is inoperable due to lack of maintenance.

Sobel is a portmanteau of soldier and rebel. It reflects the actions of some soldiers taking part in activities such as raping and looting that are often ascribed to rebels. The fluidity with which certain individuals move between being rebels and soldiers in Kivu, a mineral-rich region in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) hampered efforts to secure and stabilize the area. A number of M23 rebels defected and joined, or attempted to join, the FARDC. Some feel these M23 deserters are trying to avoid international prosecution after being named and accused in UN reports of atrocities and human rights violations against civilians. If so, their absorption into FARDC, an organization which already suffers from numerous accusations of human rights abuses, could prove problematic. The government of the DRC was anxious to quell the conflict in Kivu, and having rebels defect then join the FARDC might help stabilize the region. However, if the rebels are joining the FARDC with the intent of undermining it, or if they are trying to escape possible prosecution, the end result would be a weaker military, not a stronger one.

The army in 1993 had included only 25,000 soldiers, and had grown over the following two decades by accretion, as former rebel forces were "integrated" into the army of Kinshsa. But conditions had not changed much over the years. Maintenance personnel often lacked the training necessary to maintain modern military equipment. The most important factor that negatively affected maintenance in the 1990s was the low and irregular pay that soldiers received, resulting in the theft and sale of spare parts and even basic equipment to supplement their meager salaries. When not stealing spare parts and equipment, maintenance personnel often spend the better part of their duty day looking for other ways to profit.

For the most part the Zairian army was not a combat-effective organization. The typical army brigade, such as the 21st Infantry Brigade in Lubumbashi, had virtually no offensive capability and only very limited defensive capability. The problems were manifold: ineffective leadership detracted from tactical and technical proficiency as well as morale; poor maintenance resulted in insufficient resources for mission accomplishment; and lack of funds limited the army's ability to purchase sufficient amounts of equipment or to pay soldiers a living wage. These conditions had long existed in almost all regular Zairian units and combined to keep capability at minimum levels. In the chaotic political climate prevailing in the early 1990s, the loyalty and effectiveness of individual military units are open to question. Clearly, the looting and rioting by military personnel in September 1991 and in early 1993 were indicative of a serious problem. The suppression of the violence reportedly included summarily executing hundreds of military looters.

There are army bases at N’djili, Kitona, Kotakoli and in Lubumbashi. Air force bases are at N’djili and Kamina. Naval bases are at Matadi, Kinshasa and Banana.

A plan for armed forces reform was presented to the parliament in October 2009.

  1. Phase I (2010-2011): reorganize the army, "participate" in operations to secure the country, and prepare to relieve MONUC
  2. Phase II (2011-2016): consolidate the new organization and territorial orientation of the army
  3. Phase III (2016-2025): conduct operations to assure territorial defense and peace

The goal of the reforms was to develop a professional, modern, and credible republican army, which is a deterrent to internal or external aggression. This established a revised chain of command to implement army reform that featured a parallel command structure that places recruitment, training, logistics, and administrative matters under the Ministry of Defense; and the combatant commands under the Chief of Staff. While both command structures would ultimately report to the president, the exclusion of the Minister of Defense from the combat chain of command effectively centralizes military authority in the presidency.

In 2010 the Congo unveiled a three defensive zone strategy, centered on the largest urban areas of Kinshasa, Lubumbashi, and Kisangani [known before independence as Stanleyville] and could extend political control into surrounding rural areas by influencing key population centers near international borders. The strategy, if implemented, could also help restore some of Kisangani's lost luster. The defensive posture, centered on the three largest cities, was designed around economic centers. It is noteworthy that the geographic placement also complements President Kabila's centers of power: the capital in Kinshasa; his base of support in Lubumbashi; and Kisangani, gateway to the East and purported construction site of a new presidential retreat.

The army remained poorly equipped, operationally incapable of force projection and logistical resupply, and suffered numerous personnel problems. Chief among the latter are the absence of support for military dependents, insufficient discipline and a lack of respect for human rights in the force itself, which is a composite army with imbalances in ethnic and geographic composition, of which 70% are untrained and 40% aged. Establishment of a training command under the Minister of Defense would address one problem and retirement would deal with the other problem. Retirements offer a means to reduce the force, replace those incapable of performing their duties with new recruits, and demonstrate the government's resolve in honoring soldiers' service with a severance package.

In April 2010 the head of MONUC peacekeepers, Alan Doss, told the Security Council that there remained substantial structural shortfalls in a force drawn from both the remnants of the army of long-time dictator Mobutu Sese Seko and various militia who fought against Mobutu. "Discipline is likely to remain a constant concern as long as the structural problems of the Congolese Army are not fully resolved, including persistent delays in the payment of salaries, insufficient supplies and a very low level of training of many troops, especially those who have been integrated from the various armed groups," said Doss.

Doss said Congo's army had taken some important measures to improve discipline as the number of soldiers prosecuted for crimes against civilians has increased substantially. But he said military impunity was still an area that needs significant improvement as part of overall efforts to reform Congo's security sector.

In accordance with Security Council resolution 1925 PDF Document of 28 May 2010, MONUC was renamed as of 1 July the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) to reflect the new phase reached in the country.

On 28 March 2013, acting in support of the objectives of the Framework agreement for Peace, Security and Cooperation for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the region, and answering the call of Governments in Africa’s Great Lakes region, the Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 2098 (2013), by which it extended until 31 March 2014, the mandate of MONUSCO and created a specialized “intervention brigade” to strengthen the peacekeeping operation.

In June 2013 the government presented a revision of the 2009 military reform plan that focused on urgent 12-month reforms but included the original 10-year goals as well. The plan also envisioned restructuring the FARDC and creating rapid reaction brigades to replace MONUSCO’s Intervention Brigade. The reform plan requires the adoption of four pieces of legislation, three of which were promulgated during 2013.

On 28 March 2014, the Security Council, by its resolution 2147, extended the mandate of MONUSCO until 31 March 2015 and decided that the renewed mandate would also include MONUSCO’s Intervention Brigade — “on an exceptional basis and without creating a precedent or any prejudice” — within the authorized troop ceiling of 19,815 military personnel, 760 military observers and staff officers, 391 police personnel and 1,050 formed police units.

The DRC government’s new program of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration called PNDDR III (Programme national de désarmement, démobilisation et réinsertion) has faced serious challenges. The defeat of M23 spurred many Congolese combatants to surrender. However, at the time, there was little preparedness for such surrender. In part due to problems with the plan submitted by Congolese authorities, there were significant delays in donors financing the submitted budget. This meant that regrouping sites (centres de regroupement) for former combatants where inadequately equipped and supplied to take care of combatants. As a result, many former combatants left after waiting for months to be transported to the Kamina, Kitona, and Kotakoli transit camps.

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Page last modified: 23-06-2015 20:53:06 ZULU