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DR Congo - Military Doctrine

Congo’s security sector is plethoric, disorganized, and factionalized. It has proven largely ineffective at fighting military enemies, while it excels at repressing domestic civilian opponents. Sustainable peace and stability in eastern Congo will require professional and accountable Congolese security forces and a strong and independent judicial system. Congo’s security sector is plethoric, disorganized, and factionalized. It has proven largely ineffective at fighting military enemies, while it excels at repressing domestic civilian opponents.

The stated mission of both the army and the gendarmerie was to secure Zaire against external threats, but in practice these forces mainly fulfill an internal security role and serve to bolster the rule of President Mobutu Sese Seko. During the chaotic and anarchic period of the early 1990s, this role degenerated into occasional looting and violence against the population by armed forces elements that had not been paid. In view of the role of parts of the military (and the security services) in lootings and various mutinies in the early 1990s, it was unclear what de facto or de jure chain of command exists within the FAZ.

Protecting the president is the Republican Guard, the president’s own praetorian troops, who operate autonomously from the FARDC and respond directly to him and General Banze Lubunji. They number 10,000-15,000 — largely northern Katangese recruits — and are the most consistently paid of all security forces, and are both feared and despised across the country. They are mostly deployed in Kinshasa and Katanga, around centers of power, and near large mining areas.

Lack of coherence in the armed forces and security services, of which there is a confusing array, is not new. For example, since the dissolution of the national police force in 1972, the National Gendarmerie has functioned as a de facto police force, and its ability to perform its paramilitary role is virtually nonexistent. The Civil Guard was formed to function as a national police force in order to permit the gendarmerie to resume its stated mission as the country's first line of defense. The interaction between these two organizations was, however, never fully defined. As a result, Zaire in essence had two competing police organizations with overlapping responsibilities.

The FAZ [Forces Armees Zairoises] lack of coherence has at times degenerated into chaos. This situation did not start at independence but was rooted in the history of the Belgian colonial armed forces, the Force Publique. The Zairian military's lack of discipline was first displayed shortly after independence when the Force Publique mutinied against its Belgian officers. Despite the removal of the Belgian officers, and the renaming of the force as the Congolese National Army (Armee Nationale Congolaise—ANC), the disintegration of the armed forces continued.

The reasons for the persistence of conflicts in the DRC are complex. Although the repeated armed conflicts in eastern Congo are often treated as a separate problem from the general challenges plaguing the rest of the DRC, they are in fact both fed by and in turn feed the country’s general political problems. The fragile nature of the Congolese state, imperfect or illegitimate democracy, abuse of rights, and poor governance all contribute to the onset and perpetuation of armed conflict and political violence.

Lack of effective security sector governance or rule of law undermines individuals’ and communities’ sense of security, causing them to seek protection from other sources or establish their own self-protection mechanisms — such as in the form of militias. Abuse of human rights undermines trust in the state and can foster new grievances that provide fuel to narratives of armed struggle. Frustrations over poor economic governance and inequitable access to resources feeds conflict as well.

When the state lacks the capacity or willingness to maintain basic control of its territory, the effective “cost” of rebellion is low. Militant activity therefore becomes a more attractive economic prospect, as a small number of armed men with guns can seize control of public resources for private gain.

The troubling instances of violence and human rights abuses most commonly associated with conflict in the DRC — atrocities against civilians, sexual and gender based violence, child soldiering, forced labor, and illicit trade in minerals and other natural resources — are tragic outcomes of the broader problems of conflict and fragile governance. Bringing violence to a halt requires addressing the source of conflict and frail governance, not merely providing relief for chronic violations of rights.

Just as the DRC’s chronic political problems feed conflict, armed conflict and insecurity have a negative effect on democracy, human rights, and governance. Armed conflict has allowed elites and political factions to gain power and positions in the state through non-democratic means.

Since the 1996-1997 war, taking up arms has become the most important means to gain influence in the political system. The First Congo War brought Laurent Kabila and his AFDL colleagues to power. The peace deal implemented in 2003 brought the RCD, MLC, and other rebel groups into government. Then, once again in 2009, a peace deal brought Ntaganda and others from the CNDP into the regime.

Despite the 2006 transition, democratic institutions are only one forum among several for competing for political power, and the continuing success of armed groups in gaining attention from both the government and international community undermines the impact of democratic processes such as elections.

Groups that choose peaceful means to seek power, such as Tshisekedi’s Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS), find their ambitions frustrated by the failings of the democratic process and are unable to gain the attention of the international community.

In July 2007, the Congolese Minister of Defense presented a "Master Plan". It provided for a national army that rests on four pillars, or a four part strategy to establish: a deterrent army, including a rapid reaction force capable of taking over responsibility for the territorial integrity of the DRC from the UN by 2009; an "army of excellence" that will include training and education on human rights, as well as improved benefits and living conditions for troops and dependants; an "army of production", based on the Chinese concept of an army that produces food for self-sufficiency and also a surplus for the broader population; and an "army of construction" that undertakes construction work for the armed forces, but also civilian infrastructure projects such as the building of roads, bridges, schools and hospitals.

The national police, which numbers about 100,000, is among the least disciplined and most predatory of all Congolese security forces. Since the suspension of Katanga’s John Numbi in 2010 (for his alleged involvement in the assassination of human rights activist Floribert Chebeya), the national police is under the leadership of Charles Bisengimana. The main police forces are the Police d’Intervention Rapide (PIR), which does most of the large security operations (and is known as Cobra); the Directorate for General Intelligence and Special Police Services, also known as “special services”; the loathed road traffic police (“roulages”) who spend most of their time ransoming the population; and some smaller services like the border, environmental, and mining polices.

Although the police are made up of recruits from all over the country, there is a special “Simba battalion” of Katangese which has allegedly remained under the control of John Numbi despite his official suspension. Finally, an overview of Congo’s security forces would be incomplete without a mention of the ANR and its leader, Katanga’s Kalev Mutond. ANR is technically an intelligence agency but it has become a feared secret police.

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Page last modified: 23-06-2015 20:53:08 ZULU