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DR Congo - Military Personnel

The Congolese Armed forces (FARDC) is faced with numerous challenges partly due to integrated former armed groups who continue to maintain parallel command structures. The FARDC remains a force that is continuously trying to integrate former rebels into a force structure that is itself oversized, unprofessional, and lacking training on almost all levels.

At the time of the Great War, the colony possesses a force of native troops amounting to about 16,000 men, all infantry, organized into thirty companies and recruited by the government, carried on by voluntary enlistment. The officers and non-commissioned officers (365) are Europeans, for most part Belgians, and are enlisted for seven years. The territorial force numbered about 6,000 men.

The FAZ [Forces Armees Zairoises] totalled approximately 49,100 in 1993: the army consisted of 25,000 personnel; the navy, 1,300 (including 600 marines); the air force, 1,800; and the gendarmerie, 21,000. The Civil Guard had an estimated strength of 10,000 personnel in the early 1990s.

The overall strength of FARDC was estimated as of 2005 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 national military, the Armed Forces of the DRC (FARDC), was 164,000-strong in 2008 and had an estimated 150,000 troops as of 2012, about half of whom were deployed in the east. The core of these troops was made of soldiers from the AFDL, the insurgency that brought Kabila father to power, and remnants of Mobutu’s army. Over the years, FARDC has added on multiple layers, which largely contributes to its lack of discipline and unified command. Soldiers from the former MLC (many of whom had been soldiers under Mobutu) and the RCD joined in the 2003-2006 transition period.

For a while, integrated battalions were carefully put together under donor sponsorship in a process known as brassage (blending). Thereafter, the policy of incorporating insurgents from rebel groups, militias, and the Mai-Mai continued and expanded, but the quality of the integration, referred then as mixage, diminished dramatically as most groups remained under their previous leadership and deployed in their “home” areas, refusing to be assigned elsewhere.

Mixage resulted into a very fragile military in the east (where most of this integration takes place), that cannot be relied upon by the government to follow orders in all circumstances. Defections are frequent, as individuals often return to their insurgency after becoming disenchanted with their military career, including the lack of payment and the failure of the government to deliver on many of its promises in terms of ranks, housing, and other perks.

Over the years, and in large part because of the policy of systematic integration of former insurgents (but also because of paltry salaries), the FADRC in the east turned at times into a largely unhinged and autonomous armed group that operates in many ways like local insurgents and militias and is more likely to collaborate with them than to fight them, and to oppress local populations than to protect them.

In August 2005, it was estimated that the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (Forces armées de la République démocratique du Congo, FARDC) had 64,800 members, distributed as follows:

Army:		60,000
Navy:		1,800
Air force: 	3,000

In addition, at the end of January 2006, the United Nations Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUC), deployed in the country since 1999, had 12,820 uniformed personnel, including 729 military observers and 1,072 police officers, and were assisted by 856 international civilian employees and 1,419 local civilian employees. During the election campaign, MONUC authorized the deployment of 16,700 soldiers and 475 civilian police officers, with the possibility of a future deployment of 841 police officers and 300 soldiers.

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Page last modified: 08-12-2016 18:52:50 ZULU