WASHINGTON – The international community and Congolese government must urgently agree upon a new deal to reform the Congolese military, according to a new report by 13 leading international and Congolese civil society groups. The report argues that the lack of political will to reform the security sector in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) risks not only billions of dollars of international aid but also the very stability of the country.
“At the end of the day, many of Congo’s seemingly intractable conflict-related problems can be traced back to dysfunctional security services: the army, police and courts. The Congolese government has failed to take concrete action to reform these vital institutions,” said Emmanuel Kabengele, National Coordinator of the Congolese civil society Network for Security Sector Reform and Justice. “Yet the international community has continued to sustain the government, investing money and effort with no actual return. It’s high time that donors demand that Congo engage in real army reform.”
The report, “Taking a Stand on Security Sector Reform,” was signed by 13 leading international and Congolese organizations and networks (see below for full list). It was completed after extensive research and interviews in DRC and donor countries. It argues that the army not only fails to provide security but actively preys upon the population, being one of the major perpetrators of human rights violations in the country. “An effective security sector - organized, resourced, trained and vetted - is essential to solving problems from recruitment of child soldiers, internal displacement and rape, to economic growth or the trade in conflict minerals,” says the report.
The report concludes that the main reason for the failure of army reform in DRC is a lack of political will from parts of the Congolese government – notably those elements which have benefited from endemic corruption.
“The very people in senior positions of the government and military who are responsible for effecting reform continue to profit from the current army, either in raking off salaries of servicemen, kickbacks, or involvement in illegal mining, trade or protection rackets,” said Dismas Kitenge, President of the Congolese organization, Groupe Lotus and Vice-President of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH).
The paper underscores the critical role the international community must play. In just 5 years, the report documents, donor countries alone have invested more than $14 billion into the DRC. Yet only one percent, or $140 million, was spent on security sector reform. International aid is now equivalent to nearly half of the DRC’s annual budget. As such, donors have considerable leverage over Congo. Yet despite this enormous investment, the DRC has actually gone backwards. The DRC is ranked last in the world on the UN’s main development index.
“The international community’s investment in DRC has yielded poor results. Numerous armed groups send thousands of child soldiers into battle, and women and children continue to bear the brunt of violence. Adequate health care and personal security remain the exception rather than the rule,” said Ben Affleck, actor, director and Founder of Eastern Congo Initiative (ECI). “Donors must work to convince the Congolese government to undertake drastic military reform. Unless a new course of action is adopted, we run the risk of losing much of the investment that has already been made.”
The costs of accepting the status quo are high for the Congolese people but also for the international community. In addition to the traditional donors – US, EU, UK, France and Belgium – key partners such as China, South Africa, and Angola all have a vested interest in the stability and long-term prosperity of the DRC.
“The new government must seize the opportunity to refocus attention on implementing sustainable and effective reform,” said Pascal Kambale from the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA). “Now is the time for the international community and Congolese government to work together to reform the police and army so that Congo is capable of protecting its own civilians.”
WASHINGTON – Bosco Ntaganda, the Congolese warlord wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes, lived for years in a comfortable villa in Goma, rubbing elbows with humanitarian workers, Congolese security officials, and in plain view of United Nations peacekeeping mission. Despite his war criminal status, he has remained able to consolidate power and move freely throughout the region with total impunity while amassing a fortune from exploitation of the region’s illicit minerals trade according to a new Enough Project fact sheet that sheds light on the recently defected former general.
Ntaganda, a Congolese Tutsi with links to the government of Rwanda, fought for years with various rebel groups in both Rwanda and Congo before taking over the Rwandan-backed rebel group the CNDP in 2009. At that point Ntaganda’s forces were integrated into the Congolese army in a still opaque peace deal between Rwanda and Congo. Since then he has continued a campaign of corruption, murder, rape, extortion and intimidation, under the umbrella of the Congolese state security apparatus.
Recently, under still murky circumstances, Ntaganda along with some of his forces defected from the Congolese army and retreated to a stronghold north of Goma. Last week, while visiting Goma, Congolese president Joseph Kabila called for Ntaganda’s arrest, making a break with years of tacit official support for Ntanganda’s crimes.
“Ntaganda has been called both a war criminal and a lynchpin to regional stability,” said the Enough Project paper. “Yet as a member and leader of several armed groups, he has left a bloody trail across the eastern Congo.”
This Enough Project factsheet sheds light on who is Bosco Natanga, the infamous Congolese General, also known in the region as “The Terminator.” Incongruously, he’s been called both a war criminal and a lynchpin to regional stability; yet as a member and leader of several armed groups, he has left a bloody trail across the eastern Congo.
Amid uncertainty and frustrations spurred by a looming insurgency by ICC-indicted Bosco Ntaganda, the coalition of civil society groups acting as the local conflict-minerals watchdog, known by its French acronym GATT-RN, is steadfast in ensuring that efforts toward legitimate minerals sourcing in eastern Congo do not lose momentum. Read More »
Eastern Congo’s “Terminator,” the rebel chief and erstwhile Kinshasa ally Bosco Ntaganda, has apparently gotten spooked. Two weeks after Thomas Lubanga, Ntaganda’s former boss, was convicted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court, and amid calls by the Congolese civil societies and the international community to arrest him, Ntaganda appears on a mission to orchestrate a show-of-force in the Kivus. Read More »