Congo-Kinshasa: Security Sector Reform is Failing, Says French Think-Tank
5 October 2008
Posted to the web 5 October 2008
The reform of the DRCs security sector involving the UN, the EU, the US, South Africa, Angola and many other players is failing to meet its objectives, according to a new report from the Paris-based Institut français des relations internationales (IFRI).
So far the reform has not produced any substantial improvement in buttressing the rule of law, financial control, the fight against corruption, the independence of the judiciary or in restructuring. The main problem is the DR Congo governments lack of political will. Foreign assistance can provide the means but cannot generate or even buy the will to undertake reforms, the French think-tank concludes.
The reform, which is led by the UN and the European Union, was set up in 2005 around a "governance compact" that envisages the integration of the military, the demobilisation of militias, the reform of the chain of payment in the army, the restoration of discipline, the democratic control of the police and on the army, and the independence of the judiciary.
But reforms have come at an extremely slow pace. Legislation for the reform of the police has not yet been debated by parliament and the authorities remain reluctant to change the status of the police from a military to a civilian one.
The commanders of the army have been extremely upset by the decision to bypass their chain of command for the payment of the troops and to create an alternative over which they have no control. Their vested interest in creating obstacles to the reform was apparent; in March 2006 the former Congolese Vice-President, Jean-Pierre Bemba, revealed that every month the army chief of staff was embezzling CFr500 million, about US$5m.
Overall the commanders have different visions for the new army, according to the author of the report, Sébastien Melmot. Some are in favour of an army involved in nation building while others simply want a professional army. Defence Minister Tchikez Diemu decided to support the first option, which required the military to perform additional duties in the areas of agricultural production and construction of public infrastructure.
In addition, says the report, there is little dialogue between the donors and the Congolese authorities. Instead of giving priority to the reconstruction and reform of the security services they preferred direct military operations, such as the attack on Bemba's militia in March 2007 and the September to December 2007 offensive against the renegade general Laurent Nkunda in North Kivu, which ended with their complete defeat.
IFRI's report also notes that the reform of the security sector is partial. Important security services such as civilian and military intelligence or the border police are not involved. Likewise, despite starving prisoners on a routine basis in the DRC's jails, the penitentiary system is also left out of the reform.
The report also deplores the lack of cooperation and dialogue between the ministers of justice and defence on the reorganisation of military justice.
But the report is also critical of the donors. According to IFRI, they compete with each other and the question of who takes the lead in international support for the reform has not be solved between the UN and the EU.
As a result, a number of other players take advantage of this situation to try and seek to increase their influence. This list includes Angola, South Africa, China and the US, each engaged in their bilateral cooperation with the DRC outside of any collective framework and with opacity.
This situation is reportedly encouraged by the Congolese government, which since early 2007 has clearly shown it prefers bilateral cooperation in the security sector, including with EU member states such as France or Belgium or with countries like the United Kingdom or the Netherlands, who have developed a triangular cooperation with the DRC and the South African governments in the area.
The long list of criticism includes the lack of a vetting procedure for militias who were involved in human rights violations during the process of integration into a new army. The report also questions the coherence and the relevance of trying to integrate soldiers into an army that anyway has to be downsized.
Beside this, the issue of the cost of the army and of the police reform is completely taboo. The donors are aware that they cannot (or do not want to) mobilize the necessary amounts to carry out the reform, while in February the Congolese authorities came up with unrealistic and extravagant demands at a round table meeting on security sector reform (SSR). They wanted US$1.4 billion for the police reform alone and $160 million for the reform of the justice sector.
The Congolese authorities dissimulation about the exact numbers in the military - somewhere between 120,000 and 175,000 troops - and the real defence budget, has not helped a proper technical debate over the issue.
A particularly invidious issue has been the creation of a new integrated military guard by the head of the police, Gen. John Numbi, which was aimed at finding jobs for soldiers loyal to him while the official line was for unification of the police into one single entity.
Another example of incoherence has been the minister of defences push to create 12 new battalions, while the priority was rather to create a proper military administration.
The report leaves the overwhelming impression that the sector remains a mess - author Melmot describes the Congolese SSR as "a patchwork".
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