Monday, August 23, 2010

Congo's Forgotten Crisis, and How the United States should Address it: Current DRC Policies and International Measures

Part 5 of a 7-part article about how the ongoing civil war in Congo is rooted in the poor state of the Congolese Army, why Congo matters to the United States, and what policies the United States should enact to address the situation.

The importance of SSR as well as judicial reform has not been lost on the DRC government. President Kabila has emphasized in several interviews (1) that bringing peace and stability to Congo are his priorities, and he and his ministers have deliberated in great length with international donors on the subject (2). According to the UN Secretary-General’s December 2009 report on MONUC, DRC courts have begun to impose harsh punishments, including the death penalty, on soldiers who commit abuses against civilians, and, during the reporting period (3), five senior officers accused of sexual violence were removed from their posts (4). In addition, as recently as January, 2010, President Kabila has laid off masses of bureaucratic officials suspected of corruption (5). Furthermore, acutely aware of the coup attempt that killed his father (6), President Kabila has created a special elite unit of around 10,000 men called the Garde Républicaine that is separate from the FARDC and under his personal control, and he makes sure that they are paid regularly and have sufficient lodging and equipment (7).

These efforts and others have had only limited success at best, though. The various ministries of the DRC government have had contradictory SSR plans and conflicting policy spheres in which to work in, while the high-ranking officers in the military have resisted reform to the best of their abilities so as to retain their authority and “self-entailed privileges”(8). Several important security-related agencies, like intelligence and border control authorities, are not targeted by SSR efforts at all (9). Efforts to combat impunity, such as the “road map” – a six point plan to combat sexual violence (10) – have not been readily enforced; as a result, even members of the well-paid and well-equipped Garde Républicaine regularly beat, loot, rape, and kill civilians (11), particularly those who are deployed outside Kinshasa and are therefore far from the watchful eye of President Kabila.

Furthermore, the various international donors contributing to SSR – such as the UN, the EU, the Netherlands, Great Britain, South Africa, Japan, the United States, China, and various NGOs – have oftentimes competed with each other and worked at cross-purposes. The Netherlands, for instance, has primarily helped South Africa with its initiatives to improve the FARDC, while Great Britain has primarily supported South Africa’s efforts to improve the police, while Japan has financed projects to improve border control and existing MONUC humanitarian initiatives (12). The net effect is a huge slew of international initiatives, many of which conflict with each other and none of which are adequately funded (13).

The United States could help revitalize the DRC’s SSR efforts by making a more substantial financial commitment to Congo directed specifically at addressing the FARDC’s logistical and accountability problems. Currently, U.S. aid efforts toward Congo, like those of most of Congo’s international donors, are underfunded and misdirected. Over the past three years (14), the United States has devoted roughly $680 million to Congolese aid initiatives (15); although this is a fair amount of money, it pales in comparison to the aid that the United States provides to countries like Israel, Egypt, and South Africa. To put things into perspective, the United States has given roughly the same amount of foreign assistance money to Congo as it has to Liberia, a country that is roughly 20 times smaller – in terms of population and area (16) – than Congo (17,18). Furthermore, much of U.S. foreign assistance money to Congo goes to emergency and humanitarian needs (19), while a much smaller portion is directed towards military and security-related initiatives, which fall under FMF, IMET, NADR, and PO in Table 1.

Data obtained from Congressional Budget Justifications for Foreign Operations, see Works Cited.

This is not to say that the United States has not understood the importance of a stable Congo and the role of the Congolese military in achieving this stability. The United States facilitated the peace process that culminated with the Global and All-inclusive Agreement in 2002 that lead to the eventual withdrawal of all foreign armies from Congo (20). More recently, the United States has contributed nearly $860 million over the past three years to MONUC (21) and, primarily through AFRICOM, has undertaken a number of its own initiatives designed to strengthen the FARDC. Through the FMF program, for instance, AFRICOM has provided the FARDC with weapons, while through the IMET program it has sent U.S. military personnel to train FARDC officers. In February, 2010, AFRICOM even began training an elite light infantry FARDC battalion that would be the nucleus of a “quick reaction force”(22) as part of its PO programs. In addition, AFRICOM has provided intelligence and assistance to several FARDC operations, including a recent joint Congolese-Ugandan operation (23) aimed at annihilating the LRA, which had taken refuge in northeastern Congo (24). Indeed, some critics worry that, far from being negligent, the United States is getting too involved in Congo’s military affairs and have expressed concern over what they argue is the militarization of Africa (25).

However, these measures, important though they are, have not contributed significantly to the fundamental logistical and disciplinary problems plaguing the FARDC. FMF provisions primarily deal with weapons and other combat equipment, not salaries and food rations (26), and although the United States has devoted time to human rights and international law as part of their IMET FARDC training curriculum (27) and has funded several ESF programs aimed to improve the DRC’s judiciary system (28), neither program has been sufficiently stressed or funded to give the United States real leverage in promoting such reform.

(1) Jeff Koinange, “Congo President on Military Rapes: ‘Unforgivable’,”, June 1, 2006,
(2) Melmot, “Candide in Congo,” 9-13.
(3) From 18 September 2009 until 25 November 2009
(4) UN Security Council, Thirtieth report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (S/2009/623), December 4, 2009, (Masthead). (2009 Readex microfiche): 14.
(5) “Kabila Dismisses Thousands for Corruption in DR. Congo,” Africa: the Good News, January 6, 2010,
(6) “World Briefing | Africa: Congo: Death Sentences In Slaying Of President,” New York Times, January 8, 2003.
(7) “Democratic Republic of Congo: Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) and Reform of the Army,” Amnesty International Publications (2007): 56-58.
(8) Melmot, “Candide in Congo,” 15-16.
(9) Ibid., 15.
(10) Kippenberg, “Soldiers Who Rape, Commanders Who Condone,” 36.
(11) “Democratic Republic of Congo: Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR),” 56-60.
(12) Melmot, “Candide in Congo,” 16-17.
(13) Ibid., 17-19.
(14) FY 2008-2010.
(15) See Table 1 below.
(16) Data from CIA’s The World Factbook, see Works Cited.
(17) See Table 2 below.
(18) To be fair, Liberia has had its fair share of troubles as well; even still, the relative aid disparity is significant.
(19) Food Aid, Global Health and Child Survival: See Table 1.
(20) Exploring the U.S. Role in Consolidating Peace and Democracy in the Great Lakes Region, 110th Cong., 1st Sess. 6-7 (2007) (testimony of Jendayi Frazier).
(21) $270.721 million in 2008, $210 million in 2009, and an estimated $381 in 2010: see Congressional Budget Justifications.
(22) Nicole Dalrymple, “U.S. and DRC in Partnership to Train Model Congolese Battalion,” US AFRICOM Articles, February 18, 2010,
(23) The operation did not succeed; the LRA escaped and massacred hundreds of people during its retreat; see note 78.
(24) Jeffrey Gettleman and Eric Schmitt, “U.S. Aided a Failed Plan to Rout Ugandan Rebels,” New York Times, February 6, 2009.
(25) Daniel Volman, “Obama Expands Military Involvement in Africa,”, April 3, 2010,
(26) According to the 2011 State Department Congressional Budget Justification, FMF “furthers U.S. interests around the world by ensuring that coalition partners and friendly foreign governments are equipped and trained to work toward common security goals and share burdens in joint missions.”
(27) U.S. Department of State, Fiscal Year 2011 Congressional Budget Justification, Volume 2: Department of State Operations, (Washington DC: GPO 2010): 187.
(28) U.S. Department of State, Fiscal Year 2011 Congressional Budget Justification for Foreign Operations; Annex: Regional Perspectives, (Washington, DC: GPO, 2010): 47.

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