Demilitarising militias in the Kivus (eastern Democratic Republic of Congo)
Despite a peace agreement being reached - and the largest UN peace-keeping mission in attendance - eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is still racked by violence. For the eastern (Kivu) region is home to a plethora of militias who continue to use violence in order to propagate ‘criminal’ economic-related activities; to protect their communities – reinforced by strong ethnic allegiance; and to exploit the post-transition political climate in order to resist the demilitarisation process. Link such insecurity with government DRC forces who frequently loot, terrorise and abduct members of the local population and the effect on civilians is calamitous – they have to endure forced displacement, death, economic and physical insecurity and sexual violence.
To address such chronic instability and violence, international bodies continually seek attempts at Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR) of the local militias in Kivu. This paper presents an overview of such attempts and seeks to explore methods and processes which can help effect DDR and address the endemic insecurity of the region.
The author stresses that DDR activities in Kivu are complex as there is a preference to link demilitarisation with integration into the national army. This serves to compound a process which faces a number of major obstacles:
- getting a firm commitment from militia leaders to take part in the demilitarisation and brassage (transfer and reintegration in to the national army) processes
- due to the diversity of soldiers, training and loyalties, it is difficult to form a professional republican army
- opportunistic individuals and groups will first take up arms and then opt to go through the DDR process for no other reason than financial benefit
- the situation is compounded – and in a state of paralysis – due to the World Bank withdrawing its funding of the DDR process owing to allegations of mismanagement of resources and corruption.
So what is the way forward? The paper offers a number of recommendations:
- the government and the international community must strive to cooperate on containing the rise of ‘newer’ militias
- combat corruption within the army administration and create financially beneficial incentives for soldiers not to engage in clandestine activities
- the DRC administration must set firm deadlines for dissident militias and rogue government military to disarm and demobilise - once captured, they will not be able to claim any political or economic benefits, and may face legal proceedings
- a more effective reintegration programme must be established – in the DRC, disarmament and demobilisation have been overemphasised, whereas reintegration has been an afterthought
- the government must garner more diplomatic and financial support from the international community, and must manage its natural resources in a more transparent and effective manner.