From 2011 to 2013, ECI polled thousands of people across Congo on issues important to them, including their thoughts on security. In this polling, only 11% of respondents reported feeling ‘completely secure.’ Furthermore, 50% of respondents believed that a stronger national army and police force would be the single most effective way to improve the security of their families and communities.
By Emmanuel Kabengele
With the security situation in DRC still precarious, particularly in the eastern provinces, the need for Congolese army and police reform is urgent.
The Network for Security and Justice Sector Reform (RRSSJ) is an outlet for the people of Congo to express their security needs through targeted lobbying and advocacy. We have brought many different local organizations together in our nation-wide network to speak with a united voice, demanding an army and police force that protects local communities and fosters the stability necessary for economic development in Congo.
Speaking directly to President Joseph Kabila through an open letter, we noted that, despite the President’s commitment to implementing security sector reform, progress was unacceptably slow. This letter was published by 140 Congolese organizations, calling for the DRC Government to address this critical issue. Congo needs an army and police force that the people can truly count on.
Specifically, we cited several laws already passed to improve the financial management and oversight of the Congolese armed forces (FARDC), which had not yet been implemented. Additionally, the FARDC often operates beyond the law – a place where criminals responsible for war crimes can hide from justice. We recommended that the army needed truly independent judiciary committees and improved vetting systems, to ensure that individuals responsible for these acts would be held accountable.
While challenges remain, our letter contributed to some changes with small, yet notable progress. The parliament passed an increased budget allocation for security and defense; more transparent mechanisms were implemented for salary payments; biometric registration of soldiers began; and a ‘community policing’ model has been successfully piloted.
With ECI’s investment and technical support, we have developed a comprehensive advocacy strategy for the network and scaled up our advocacy efforts to target key international and regional actors. 18 months after the signing of the UN-sponsored Peace, Security & Cooperation Framework, following our advocacy, the DRC Government committed to a series of key reforms of the army and police from now to 2016.
The key to the reform of the army and police in Congo is not only technical and financial investment and effective coordination among donors, but targeted political pressure at home and abroad. Visit our website to learn how you can join the campaign and get involved.
Emmanuel Kabengele is the National Coordinator of the Network for Security Sector Reform & Justice (le Réseau pour la Reforme du Secteur de Sécurité et Justice, RRSSJ), based in Kinshasa, the capital city of the Democratic Republic of Congo.