News

Report: Congo's Security Sector Reform is Vital

Most violence committed by security forces takes place in eastern parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo, but there has also been political repression in recent years in the capital Kinshasa.
Most violence committed by security forces takes place in eastern parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo, but there has also been political repression in recent years in the capital Kinshasa.
Nico Colombant

A new report directed by the U.S.-based Eastern Congo Initiative is calling for more political will inside the Democratic Republic of Congo and more help from outside to effectively reform the country's security sector, after years of failure.  The report is called "Taking a Stand on Security Sector Reform."

More than a decade after the official end of Congo's war, an estimated 1.7 million people remain displaced internally because of ongoing violence, mostly in the east of the country, while about half a million Congolese remain refugees in neighboring countries.

In eastern regions, gender-based violence and rape, the recruitment of child soldiers, militia and rebel activity, illegal mining and cross-border smuggling remain rampant.  The most recent election cycle was marred by violence across the country.

Despite large quantities of highly sought minerals used to make cell phones and laptops, the Democratic Republic of Congo remains 187th out of 187 countries on the United Nations Human Development Index.

A report released this week by the Eastern Congo Initiative and other groups, including Congolese civil society forums, says the main problem is Congo's security sector, which remains much more of a scourge than a help.

A conference in Washington Monday started with the release of a video by the founder of the Eastern Congo Initiative, American actor Ben Affleck.

"Armed groups continue to prey on Congolese families and their communities. Perhaps most troubling, they are not the sole violators of human rights," said Affleck. "The police, judiciary and most importantly the military are all too often perpetrators rather than protectors.  As a result, people suffer, investors are put off, the unemployed turn to militias to secure a living, and the cycle of violence continues."

The first speaker was Cindy McCain, wife of U.S. Senator John McCain. She has made several recent trips to Congo and joined forces with Affleck in terms of Congolese advocacy.  She also underlined the urgency of security sector reform.

"An effective security sector, organized, resourced and trained, is essential to solving problems from displacement, recruitment of child soldiers, and gender-based violence," she said.

The report calls on Congolese civil society to take charge of the issue, while demanding Congo's government carry out repeated promises of security sector reform with clear benchmarks.  It calls for a more unified structure and command of Congo's military, with more recruitment of women and underrepresented social groups, while ending the integration of militias.

The report says too little money, both channeled by Congo's government and coming from outside, is directed toward these types of reforms.  It says donors, who contribute about half of Congo's budget, have had poor coordination on the matter.

One of those acknowledging the many challenges, despite continued attention to the problem, is U.S. State Department official Karl Wycoff.

"We recognize that the DRC has struggled to make meaningful progress in the implementation of security sector reforms and has had little success holding security forces accountable for their human rights violations," said Wycoff.

He also says the Congolese government has failed in its many attempts to integrate former rebel fighters into the army.

Several Congolese audience members were angry the report focuses too much on eastern Congo and not on the entire country.  They also say the real problem is a lack of democracy and failed elections, which have twice returned President Joseph Kabila to power, since he took over after the 2001 assassination of his father, former coup leader Laurent Desire Kabila.

Albert Moleka is a spokesman for Etienne Tshisekedi, the current president's main political rival.  Moleka says he believes if the Democratic Republic of Congo had properly elected leadership, the country would not need outside help to reform its military.  Moleka says he was not impressed by current security reform efforts, which already include the United States, other governments and the United Nations.

A Congolese embassy spokesman, Yves Bashonga, denied there is a lack of political will with the current government in Kinshasa, but rather problems in how fast the reform is going and whether the right strategies are being employed.

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Communityi
X
Sharon Behn
August 03, 2015 2:23 PM
A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Community

A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Bangkok Warned It Soon Could Be Submerged

Italy's Venice and America's New Orleans are not the only cities gradually submerging. The nearly ten million residents of the Bangkok urban area now must confront warnings the city could become uninhabitable in a few decades. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Thai capital.
Video

Video Inclusive Gym Gets People With Disabilities in Fitness Spirit

Individuals with special needs are 58 percent more likely to be obese than the general population. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, they also have an increased likelihood of anxiety, depression and social isolation. But a sports club outside Washington wants to make a difference in these people's lives. With Carol Pearson narrating, VOA's June Soh reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Special Olympics Show Competitors' Skill, Determination

Special Olympics competitions will wrap up Saturday in Los Angeles, and the closing ceremony for athletes with intellectual disabilities will be held Sunday night. In a week of competition, athletes have shown what they can do through skill and determination. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Shooter’s Grill: Serving Food with a Touch of the Second Amendment

Shooter's Grill, a restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, attracts visitors from all over the world as well as local patrons. The reason? Waitresses openly carry loaded firearms as they serve food, and customers are welcome to carry them, too. VOA's Enming Liu and Lin Yang paid a visit to Shooter's Grill, and heard different opinions about this unique establishment.
Video

Video Despite Controversy, Business Owner Continues Sale of Confederate Flags

At Cooter’s, a store in rural Sperryville, Virginia, about 120 kilometers west of Washington, D.C., Confederate flags are flying off the shelves. The red, white and blue battle flag, with 13 white stars representing the Confederate states, was carried by southern forces during the U.S. Civil War in the 1860s. The South had seceded from the Union over several key issues of disagreement, including slavery. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs