Introducing the Forces Armées de la République Démocratique du Congo

17 February 2014 | ResolutionPossible

As part of our series on the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), we wanted to explore the role the Forces Armées de la République Démocratique du Congo (Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo, FARDC), and the challenges that lie ahead of them. With the recent disarmament of the <a ” href=”http://uk.reuters.com/article/2013/12/12/uk-congo-democractic-deal-idUKBRE9BB0WZ20131212″>M23, we can wonder whether the FARDC is becoming capable and structurally stable enough to cement and extend peace across eastern DRC, or is this just wishful thinking? If this topic sparks your interest, explore the other <a ” title=”Explore our other DRC blogs and perspectives (opens in a new tab)” href=”http://www.resolutionpossible.co.uk/tag/drc” target=”_blank”>blogs and perspectives in the series and leave comments.

Congolese Color Guard members take part in a ceremony marking the establishment of FARDC

Congolese Color Guard members take part in a ceremony marking the establishment of FARDC. [Image U.S. AFRICOM]

The Integrity of the FARDC

The integrity, capability and unity of FARDC has been debated since before the end of Second Congo War in July 2003. As the national army of DRC, its role is to provide the DRC with stability and security. However, it has been confronted by ongoing challenges from the Lord’s Resistance Army, the Kivu and Ituri conflicts, remote outbreaks of violence across eastern DRC, corruption and unreliable donor patronage, making it incredibly difficult for the FARDC to re-establish itself as an independently reputable and capable force. It is made up of various military units, not necessarily united under one ideology or allegiance but made up of armed groups who have been integrated into the force, and its financial constraints have stunted training efforts for new recruits. Which brings us back to our original question: is the FARDC capable of upholding sustainable peace and rule of law in the region, as well as keeping control of recently integrated armed groups?

FARDC Army

Government army FARDC soldiers stand in a line in an army barrack as they return to Goma December 3, 2012. [Image: ThisIsSierraLeone.com]

The President of the DRC, Joseph Kabila, is very clear on where he stands with regard to the activity of non-governmental armed groups. In a press conference on 15th December 2012 he stated that ‘Toute nouvelle tentative d’agression sera suicidaire’ (Any new attempt of aggression will be suicidal), making it clear that his army will exterminate any threat to the establishment. On 21st January 2014, Lambert Mende, Minister of Communication DRC, dug this statement out of the archives and tweeted it, in reaction to the FARDC’s defeat over M23. There is no doubt that this defeat was a huge victory for the FARDC and worthy of Mende’s bragging. The M23 was the most centralised and established armed group in the DRC.

The Defeat of M23

There is still a long way to go however, as sporadic violence is common across the DRC. They are rooted in lawlessness and bad governance, plaugued by ethnic and political tensions and loose weaponry control. Stephanie Wolters, an analyst at the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) in Pretoria, pointed out that “the M23 is only one of many armed groups operating in the eastern DRC..there are many others that still need to be tackled politically and militarily.” In fact, as many as 45 other armed groups are currently operating across the region in towns where the DRC government has little control. The ADF, for example, are a big threat to DRC’s security and stability. Days after the defeat of the M23, on Christmas Day 2013, the ADF attacked FARDC positions at Kamango. They took over the town, killed innocent people and caused huge displacement of Congolese towards the Ugandan people. Ethnic Tutsi communities in Kivu, like those of the M23 group, will remain fertile ground for future outbreaks of violence unless they are given more social and political representation, and unless long-standing land and citizenship issues are addressed.

It would seem that the FARDC needs a lot more funding and organisation if it is to be strong enough to sustain peace in the DRC. For this reason, the Great Lakes Summit of regional leaders in Angola in January 2014 demanded increased intervention by UN operations, to eradicate the armed groups that not only threaten the stability of the DRC but the Great Lakes region as a whole.

ResPoss Asks:

What are the main barriers facing the FARDC and what can be done to address them?

Is the development of good infrastructure, especially a stable national army and police force, in the DRC the responsibility of the government of the DRC , or should the international community also play a part? 

We are connected to unrest in the DRC through products we buy, such as our mobile phones and laptops. What is our responsibility as consumers?

Contributing writer/research: Harriet Doughty

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