Submit this form
Home News Videos Music Photos Facebook Twitter Friends Newsletter Podcasts Mobile RSS
Amnesty:DRC stability threatened as country fails to reform army

Amnesty International - January 25, 2007

Amnesty International today warned that the demobilization and army reform programme currently underway in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) risks compromising the country's entire political process and future stability.

In a comprehensive study, Amnesty International revealed that the national demobilization and reform process has so far been characterized by serious human rights violations, a lack of political will, and ineffective control of troops.

"A failed demobilization and army reform programme risks a new cycle of political and military crises that could lead to an escalation of violence and a deterioration of the humanitarian and human rights situation in a country already ravaged by war -- with potentially disastrous consequences for hundreds of thousands of people," said Tawanda Hondora, Deputy Director of Amnesty International's Africa Programme.

Currently, the Congolese national army (the FARDC), whether in its integrated or still-to-be-integrated units, is responsible for the majority of human rights violations reported in the country.

In September 2006, the first brigade ever to be integrated killed at least 32 people in Bavi, Ituru district. Ten soldiers were arrested, of whom seven have been accused of war crimes. More recently, on 11 January, over 250 soldiers in an integrated unit of the FARDC based in Bunia went on an armed rampage in the town throughout the night, reportedly raping a number of women and looting shops and houses.

"Reform of the army is not just a desirable military activity -- it is a pre-condition for peace and stability in the DRC," said Hondora. "While demobilization is an essentially civilian project, and army reform a military initiative, there is a fundamental link between the success of both. One cannot succeed without the other."

Many armed group commanders -- determined to maintain their hold on power -- have been hostile to the demobilization programme. Leaders often resorted to killings, torture and other human rights abuses to prevent members from joining the programme.

Despite this, there was an overwhelmingly favourable reaction from ordinary members of armed groups, who, in early days, flooded reception centres where they could choose to be either integrated into the national army (with training) or demobilized and reintegrated into civilian society.

"The positive reaction to the programme makes its failings even more heart-breaking," said Hondora. "Thousands of fighters came ready to demobilize -- only to be left hanging without vocational training, meaningful job opportunities or adequate salaries. Many felt they had been tricked, and demanded their weapons back."

A former fighter demobilized in Ituri told Amnesty International:

"These people have tricked us. We risked our lives to hand in our weapons…Some of our friends have been killed because they joined the programme. Now we can no longer live in our villages because people are looking for us to kills us. We are incapable of feeding our families and cannot even pay the rent. The solution is for these people to give us our weapons back…"

Local human rights organizations say that there has been an upsurge in pillage, extortion and crime, which they say is committed by former fighters who have not been integrated into their communities or into the army.

Amnesty International also warned about the activities of the "Republican Guard" ("Garde Republicaine", the former GSSP) -- an elite corps of soldiers that is responsible for the security of the President of the DRC. The soldiers in the corps are deployed throughout the country and are thought to be number more than 10,000.

"Although the Republican Guard is now, in principle, part of the national forces, it clearly conducts itself as an independent army within an army and does not appear to answer to any chain of command within the national army," said Hondora.

According to testimonies received by Amnesty International, Republican Guard soldiers regularly harass and steal from the civilian population and commit other serious violations.

Army officials state that the Republican Guard is answerable only to the President.

"A framework does exist for the creation of a truly national, apolitical army that respects the rights of the people -- but this framework needs to be translated into a reality on the ground," said Hondora. "It is absolutely critical that the newly-elected government commit itself to completing the army reform programme as soon as possible -- and to including the Republican Guard in this programme."

The organization urged the government to provide, amongst other things:

  • clear instructions to all FARDC troops to respect and uphold international human rights and humanitarian law;
  • training in international human rights and humanitarian law to all FARDC troops;
  • the creation of an independent vetting mechanism to exclude or suspend persons suspected of committing serious human rights violations from the integrated FARDC;
  • assurances that the DDR (disarmament, demobilization and reintegration) programme will provide projects for effective reintegration into the community of demobilized fighters.
"Until the reform of the army and effective demobilization is complete, the DRC will experience at best a fragile peace, and the cycle of violence the country is experiencing will remain unbroken," said Hondora.

Related articles

  1. 'Deadly environment' plus 'political and social' obstacles hinder Ebola fight, Security Council hears (July 24, 2019)
  2. Ebola outbreak declared an international Public Health Emergency (July 17, 2019)
  3. At least 30 dead after massacres in Ituri (March 2, 2018)
  4. Political tensions 'running high' in DR Congo ahead of 2016 elections (October 7, 2015)
  5. Rights Groups: DR Congo Must Free Pro-democracy Activists (April 13, 2015)
  6. DRC Army Putting Pressure on FDLR (April 1, 2015)
  7. ICC Confirms 14-Year Sentence Against Thomas Lubanga (December 1, 2014)
  8. ICC sentences Germain Katanga to 12 years (May 23, 2014)
  9. ICC finds Germain Katanga guilty of war crimes and crime against humanity (March 7, 2014)
  10. Bosco Ntaganda Attacked Civilians on Ethnic Grounds, ICC Prosecutor Says (February 10, 2014)
  11. New DR Congo amnesty law welcomed by UN envoys (February 5, 2014)
  12. Colonel Mamadou Ndala Is Killed in Ambush (January 2, 2014)
  13. No 'Peace Deal' With Defeated M23 Rebels, DR Congo Says (November 11, 2013)
  14. Congo Will Not Sign a 'Peace Deal' With Defeated M23 Rebels, Government Says (November 6, 2013)
  15. Congo Army Takes Control of Mbuzi Hill From M23 Rebels (November 4, 2013)
  16. Kabila Congratulates Congo Army for Defeating M23 Rebels (October 30, 2013)
  17. Advancing Congo Troops Take Control of Rumangabo From M23 Rebels (October 28, 2013)
  18. Congo Army Liberates Rutshuru, Kiwanja and Kibumba From M23 Rebels (October 27, 2013)
  19. Congo Army Dislodges M23 Rebels From Strategic Town of Kibumba (October 26, 2013)
  20. Ban Ki-moon Confirms M23 Rebels Shelled Rwanda (August 31, 2013)
  21. DR Congo Will Defend Itself Against an Attack by Rwanda, Government Says (August 31, 2013)
  22. M23 Rebels Fired Shells Into Rwanda, Not Congo Army, UN Says (August 30, 2013)
  23. Mortar Shells From Rwanda Kill Civilians in Eastern Congo (August 23, 2013)
  24. Dozens of M23 Rebels Killed by Congo Army in Renewed Fighting (August 22, 2013)
  25. UN Peacekeepers Start Enforcing Security Zone in Eastern Congo (August 1, 2013)
  26. UN Security Council debate focuses on peace efforts for Africa's Great Lakes region (July 25, 2013)
  27. M23 Rebels Said to Flee Rumangabo After Congo Army Airstrikes (July 25, 2013)
  28. Congo Army Strikes M23 Rebels Base At Rumangabo (July 24, 2013)
  29. M23 Rebels in Disarray in Eastern Congo, Says Government Spokesman (July 19, 2013)
  30. 120 M23 Rebels Killed in East, Government Says (July 15, 2013)

Live TV Congo Radio en ligne Radio
Available on App Store
Get it on Google Play

Contact Us | About Us | Édition en Français | French Edition

© All rights reserved.