WASHINGTON, D.C.—Despite spending tens of millions of dollars in support of armed forces and police reform in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the United States is missing an overall strategy to affect real change in the security sector in the DRC, said international organization Oxfam America in a report released today.
“The US has shown its long-term commitment to Congo in the past, especially as a major funder of the UN peacekeeping mission. But sustainable security in DRC requires more than boots on the ground. It requires a real commitment by both the Congolese Government and the United Statesto civilian protection and human rights as well as accountability from all civil and military institutions,” said Marcel Stoessel, country director for Oxfam in the DRC.
Irregularly and poorly paid, and with no provisions made for their dependents, soldiers in the DRC frequently resort to looting the very populations they are charged with protecting. The soldiers by and large have minimal education and little or no formal military training. Sections of the military and police forces routinely commit grave human rights violations. The “2009 Human Rights Report” for DRC issued by the US Department of State recounts numerous abuses by the Congolese army and police, including extrajudicial killings, rape, torture, and looting. Women, in particular, have borne the brunt of the abuse.
According to Oxfam, missing from the US strategy is a demonstrated commitment by the Congolese government to building the basic institutions—the ministries of defense, interior, and justice, among others—that would support a professional security sector. The US strategy needs a top-down element that applies coordinated and sustained international pressure on the government of Congo to systematically take the security interests of the Congolese people on board.
“Any successful reform of the army, police, and judicial system requires both the Congolese government and the donor governments to have the will to make it work. Right now we don’t see that commitment,” said Stoessel.
Also missing from US efforts is effective international coordination said Oxfam. The US government could attempt to better coordinate with the other donors working on reforming the security services in DRC so the donor efforts are part of a larger, more-comprehensive strategy, reducing inefficiencies, improving standardization of training, and ensuring that no part of the security sector is left behind.
“The US must work with the Congolese government to transform its security sector into one that is based on the rule of law. Impunity must end, police must protect, and military must defend. The people of Congo are crying out for reform—now is the time for the US to help end the violence and lawlessness that has held Congo captive for so long,” said Stoessel.