"Africa is, indeed, coming into fashion." - Horace Walpole (1774)

4.30.2009

the ddr disaster

Oh, for goodness sakes.

I know keeping up with Congolese warlords is complicated, but we all remember Bosco Ntanganda, right? He's Laurent Nkunda's frenemy. When Rwanda decided that their support for Nkunda's CNDP forces was going to hurt their foreign aid-based system of revenue generation, Ntanganda was right there to take over the CNDP, cut a deal with the Congolese army, and turn his troops over to be integrated into the national army, despite the fact that there's an ICC arrest warrant out for him for war crimes involving forcing children to become soldiers?

Right. That Bosco Ntanganda.

Bosco is nowhere near The Hague, of course. There just aren't enough wide open spaces, and it gets cold there. So what's he up to instead? The BBC has at least one piece of evidence that says he's working for the Congolese army. With UN forces.

What could possibly go wrong there?

MONUC denies it, of course, but let's be honest. What MONUC's spokesperson in Kinshasa knows isn't always a 100% accurate reflection of the reality on the ground in the east. It's entirely possible that Ntaganda's directly involved and MONUC hasn't figured it out yet.

Human Rights Watch is pretty sure he is involved in joint operations with MONUC. Local human rights observers definitely believe he is. Even if he's not, as HRW points out, making an accused war criminal like Ntaganda a general in the national army (as happened in January) isn't exactly a great way to take a firm stance against human rights abuses.

The Ntaganda situation is one more symptom of the terrible flaws in the Congo's DDR process by which combatants are demobilized. Many are given incentives to return to civilian life, but other soldiers have the opportunity to integrate into the FARDC, the Congo's national army. The original idea was that DDR would allow competing armies to all have a stake in the national army, and it might've worked if the army had even the slightest capacity to maintain a unified, civilian-controlled command structure. But the FARDC lacks all of those characteristics. They can't even pay their soldiers, much less ensure that captains in the field, or even the generals, will follow orders from Kinshasa.

The primary effect of DDR has been one of legitimating soldiers who have committed horrible crimes by giving them uniforms. Not surprisingly, the FARDC (which wasn't exactly a paradigm of virtue to begin with) has been increasingly responsible for human rights violations in recent years. Funny how that happens when you integrate war criminals into the ranks.

Meanwhile, things in the DRC get worse and worse. Human Rights Watch warned this week that 100,000 civilians in the Lubero territory of North Kivu are at risk of attack by the FDLR Hutu militants and - you guessed it - the FARDC, the very institution that is supposed to protect Congolese civilians.

Solving the security crisis in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo is a complicated task. No one really knows what to do to professionalize the military, get the FARDC to follow orders, get the rest of the region's armed groups under control, and restore some semblence of order. But it's quite clear that the integration aspect of the DDR program is a failure. There's no question that the Congolese would be much better off without people like Bosco Ntaganda in command.

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