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DRC: Is Tshisekedi’s military gamble in the east paying off?

By Stanis Bujakera Tshiamala
Posted on Thursday, 8 July 2021 09:23

9 August 2012 - Rumangabo, DRC - Two fighters of the M23 rebel movement stand in an abandoned church of the biggest military base in the region, formally occupied by government forces. Photo Credit: Marc Hofer/Sipa USA/

The declaration of a month-long state of siege in May is a sign that the DRC's President Félix Tshisekedi is taking more of a security-first approach to the fighting and instability in the eastern provinces of Ituri and North Kivu.

After the first month delivered few improvements on the ground, the government prolonged the state of siege for another two weeks in June. Analysts says it will take much longer to deal with rebel groups preying on local populations and the security forces that refuse to fight them or give them support.

The state of siege was a key measure announced by the newly formed government. Placing these two provinces under military administration, replacing governors and deputy governors with officials from the army or police, and suspending civilian jurisdictions was supposed to help solve the security problem in these regions.

The Kivu Security Tracker, a project developed by the Congo Research Group and Human Rights Watch, lists more than 120 armed groups there. The Allied Democratic Forces rebels alone are responsible for the deaths of more than 1,000 civilians since November 2019 in Beni.

Critics say that the government’s recent security strategy is not well thought out. It has struggled to organise the financial and human resources for the military push. In early June, defence minister Gilbert Kabanda said it would take another couple of weeks to see a change on the ground.

1,000 civilians killed since November 2019 in Beni Territory alone

The armed forces only sent half a Kinshasa-based commando battalion (about 200 men) to Ituri when the measure came into effect. According to General Luboya Nkashama, a military governor: “If resources [are] allocated and measures to restructure the troops on the ground are launched, we should be able to expect an improvement in the overall situation within six months.”

Global strategy

Analysts say that the state of siege will fail, like other military attempts before it, if it does not take into account all the factors that contribute to the conflict.

“The military solution, via a state of siege, does not seem to us to be the appropriate response to the insecurity in these regions,” says Jean-Jacques Wondo, an analyst and expert on military issues. Politics, geopolitics, development and security all play a part.

Martin Ziakwau, a researcher on geopolitical dynamics in the eastern DRC, says: “There have already been so many military operations, some of which are still ongoing, and they have never had the expected results. The question today is therefore whether we have a global strategy and how we work to restore lasting peace.”

Troops’ passivity in combat and officials collaborating with rebel groups are among the challenges for the army. Juvénal Munubo Mubi, a member of the national assembly’s defence and security commission, advocates restructuring the chain of command of the units deployed in the two provinces and allocating significant logistical and financial resources to the military.

It is also necessary to work on regaining the confidence of the population, he insists, “because no war can be won without that.”

This article was first published in The Africa Report’s print magazine. 

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