Armed groups and political inclusion in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo

Since 2003, the DRC’s ‘post-conflict’ period has been marred by violence and insecurity. This is particularly true of the country’s troubled eastern provinces of North and South Kivu, where around 70 armed groups operate. This project examines why, despite more than a decade of international efforts to build peace in the country, sustainable peace and security remain elusive. So far, peacebuilding initiatives have failed to acknowledge the fundamental role of the politics underpinning the armed group phenomenon, and as a result have focused on short-term fixes that compound conflict in the long-term. Using fieldwork and remotely gathered data, the project seeks to better understand armed groups and identify potential entry points for engagement.

The different actors associated with the current crisis in the eastern DRC understand the causes and drivers of the conflict very differently. As a result, international and local actors have largely divergent views on what the solutions to insecurity in the region should be, and on what the priorities are to bring about peace and development. This project seeks to understand where competing views and needs are preventing dialogue, and where needs are complementary.

International media and aid actors tend to characterise armed groups as rhetorically incoherent, opportunistic, and predatory. Therefore, armed groups are often disregarded as political actors, and efforts to curb their violence have focused on military rather than political approaches. However, despite UN claims about victories over certain armed groups, everyday insecurity for Congolese citizens remains high.

The research has found that relatively few members of armed groups are coerced into joining. Most see armed group membership as a response to wider governance failures such as political marginalisation, lack of internal and border security, and lack of livelihood opportunities.

The research highlights the need for a political solution to the armed group phenomenon, which is driven by intensely political problems, and facilitated by a wide range of political actors. 

Researchers: Suda Perera (DLP) and Congolese research partners Victor Anas and Josaphat Musamba.

See also: 

 

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About DLP

The Developmental Leadership Program (DLP) is an international research initiative that explores how leadership, power and political processes drive or block successful development.

DLP focuses on the crucial role of home-grown leaderships and coalitions in forging legitimate political settlements and institutions that promote developmental outcomes, such as sustainable growth, political stability and inclusive social development.

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News

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DLP findings on the Democratic Republic of Congo were among the topics discussed with with UK diplomats and civil servants at the FCO's Africa Study Day, held at Sandhurst on 21 March. This year's Foreign and Commonwealth Office event was organised by University of Birmingham's International Development Department, home to DLP.

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