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.
- Shuffling the decks: quick fixes versus long-term stability (guest post for Developoment Progress, Jan 2015)
- Being 'there': reflections on fieldwork in the DRC (blog post, Nov 2014)