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Kivu’s intractable security conundrum, revisited


Vogel, Christoph; Stearns, Jason K (2018). Kivu’s intractable security conundrum, revisited. African Affairs, 117(469):695-707.

Abstract

‘The Security Problems of the Democratic Republic of Congo continue to puzzle international peace and policy makers’.1 This is how, in 2009, Koen Vlassenroot and Timothy Raeymaekers set out to explain conflict dynamics in the Kivu in this journal. They argued that while the peace process successfully unified the Congo and produced new, democratic institutions, it also led to the privatization of governance and the entrenching of conflicts. Within the new state structures, factionalized elites quickly began to exploit and feed insecurity as a means to leverage economic and political gain, often reproducing local struggles over power and historical grievances over land, identity, and economic marginalization.2 Misdiagnosing the Congolese state as failed, instead of deeply functional for a narrow elite, donors became complicit in the violence as these new elites drew on outside resources.3 Eight years on, much of Vlassenroot and Raeymaekers’ analysis remains highly relevant even as underlying dynamics have evolved. Since President Joseph Kabila’s contested re-election in 2011, the country has witnessed a steady deterioration of human security, most notably in the Kivus but also during the recent crisis in Kasai.4 Displacement has continued apace, reaching around 4.5 million—one of the highest levels ever recorded since the onset of the conflicts in 1993, with almost a million newly displaced in the first half of 2017 alone.5 At the same time, turmoil has engulfed national politics, as Kabila refused to step down at the end of his second constitutional term in 2016, delaying elections until the end of 2018, if not further.
During this past decade, four developments have altered the contours of the conflict, contributing to a perpetuation of violence and insecurity. First, Congolese political and military elites have become increasingly invested in conflict, rendering it an end in itself. Instead of promoting cohesion and discipline, the government has perceived its security apparatus primarily as a means for distributing patronage, only occasionally prioritizing stability. Second, with the end of the Congrès national pour la défense du peuple (CNDP) rebellion in 2009, and more dramatically since the defeat of the Mouvement du 23 mars (M23) in 2013, regional involvement has decreased and the Kivus have seen few foreign-backed rebellions. This, combined with the national political crisis, has led armed groups to switch the focus of their bellicose rhetoric away from Rwanda towards Kinshasa. Third, there has been a dramatic proliferation of belligerents from a few dozens to over a hundred, while at the same time armed groups have coalesced into often unstable coalitions. Fourth, and most recently, insecurity is becoming increasingly politicized as political turmoil reverberates in the Kivus, prompting elites to bolster their influence through armed mobilization. Before analyzing these four trends in more detail, it is useful to provide an overview of key events in the past decade.

Abstract

‘The Security Problems of the Democratic Republic of Congo continue to puzzle international peace and policy makers’.1 This is how, in 2009, Koen Vlassenroot and Timothy Raeymaekers set out to explain conflict dynamics in the Kivu in this journal. They argued that while the peace process successfully unified the Congo and produced new, democratic institutions, it also led to the privatization of governance and the entrenching of conflicts. Within the new state structures, factionalized elites quickly began to exploit and feed insecurity as a means to leverage economic and political gain, often reproducing local struggles over power and historical grievances over land, identity, and economic marginalization.2 Misdiagnosing the Congolese state as failed, instead of deeply functional for a narrow elite, donors became complicit in the violence as these new elites drew on outside resources.3 Eight years on, much of Vlassenroot and Raeymaekers’ analysis remains highly relevant even as underlying dynamics have evolved. Since President Joseph Kabila’s contested re-election in 2011, the country has witnessed a steady deterioration of human security, most notably in the Kivus but also during the recent crisis in Kasai.4 Displacement has continued apace, reaching around 4.5 million—one of the highest levels ever recorded since the onset of the conflicts in 1993, with almost a million newly displaced in the first half of 2017 alone.5 At the same time, turmoil has engulfed national politics, as Kabila refused to step down at the end of his second constitutional term in 2016, delaying elections until the end of 2018, if not further.
During this past decade, four developments have altered the contours of the conflict, contributing to a perpetuation of violence and insecurity. First, Congolese political and military elites have become increasingly invested in conflict, rendering it an end in itself. Instead of promoting cohesion and discipline, the government has perceived its security apparatus primarily as a means for distributing patronage, only occasionally prioritizing stability. Second, with the end of the Congrès national pour la défense du peuple (CNDP) rebellion in 2009, and more dramatically since the defeat of the Mouvement du 23 mars (M23) in 2013, regional involvement has decreased and the Kivus have seen few foreign-backed rebellions. This, combined with the national political crisis, has led armed groups to switch the focus of their bellicose rhetoric away from Rwanda towards Kinshasa. Third, there has been a dramatic proliferation of belligerents from a few dozens to over a hundred, while at the same time armed groups have coalesced into often unstable coalitions. Fourth, and most recently, insecurity is becoming increasingly politicized as political turmoil reverberates in the Kivus, prompting elites to bolster their influence through armed mobilization. Before analyzing these four trends in more detail, it is useful to provide an overview of key events in the past decade.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography
Dewey Decimal Classification:910 Geography & travel
Uncontrolled Keywords:Geography, Planning and Development, Sociology and Political Science
Language:English
Date:1 October 2018
Deposited On:11 Jan 2019 11:15
Last Modified:29 Apr 2019 07:10
Publisher:Oxford University Press
ISSN:1468-2621
OA Status:Closed
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1093/afraf/ady033

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