Central Southern Africa

The reform of the army in the Congo: banking, reintegration, training...

(credit: Eusec Congo / SEAE)
(credit: Eusec Congo / SEAE)

(BRUSSELS2) The reform of the army in Congo — supported by the European mission EUSEC RD Congo — has begun… With the implementation of one of the main points: the payment of soldiers by bank transfer. This may seem like a detail. But it is far from being one. This requires both cultural and broader organizational reform.

Banking: a real inventory

This so-called “banking” process “ really obliges to make an inventory of the workforce » explains J.-L. Nuremberg, the head of the European security reform assistance mission (EUSEC RD Congo). “ It is necessary to register the assets but also the inactive ones: the wounded, the guardians of the family who receive the money in the event of a deceased person. Identity cards had to be redone, also for veterans. » The accounting process entails, in fact, a radical aspect. Previously, if a company commander declared, for example, 150 people, he was given pay for 150…. And he managed. “ If we send by bank transfer, this requires precise identification of all recipients.. And it allows sorting. " If the person does not come to withdraw the money within three months, we know that it does not exist... "

A reform in the form of a big bang

The Europeans had recommended moving towards “banking” gradually at the rate of one region per month. The Congolese found the necessary funding and decided to carry out reform in ten regions at the same time. A reform that goes well. Some people could therefore fear poor application by the military. “ But in this banking operation which generally concerns all public officials, they are the most disciplined…”. Since October, the soldiers in Kinshasa have been paid through this process: out of 130.000 soldiers, 70.000 have been banked in this way. The advantage is to avoid having armed soldiers who all show up at the bank... with their weapons. “ Having soldiers with Kalashnikovs in the bank, it's messy “testifies an officer. " And the bankers didn't really like ". We understand them!

Not a simple reform

This reform also has setbacks and disadvantages. Some leaders tended to use fictitious soldiers out of personal interest. But others did it just to have the necessities for daily functioning. Banking can also have the disadvantage of soldiers feeling less obliged to be present and reducing the authority of the direct leader. In a country where the culture of “invoice” is not very developed, this can cause some daily problems. Banking does not in fact only concern salaries but also the household fund, which the company commander has free use of in particular to meet the needs of the troop (food) or purchases... Last difficulty: between the start of the reform and its application, the unit could have moved, and its numbers modified; which leads to some administrative problems.

Some failures in the reintegration of ex-rebels

The integration of ex-rebels into the army, on the recommendation of Europeans and the international community, represents another major challenge. Even if no one wants to admit it, it is a recurring problem. Certain international precepts seem to have been erroneous or not adapted to the local situation, in particular the fact of integrating certain groups en bloc. “ There is so much lack of control in the east of the country that a rebel group is created every week testifies a European officer.

Reintegration is very “ complicated. (...) We cannot throw these soldiers into civilian life without support ". The formula used in mid-2000 seems to have fizzled, not having provided all the evidence of effectiveness. “ In 2006, we gave $100 for each demobilized and a kitchen kit. But that wasn't enough. » The idea is now rather “ to keep them as long as possible in the army”. A few thousand will be retired, honorably. And to accompany the rebels towards civilian life, by putting them on agricultural farms or engineering school, to learn a military profession.

The question is also psychological. " Some left their families very young. They only experienced one thing: shooting and being shot. They lived in the bush and never received any education, so to speak. (…) This raises a lot of questions » The Red Cross has developed a psychoanalysis program to distort the military. And the European team includes two human rights experts (one Belgian/one Italian).

The training challenge

The Congolese have great ambitions for their army: they want to train as many soldiers in ten years, representing double that of neighboring countries. " For 20 years, there was no officer school. There is therefore a whole generation that has not really been trained. If she knows the terrain, she does not know the tactical or doctrinal rules. » They are guided by a cold war philosophy ". Which represents a certain “danger” both internally and externally. It is true…. that the international community does not support them much against Rwanda and Uganda. There is thus a gap between the long-term training that Europeans want to favor and the short-term training that they want.

Several schools are being restructured: the military academy for officers, the non-commissioned officer school, the infantry school in Kitona, the logistics school is being built in Kinshasa while the The administration school operates in Kananga… “ It works because EUSEC pays the teachers, the syllabi, all the recruitment. If we stop paying, they will have great difficulty. » The Europeans are raising awareness among the Congolese so that they can take over. The cost of the schools represents approximately $750.000; what is not not much »… even for the Congo, which remains a rich country.

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Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).

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