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17.4.2021 : 23:29 : +0200

Demobilization in the DRC

In November 2004 the government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) began a nationwide programme of disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration (DDR). Initially it was estimated that 330,000 combatants from ten armed groups would be demobilized and then either returned to civilian life or reintegrated into a reformed national army. However, in early 2008 a further 22 armed groups signed peace agreements and were also incorporated under the DRC government’s National Plan for DDR. Some members of these latter armed groups demobilized and returned home, while the remainder were directly integrated into the DRC’s new national army, Forces armées de la République Démocratique du Congo (FARDC).

The M23 movement is a product of this recent army integration process, and was created by former members of the rebel group Congrès national pour la défense du people (CNDP). To better understand the issues which may arise in the future disarmament and demobilization of the M23 rebels, it is helpful to examine the factors which motivated members of the CNDP and other armed groups in the DRC to enter DDR. It is also pertinent to understand how military commanders within these armed groups employed tactics of monitoring and punishment to prevent the desertion of their troops.

A new Small Arms Survey Issue Brief—Demobilization in the DRC: Armed Groups and the Role of Organizational Control—analyses disarmament and demobilization in the DRC between November 2004 and September 2011. It focuses on six armed groups, including the CNDP, and is based on interviews with low-level combatants, including rank-and-file troops and junior commanders.

Key findings include the following:

  • Low-level troops were closely monitored and would be severely punished if caught trying to escape to an official DDR programme.
  • Military commanders often kept lists of members and weapons stocks. DDR practitioners could use these records to guard against misinformation concerning troop sizes and weapons inventories.
  • Grading DDR packages by rank could prevent military commanders from becoming recalcitrant and tightening their grip over the rank-and-file.
  • Better protective measures for deserters, such as safe havens introduced prior to peace agreements, may have helped to prevent re-recruitment and may have also limited reprisal attacks against the family members of deserters.   


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