Congolese President Tshisekedi gave self-acclaim merit about the State of Siege during his September 21st speech at the 76th United Nations General Assembly, praising the measure he decreed on May 6th, 2021. The State of Siege, which was supposed to swiftly end the insecurity and restore peace in the two provinces, is facing criticism and losing its near-unanimous support of the local population.
In the parliament, hundreds of legislators, mainly from the impacted provinces of the North Kivu and Ituri, are pointing to the lack of results. They also oppose the extension, demanding an explanation from the minister of defense before extending the decree. Unfortunately, the National Assembly is ignoring the criticism and concerns of its members, civil society, and mostly the habitants of the two provinces by fully supporting the military authorities without assessing their programs.
Regardless of what the president declared at the UN platform, the security situation in the two provinces is worsening and confusing. Armed groups continue to intensify their attacks against civilians. Based on the recent count established by the experts from the Kivu Security Tracker (KST), all armed groups have killed more than 700 civilians in Ituri and North Kivu since May 6th, the date the State of the Siege was declared. Compared to the previous quarter, the KST documented 464 civilian deaths from February 1st to May 5th, all armed groups combined in the two provinces.
Notably, the local Civil Society Organizations assessment portrays a different picture from the government’s talking points; before the State of Siege, the movement of people was normal. Under the military authorities in the two provinces, citizens’ rights and liberties are restricted, seriously affecting the daily activities in North Kivu and Ituri.
The strategy was supposed to limit everyone’s mobility and reduce the attacks on civilians; unfortunately, the security situation has not improved. The number of daily killings has not declined; the kidnappers operate in the same way without getting caught. According to the local civil society organizations, the radius of massacres has widened, houses burned at the highest rate, properties colossally destroyed, and looting has become common.
To point out, the State of Siege allowed the military governors to take over responsibilities in the two provinces, and military courts substituted all the civil courts. The declaration allows for increased deployment of security personal, monitoring and censorship of communications, and restrictions on movement. Additional powers include conducting searches, establishing checkpoints, as well as arresting and imprisoning those suspected intending to harm national security.
As of today, there are more concerns than the hope of the State of Siege, considering that there is no assessment of the intervention. Many analysts have described the Congolese Armed Forces as an undisciplined army and the conflict’s content. It is the immediate problem that needs to be addressed through a transformation toward peace, security, and prosperity in the east part of the country.
Although this may be true, as the president stated in his speech, Congolese Security Forces have made some progress in addressing the threat posed by armed groups operating in those provinces. This includes reopening important roads and facilitating the release of hostages. It should also be noted that the president is relying on the military and other security agencies, the principal beneficiary of the chaos.
Accordingly, if the conflict drags on for decades, simply because the Congolese Security Forces are making profits in all sorts of activities related to the conflict. For example, Radio Okapi recently broadcasted that about twenty officers are being prosecuted by the military justice system, which accuses them of having embezzled funds intended for the state of siege.
Given these points, the state of siege needs a critical evaluation, preferably an independent monitoring and evaluation program to track and assess the results of the intervention state by the state before its extension. Thus, the Congolese parliament must establish a monitory and evaluation program to assess the progress of this exceptional decree. Otherwise, the State of Siege may produce a derisory result, similar to the various approaches taken by the previous Congolese governments. Peace agreements, stabilization programs, demobilization efforts, and security sector reforms have failed to restore peace.