Congo Urged to Overhaul Military to Avoid Squandering of Aid

The Democratic Republic of Congo must overhaul its military and police to avoid squandering billions of dollars in aid meant to develop the impoverished country, according to a report by 13 Congolese and international groups.

Government officials lack the political will to reform the military because they’re profiting from its current structure, to the detriment of the population, according to the publication, released today in Kinshasa, the capital.

“The very people in senior positions of the government and military who are responsible for effecting reform continue to profit from the current army, either in raking off salaries of servicemen, kickbacks, or involvement in illegal mining, trade or protection rackets,” Dismas Kitenge, vice president of Congo’s International Federation for Human Rights, said in an e-mailed statement today.

Conflict continues to plague the Central African nation, mainly in the mineral-rich east, almost a decade after a civil war officially ended in 2003. In the past five years, only 1 percent of $14 billion in international aid went to military and police reform, according to the report.

The United Nations last year ranked Congo bottom of its Human Development Index, which measures indicators including education and income.

The report called for more support for reform from governments with significant investments in Congo, including Angola, South Africa and China.

‘Takes Time’

More money should also be allocated by the government to reform the country’s security services, Police General Michel Olesse told reporters today in Kinshasa. Changes in the police structure are already under way “but to reform you must change men, and that takes time,” he said.

The report comes a week after President Joseph Kabila called for the arrest and trial of army commanders responsible for an insurrection of about 300 soldiers in the east. Many of the soldiers were former supporters of rebel General Bosco Ntaganda, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes.

Ntaganda runs gold and tin ore smuggling rings in the eastern Congo worth millions of dollars, according the United Nations. Kabila said Ntaganda could be arrested if he was found guilty of crimes, according to a summary of his remarks on the North Kivu provincial website.

“Military reform is also linked to the reform of the justice system,” because soldiers are not held responsible for their crimes, Irene Esambo, president of the Center for the Study of Justice and Resolution 1325, told reporters in Kinshasa.

Trade Stopped

Congo is Africa’s largest producer of tin ore, most of which is located in the eastern conflict zones. Much of the trade from the region stopped last April, when electronics industry groups began refusing to buy minerals that may have funded armed groups in the country.

Vancouver-based Alphamin Resources Corp. and Malaysia Smelting Corp. Bhd are exploring tin-ore operations in eastern Congo. Toronto’s Banro Corp. started shipping gold from the region last year.

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