Congolese President Tshisekedi praised the state of siege during his speech on September 21 to the 76th General Assembly of the United Nations, welcoming the measure he decreed on May 6, 2021. The state of siege, which was to end quickly to insecurity and restore peace in the two provinces, faces criticism and loses the almost unanimous support of the local population. In parliament, hundreds of lawmakers, mainly from the affected provinces of North Kivu and Ituri, point 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 ignores the criticisms and concerns of its members, civil society and especially the inhabitants of the two provinces by fully supporting the military authorities without evaluating their programs.
Regardless of what the president told the UN platform, the security situation in both provinces is worsening and confusing. Armed groups continue to intensify their attacks on civilians. Based on the recent tally established by Kivu Security Tracker (KST) experts, all armed groups have killed more than 700 civilians in Ituri and North Kivu since May 6, when the state of siege was declared. Compared to the previous quarter, the KST recorded 464 civilian deaths from February 1 to May 5, all armed groups combined in the two provinces.
Notably, the assessment of local civil society organizations paints a different picture of government talking points; before the state of siege, the movement of people was normal. Under the military authorities of the two provinces, the rights and freedoms of citizens are restricted, seriously affecting daily activities in North Kivu and Ituri. The strategy was supposed to limit individual mobility and reduce attacks against civilians; unfortunately, the security situation has not improved. The number of daily murders has not decreased; the kidnappers operate in the same way without getting caught. According to local civil society organizations, the radius of the massacres has widened, houses burned at the highest rate, colossal properties destroyed and looting have become commonplace.
It should be noted that the state of siege authorized the military governors to take over the responsibilities in the two provinces, and the military courts replaced all the civilian courts. The declaration allows for increased deployment of personal security, communications surveillance and censorship, and movement restrictions. Additional powers include the conduct of searches, the establishment of checkpoints, and the arrest and imprisonment of persons suspected of intending to harm national security. To date, there are more concerns than hopes for the state of siege, considering that there is no evaluation of the intervention. Many analysts have described the Congolese Armed Forces as an unruly army and the content of the conflict. This is the immediate problem which must be solved by a transformation towards peace, security and prosperity in the eastern part of the country.
While this may be true, as the president said in his speech, Congolese security forces have made progress in addressing the threat posed by armed groups operating in these provinces. This includes reopening important roads and facilitating the release of hostages. It should also be noted that the president relies on the military and other security agencies, the main beneficiary of the chaos. As a result, if the conflict drags on for decades, simply because the Congolese Security Forces are making profits in all kinds of conflict-related activities. For example, Radio Okapi recently broadcast that around 20 officers are being prosecuted by the military justice system, which accuses them of having embezzled funds intended for the state of siege.
In view of these points, the state of siege needs a critical assessment, preferably an independent monitoring and evaluation program to monitor and evaluate the results of the state response before its expansion. . Thus, the Congolese parliament must establish a monitoring and evaluation program to assess the progress of this exceptional decree. Otherwise, the state of siege could produce a derisory result, similar to the various approaches adopted by previous Congolese governments. Peace agreements, the stabilization program, demobilization efforts and security sector reforms have failed to restore peace.