*English Bezpieczeństwo międzynarodowe CII petersberg series Europa UE

Building up the Congolese defence apparatus – EUSEC DRC and the challenges ahead of the EU

EUSEC DRC, source: EEAS, licence CC

The European Union advisory and assistance mission for security reform in the Democratic Republic of Congo (“EUSEC DR Congo” – EUSEC DRC) was launched in June 2005 for an initial period of one year, following the formulation of an official request by the government of the DRC. Succeeding to missions ARTEMIS DRC in 2003 and EUPOL Kinshasa 2005-7, EUSEC DRC is aimed to assist Congolese authorities in putting in place a modern and reliable defence apparatus. The overarching objective is to restore governance, restructure and reform the security and defence instruments of the DRC in order to create lasting conditions for stability as well as social and economic development of the country. 

The Common Security and Defence Policy’s approach to DRC is holistic, in that EUSEC DRC is complemented by its “sister mission” EUPOL DRC with technical expertise in the fields of police restructuring and civilian penal justice. Both missions assist the Congolese authorities in implementing policies compatible with democratic norms, compliance with Human Rights, gender equality and international humanitarian law, as well as good governance.

The Congolese security context

EUSEC DRC needs to be apprehended in the European Union’s (EU) wider efforts to prevent, manage and resolve conflicts in Africa. The establishment of a series of ESDP missions and European Commission projects and programmes, are proof of the Union’s continuous attempts to contribute to the stabilisation, pacification and resolution of the crises that hit the region. The European Union and its Member States have been closely monitoring the deteriorating situation in the Great Lakes region, in particular with the outbreak and extreme coverage of the Genocide in Rwanda, and its determining consequences in precipitating the First Congo War (1996-1997). As former colonial powers, a number of EU Member States have a history of longstanding presence and vested interest in the stability of the DRC and the Great Lakes Region, a region abounding in natural resources and potential wealth.

The European Union has been supporting the transition process in the DRC, after the decade-long dictatorship of President Mobutu Sese Seko and the subsequent regional wars that brought bloodshed to the country (1996-1997 and 1998-2002). The post-war transitional period in the DRC was concomitant to the progressive development of the EU as an actor in world affairs. Against such a framework, the precarious security situation in the DRC and its potential repercussions on the country’s fragile democracy and the rule of law paved the ground for the conception and deployment of the first European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP) missions to the region. Operation Artemis, set up and deployed in June 2003, constituted the first step of the EU’s active engagement for the stabilisation of the security conditions and the improvement of the humanitarian situation in Bunia. It was followed by the deployment of EUPOL Kinshasa (which was succeeded by EUPOL DRC) and EUSEC DRC in June 2005 for the reform and modernisation of the DRC’s police and armed forces, necessary to the stabilisation and development of the country.

Legal basis

The security situation of the Great Lakes Region and the DRC has constituted a central concern of the EU’s Member States and a vector in the development of the EU’s common foreign policy. On November 22nd 2004, the Council approved an Action Plan for ESDP support to Peace and Security in Africa. A year later, on May 2nd 2005, a Council Joint Action (2005/355/CFSP) set up the European Union mission to provide advice and assistance for security sector reform in the DRC. EUSEC DRC supports the implementation of the DRC Armed Forces’ (FARDC) reform plan, with a particular focus on strategic advice, administration, human resources, training and logistics, and in the respect of human rights, the fight against sexual violence, and civil-military cooperation. The organisation of the mission has evolved over time to meet the objectives set in agreement with the Congolese authorities.

The latest Action Plan for the period running from October 2012 to September 2013 elaborated by the EUSEC DRC, in collaboration with the Ministry of National Defence and Ancient Combatants (MDNAC), was officially signed on November 7th 2012. A budget of €4 million will contribute to the implementation of the reform plan of the FARDC, according to the priorities defined by the MDNAC.

Under this mandate, the following actions will be either continued or undertaken:

  • continue to assist with the implementation of projects already launched in the fields of management of human resources, budgets and finances, with the setting up of computer-based financial procedures;
  • continue to support the consolidation and alignment of the training system, with assistance to the Military Schools of Kananga and Kitona, as well as to the Logistics School in Kinshasa;
  • continued management and securitisation of arms and ammunitions, and most specifically, rehabilitation of the ammunition dump in Mbanza-Ngungu;
  • widen the territorial IT network, linking Headquarters to military regions, and reinforcement of IT competences of the FARDC through specialised trainings.

The implementation of this Action Plan will take place in complementarity with the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the DR Congo (MONUSCO) and other projects financed by EU Member States or the EU delegation to the DRC.

Characteristics of the mission

The mission counts around 50 personnel from 14 Member States, military and civilians alike. It is based in Kinshasa, with detachments deployed in Bukavu, Goma and Lubumbashi. The mission’s approach entails two major and interconnected dimensions; firstly, it brings expertise and technical competences to Congolese authorities for the conceptualisation and realisation of the armed forces’ reform. On the other hand, the mission simultaneously develops and puts into place concrete projects aiming at the successful implementation of the reform roadmap. In that way, the expertise enables the setting up of specific projects, which in return, provide valuable information for the continuation of the reform.

Modernisation of the Administration

A series of activities focused on human resources were launched as part of the mission’s first mandate. They involve specific support for operations aiming at the integration of the Congolese Army and good governance in the field of security through the effective registration, control and management of the FARDC. Initially focusing on the “payment chains” that were supervising the monthly disbursements of wages of military personnel, it was contributing to the control of the army’s strength and the management of finances. For that purpose, a biometric census for the reliable identification of all members of the Armed Forces was created, followed by a database, which permitted to follow and monitor military personnel across the country. Activities, thus, extended to covering trainings, the establishment of appropriate communication and management tools at regional and central levels, as well as standardised procedures and modernisation of IT systems.


The mission specifically focuses on the training of the FARDC. In that perspective, priority actions are identified by working groups, which plan and implement actions such as the creation of a general command of military schools in Kinshasa, the rehabilitation of the Non-Commissioned Officers School, the Artillery and Infantry School of Kitona, as well as the reopening of the Military Academy and Administration School in Kananga.


In cooperation with the FARDC, the mission has contributed to reorganising the global structure and the logistical procedures of the armed forces.

The mission is working on ameliorating the conditions of military personnel and their families, in cooperation with international partners. In parallel, concrete projects for the support of victims of sexual violence by military medical structures have been laid down. Finally, sensitisation and training actions are developed in order to promote the respect for Human Rights, which is perceived as a precondition for the constitution of a national, republican and professional army.

Key achievements

EUSEC DRC has been successful in putting into place a number of instruments and in implementing some flagship initiatives for the appropriate reform of Congolese defence structures. The mission has put in place mechanisms ensuring greater transparency of financial flows that have been crucial in supervising the monthly disbursements of wages of military personnel known as the “chain of payments”. The Roundtable for the restructuring and rebuilding of the armed forces (September 2006) has resulted in the launching of the biometric census of troops, a cornerstone initiative of the personnel, administration and financial reform. In April 2009, military identity cards started being distributed for a better control of the military and of the payment balances. The mission contributed to the revival of trainings under the 6th mandate; it included courses on financial management and human resources, and administrative regulation was distributed to all the military regions. The Administrative School in Kananga, the Training School for non-commissioned officers and the Military Academy in Kananga were reopened. In addition, the territorial computed network now connects Kinshasa to the main sites of the military regions and their staffs. Finally, the reinforcement of arms and munitions security is being tackled through the Logistic Doctrine and the Regime of Arms and ammunitions. The mission’s support in the drafting of these documents and the concrete implementation of the regime for effective control of arms and ammunitions stocks and dumps has been central.


With three completed and two ongoing Common Security and Defence Policy missions in the DRC, the EU has widened the scope of its engagement in the country and has become a major player, also in the field of defence. The common concern over the DRC and the agreement on EU intervention indicate a large degree of common interest amongst EU Member States, but also in alignment with the EU institutions and the bilateral policies pursued by individual states. If a number of instruments and procedures have been put into place, so far, they have proved unsuccessful in enabling ill-disciplined government troops containing and managing the activities and advances of rebel groups, which culminated with the M23’s surprise advance into Goma in November 2012.

Seven years on, the EUSEC DRC has failed in reaching its goal of building up security forces able of guaranteeing the stability of the country and the integrity of its borders. On February 3rd 2013, a new coalition (“Union des Forces Révolutionnaires du Congo” UFRC) of armed groups based in the South Kivu was created, with the purpose of toppling President Joseph Kabila’s government, re-elected at the end of 2011 after strongly contested elections. Conflict-prevention in the Great Lakes region and DRC touches upon a wide range of inter-connected economic, political and security issues that a 50-strong mission cannot tackle alone. The stakes are high for the EU, as a failure to contain the development of the conflict in Eastern Congo could trigger another regional war in a zone of primary European interest that has already suffered nearly two decades of turmoil.

Myrto Hatzigeorgopoulos – CII Collaborator – is currently a Research Affiliate at ISIS Europe working on CSDP, emerging threats, EU-NATO relations, as well as conflict management. She recently completed a Master of Arts in International Conflict Studies at the War Studies Department of King’s College London (UK) with an award from the Belgian Benevolent Society. She obtained a BA in Political Science from the Université Libre de Bruxelles (Belgium) and participated in the ERASMUS programme, studying for a year at the Freie Universität Berlin (Germany). Prior to joining ISIS, she worked at the European Parliament as a Schuman scholar and served as an intern at the Greek Embassy in Brussels.

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