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Policy and Research Papers

Multi-layered Security Governance as a Quick Fix? The challenges of donor-supported, bottom-up security provision in Ituri (DR Congo)

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There is currently a lively debate among policy-makers and scholars about the role that local non-state actors can play in security provision in so-called ‘fragile situations’, or contexts characterized by high levels of insecurity and limited state capacity to deal with it. The idea that building security institutions based on Western models is the remedy to the insecurity of fragile situations, has come under increased criticism both from scholars and practitioners and has promoted the inclusion of local non-state actors in peace-building strategies.

This paper by the Justice and Security Research Programme (JSRP), from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) investigates ‘multi-layered’ security governance arrangements developed in the restive Ituri province in north-eastern DR Congo, where different forms of insecurity affect people’s lives on a daily basis. It looks more specifically into ‘multilayered’ security governance in Ituri’s capital of Bunia, which is facing a high level of violent crime, and in the Irumu territory, which is the site of a violent conflict between the Forces de Résistance Patriotique d’Ituri (Front for Patriotic Resistance of Ituri, or FRPI) and the Congolese army that is relying on support from the Mission de l’Organisation des Nations Unies pour la Stabilisation en République Démocratique du Congo (United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the DR Congo, or MONUSCO). The paper argues that while international support for non-state security actors can help in mitigating insecurity, it should not be considered as the ‘missing link’ in security governance. Involving local non-state security actors in security governance is perceived as a practical way to improve security conditions, but the issues which produce insecurity in north-eastern Congo are far too complex and deeply rooted for such localised “bottom-up” approaches to significantly change the status quo. Furthermore, we argue that adding new security actors may result in tensions with existing ones, that in turn may have adverse effects on the security of citizens. This is because ‘security’ is a deeply contested political issue that is ultimately about who can enforce order. ‘Multi-layered’ security, therefore, should not be seen as a technical ‘fix’ to people’s daily security problems, but rather as a political choice, the effect of which can be quite unpredictable especially in areas such as north-eastern DR Congo, where political and coercive authority is deeply contested.

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The Challenges of Multi-Layered Security Governance in Ituri

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There has been a slow, but growing awareness among external actors that some local non-state security actors should be involved in security governance in conflict affected situations. Already in 2006, the OECD published a report that called for a ‘multilayered’ approach to reforming actors and institutions that provide security and justice services (Scheye and McLean, 2006). Often these actors consist of local authorities, such as customary chiefs, village elders, or business people working in collaboration with different kinds of self-defense groups. The idea behind ‘multi-layered’ security governance is that the inclusion of local non state actors in security governance will improve security provision to people because they have more legitimacy. But in reality ‘multi-layered’ security governance is often marked by conflict and competition as much as by collaboration and common solutions to people’s security problems.

The Justice and Security Research Programme (JSRP), from the London School of Economics and Political Science, published this third policy brief in a series of briefs outlining the ideas and evidence behind their work. It highlights some of the opportunities and challenges of ‘multi-layered’ security governance in conflict-affected situations through a study of how it works in the Ituri Province located in north-eastern DR Congo.

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The Armed Conflict Lurking in the Countryside

The protests against Congolese President Joseph Kabila in cities like Kinshasa and Lubumbashi, only reveal part of the crisis the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is currently facing. The current fragmentation of authority in rural Eastern Congo is the outcome of a constant reconstitution of local political order, largely based on exclusivist and ethnic claims.

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The in-between of being a civilian and combatant – circular return in eastern DR Congo

This article introduces the notion of circular return to explain the permanent state of mobility between civilian and combatant life of combatants. The phenomenon is widely seen in eastern DRC, where thousands of Congolese youth have been going in and out of armed groups for several decades now. While the notion of circular return has its origins in migration and refugee studies, the article argue that it also serves as a useful lens to describe and understand processes of incessant armed mobilisation. In conceptualising these processes as forms of circular return, the article's authors want to move beyond the remobilisation discourse, dominant both in DDR literature and policy speech. This discourse tends to be too security oriented, emphasising the security threat of armed mobilisation and the failure of DDR processes and the institutions supporting them. More importantly, it ignores combatants’ agency and larger processes of socialisation and social rupture, which are key drivers of armed (continued) mobilisation. The article argues that armed groups are experiments in creating new social spaces, providing new forms of social capital and constituting new identities. Circular return points at combatants’ capacity to navigate between these new spaces and older ones.

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