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


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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