Promotions in Congolese army, precursors to military reform?

Back to blogging after a two month long hiatus. I will be catching up on some of the M23, national dialogue, and third term debates soon.

Yesterday, the Congolese media published a list of new promotions in the Congolese army, including 106 new generals. This includes three ex-CNDP commanders: Esaie Munyakazi, Innocent Gahizi and Innocent Kabundi, but also a whole slew of former Mai-Mai and Hutu Local Defence commanders (Alunda, Nakabaka, Kasikila, Mayanga, and Rugayi).

In any case, the promotions are not the real story, although they do provide some solace to officers who were worrying about their future. In the Congo, very little money depends on your ranks––a Lieutenant-General earns a monthly salary of around $130, just about $60 more than the rank-and-file soldier. The money comes with the position, which bring with it official supplements (prime de commandement, fond secret de renseignement, etc.) as well as opportunities for all kind of illegal rackets. So the real news will come when the new army structure is announced and new positions are doled out, which according to some of those promoted may come later this week.

What is this new structure? According to the official plan, the county will be split into three Zones de Défense, based in Kisangani, Lubumbashi, and Kinshasa. Each zone will have three rapid reaction brigades, two defense brigades, and a share of the 20 regiments (to be reconstituted out of the current 32). As the current military regions will remain, this means that a new layer of military bureaucracy will be created, creating hundreds of new positions for officers.

Will these new structures be successful? Hard to say––the army reform plan deals mostly with form, not with substance. It creates new structures, calls for new equipment and more training. But it does not provide remedies for the root problems of the army: parallel chains of command, rampant racketeering and embezzlement, and impunity.

These new structures will, however, allow the government to deploy some of the ex-Mai-Mai and ex-CDNP officers who have been involved in local militia politics, smuggling, and profiteering in the Kivus in recent years. But will the new commanders be better?