Arbiters with guns: the ambiguity of military involvement in civilian disputes in the DR Congo

Abstract

Based on extensive field research in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DR Congo), this article elucidates the logics, processes and readings surrounding certain ‘extra-military’ practices enacted by the Congolese army, namely the processing of various types of disputes between civilians. Exceeding the boundaries of the domain of ‘public security’, such activities are commonly categorised as ‘corruption’. Yet such labelling, founded on a supposed clear-cut public–private divide, obscures the underlying processes and logics, in particular the fact that these practices are located on a blurred public–private spectrum and result from both civilian demand and military imposition. Furthermore, popular readings of military involvement in civilian disputes are highly ambiguous, simultaneously representing it as ‘abnormal’ and ‘harmful’, and normalising it as ‘making sense’ – reflecting the militarised institutional environment and the weakness of civilian authorities in the eastern DR Congo. Strengthening these authorities will be vital for reducing this practice, which has an enkindling effect on the dynamics of conflict and violence.

Citation

Baaz, M.E.; Verweijen, J. Arbiters with guns: the ambiguity of military involvement in civilian disputes in the DR Congo. Third World Quarterly (2014) 35 (5) 803-820. [Special Issue: Corruption in the Aftermath of War] [DOI: 10.1080/01436597.2014.921431]

Arbiters with guns: the ambiguity of military involvement in civilian disputes in the DR Congo

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