DR Congo Lawmaker Wants Civilians To Be Armed Against Rebels

The DR Congo parliamentarian had previously asked other parliamentarians to consider arming civilians towards defeating ADF and CODECO rebel groups, and continues his appeal.

A provincial member of parliament in North Kivu, Democratic Republic of Congo, Promesse Matofali, has called on President Felix Tshisekedi to give arms to civilians in Beni, North Kivu province, Mambasa, Irumu, and Djugu in Ituri province to help them defend themselves against the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) and Cooperative for the Development of Congo (CODECO) armed groups.

In a letter the parliamentarian addressed to the Congolese leader dated March 21, 2022 on the eve of his arrival in Kinshasa, Matofali noted that “as in Ukraine, the arming of citizens is today necessary in order to reinforce the efforts by the government to track down the enemy as government’s efforts have to date not succeeded in bringing peace to the eastern part of the country.

“Since Oct. 2014, the massacres in Beni have persisted. There have been a succession of military operations, there has been a state of siege and there is now the joint military operations with Uganda but all these efforts put in place with the good office of the head of state have not stopped the massacres on the ground,” the letter read.

“We have curiously followed the declarations of the army according to which the ADF is today dispersed in Ruwenzori and they operate in small groups which are difficult to track down.”

“The military governor of North Kivu has brought us together and said it is difficult to put a soldier for each house in all the villages. Faced with this challenge, and with the continuation of the massacres, we call on the head of state to experiment with another efficacious strategy which is that of arming the citizens so that they protect themselves.”

Matofali noted that the measure, if adopted, must be carefully supervised to avoid abuse.

“All the arms that must be given to the population must be identified. The number of bullets that must be given to the population has to be controlled,” he advised.

“We have to know that we have given Matofali a weapon bearing a number and the number of bullets given to him. Each month, in the morning and evening, the quarter heads, heads of cells and heads of each ten houses must supervise the use of these arms.”

“That can help us because there has never been the kind of situation we are facing today in Congo before. Some people say a group in Goma had distributed arms to people, I say no, those who gave the arms and those who received the arms were rebels but in the case I am advocating, it is the government which will distribute the arms.” 

Matofali said while in Kinshasa, he had explained his suggestion to the President of the Senate and other parliamentarians.

He expressed hope that they would execute this strategy to replace the state of siege which is not bringing about the envisaged results.

This is not the first time the suggestion to arm citizens has been brought up in North Kivu. The suggestion was brought up four years ago by Professor Muhindo Mughanda, a geopolitical researcher who is now Rector of the Public University of North Kivu.

However, the internationalist, Nisse Mughendi, had in a public conference in Butembo said the arming of citizens cannot produce positive results in a country which is not capable of controlling the circulation of arms.

He expressed the fear that arms distributed to citizens may end up in the hands of the rebels. 

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Chief Bisong Etahoben

Chief Bisong Etahoben is a Cameroonian investigative journalist and traditional ruler. He writes for international media and has participated in several transnational investigations. Etahoben won the first-ever Cameroon Investigative Journalist Award in 1992. He serves as a member of a number of international investigative journalism professional bodies including the Forum for African Investigative Reporters (FAIR). He is HumAngle's Francophone and Central Africa editor.

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