In a recent AFP News report, political figures and members of the civil society in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo or DRC) have joined forces to call for the dismantling of emergency measures known as the “state of siege” in the North Kivu and Ituri provinces. Since its initiation in May 2021, this emergency measure has aimed to counter armed groups that have long plagued the region. However, mounting criticism and concerns over its effectiveness have prompted 132 prominent figures to urge the government to reevaluate its approach. This article delves into the context, implications, and rationale behind this call, shedding light on the complexities of security and governance in the Eastern DR Congo.

Background: The State of Siege

The North Kivu and Ituri provinces have grappled with the presence of numerous armed groups, a legacy of historical conflicts that shook the region at the close of the 20th century. In response to the persistent violence, the DR Congo government introduced the “state of siege” initiative two years ago, which involves the replacement of civilian officials with military or police officers. The goal was to expedite security measures and contain the activities of these armed groups, which have been responsible for widespread instability and human rights abuses.

The Call for Reassessment

The recent statement issued by 132 prominent figures, representing a cross-section of national and provincial elected officials, traditional leaders, religious representatives, and civil society members, marks a significant turning point in the debate surrounding the state of siege. The three-day assessment convened by President Felix Tshisekedi brought together individuals from the North Kivu and Ituri provinces, the regions affected by the emergency measures. The collective plea centers on three key aspects:

1. Lifting the State of Siege: The call for the immediate lifting of the state of siege underscores a growing sentiment that the initiative has not yielded the desired results. Critics argue that the militarization of governance has failed to curtail the activities of armed groups, leading to a continued cycle of violence and insecurity.

2. Restoring Civilian Institutions: The advocates of reassessment emphasize the importance of restoring civilian institutions to governance roles. This move is seen as a means to reestablish a balance between security imperatives and preserving democratic norms and human rights.

3. Strengthening Military Operations: The statement highlights the need to bolster large-scale military operations in the region. However, the call for a shift in strategy suggests that a more coordinated and comprehensive approach is necessary to combat the armed groups effectively.