The United States signed a Memorandum of Understanding on security assistance with the Democratic Republic of the Congo in October 2020. In January 2021, U.S. Africa Command’s Deputy to the Commander for Civil-Military Engagement, Ambassador Andrew Young, and Director of Intelligence, Rear Admiral Heidi Berg visited the DRC to discuss the MOU’s objectives.
Last October, at a ceremony in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) Ambassador Michael Hammer and the DRC government’s Minister of Defense Aime Ngoy Mukena signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that outlined future security assistance between the two partners that will have impacts for years to come.
At the signing ceremony Ambassador Hammer spoke to the importance of the MOU, stating that it signaled the relaunch and reinvigoration of military and defense cooperation between the two nations. The MOU covers approximately $5 million in Peacekeeping Operations (PKO) and International Military Education and Training funds. The Bureau of Political-Military Affairs’ Office of Security Assistance (PM/SA) manages these funds in close cooperation with the Africa Bureau’s Office for Regional Peace and Security (AF/RPS).
The MOU supports four lines of effort, including: civil-military operations (CMO) training; strategic communications training; providing equipment and the training required to use it effectively; and training to increase English language proficiency.
The CMO training will provide specialized training on how to interact with civilians while conducting military operations, with significant attention paid to protecting civilian populations and human rights. It will also include a ‘Train-the-Trainer’ element so that the FARDC (French acronym for the DRC military) leaders can expand the training among its personnel.
Additionally, the MOU will facilitate strategic communications training. This will help to assist the FARDC in using communications equipment to increase awareness of their operations and successes as well as boosting transparency amongst the civilian population.
The final two lines of effort include providing equipment and training to the FARDC engineer corps and increasing English proficiency through training and language laboratories.
With each of these efforts in place, the MOU’s goal will empower civilian leadership to promote structural reform and the FARDC military’s professionalization.
The MOU is crucial towards restarting U.S. assistance to the DRC military, which had been suspended due to policy and legal restrictions during the Kabila administration. In February 2020, Department officials travelled to Kinshasa to evaluate the success of previous security assistance to the DRC military and determine where future U.S. support to the military could provide the most impact. During the trip, Embassy Kinshasa hosted multiple meetings with FARDC officials and other international partners and donors to DRC security assistance, including the French, MONUSCO, and European Union.
The MOU memorialized these discussions, established joint priorities, defined roles and responsibilities, and founded processes for oversight and measuring of progress. These frameworks, if achieved, will help the DRC government to professionalize their armed forces and to prepare for a transition from reliance on UN peacekeeping missions. To this end, security cooperation activities began in late November 2020 when contractor personnel arrived in Kinshasa to start procuring engineering equipment and providing training to the FARDC Engineer Corps.
The U.S. remains committed to the MOU and is taking steps to renew the security cooperation relationship. On January 27-30 of this year, U.S. Africa Command’s Deputy to the Commander for Civil-Military Engagement, Ambassador Andrew Young, and Director of Intelligence, Rear Adm. Heidi Berg, visited the DRC to demonstrate support for the Congolese commitment to enhancing military professionalism and welcome the countries’ re-established security cooperation relationship, reinforcing the U.S.-DRC Privileged Partnership for Peace and Prosperity.
Visit here for more photos of Ambassador Young’s and Rear Admiral Berg’s visit to the DRC.
Visit here for more photos of the MOU signing.
Learn more about U.S.-DRC relations here.
For more from the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, you can follow us on Twitter @StateDeptPM.
About the Author: Eric Sanders serves as a Foreign Affairs Officer in the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, Office of Security Assistance at the U.S. Department of State.