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Access to Resources and Predictability in Armed Rebellion: The FAPC's Short-Lived “Monaco” in Eastern Congo



This article discusses the impact of economic resources on the behaviour of an armed group. The availability of resources, and the presence of “lootable” resources in particular, is presumed to have a negative impact on the way an armed group behaves toward the civilian population. The case of the Armed Forces of the Congolese People (Forces Armées du Peuple Congolais, FAPC) in eastern Congo strongly suggests that it is necessary to look beyond this monocausal argument so as to witness the range of other factors at work. In this vein, first, the article demonstrates how the political economy literature underestimates the ease of accessibility of lootable resources. The paper then shows how the behaviour of this armed group was tied to a particular economic interest: In order to access these lootable goods, the FAPC was dependent on pre-established trading networks, so it had to increase the predictability of economic interactions through the construction of a minimum of social and economic order. Second, the article reveals how the political economy literature can underestimate the specific conflict dynamics. Military security in particular has a strong impact in this context.
Africa Spectrum 2/2011: 43-70
Access to Resources and Predictability in
Armed Rebellion: The FAPC’s Short-lived
Monaco in Eastern Congo
Kristof Titeca
Abstract: This article discusses the impact of economic resources on the
behaviour of an armed group. The availability of resources, and the presence
of “lootable” resources in particular, is presumed to have a negative impact
on the way an armed group behaves toward the civilian population. The case
of the Armed Forces of the Congolese People (Forces Armées du Peuple
Congolais, FAPC) in eastern Congo strongly suggests that it is necessary to
look beyond this monocausal argument so as to witness the range of other
factors at work. In this vein, first, the article demonstrates how the political
economy literature underestimates the ease of accessibility of lootable
resources. The paper then shows how the behaviour of this armed group
was tied to a particular economic interest: In order to access these lootable
goods, the FAPC was dependent on pre-established trading networks, so it
had to increase the predictability of economic interactions through the
construction of a minimum of social and economic order. Second, the article
reveals how the political economy literature can underestimate the specific
conflict dynamics. Military security in particular has a strong impact in this
Manuscript received 3 August 2011; accepted 11 October 2011
Keywords: Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Uganda, armed con-
flicts, armed forces/military units, informal cross-border trade
Kristof Titeca is a postdoctoral fellow from the Research Foundation –
Flanders (FWO), based at the Institute of Development Policy and Man-
agement, University of Antwerp. His main research interests are informal
cross-border trade on the frontiers of the Democratic Republic of Congo,
Sudan and Uganda; armed movements in central Africa; and the provision of
public services in so-called “failed” states, with specific attention to the
Democratic Republic of the Congo. In these research fields, he is particularly
interested in issues of regulatory authority.
Kristof Titeca
Economic factors have a specific impact on conflicts and armed move-
ments.1 As Berdal and Malone (2000: 2) argue,
economic considerations often shape the calculations and behavior of
the parties to a conflict, giving rise to a particular war economy and a
distinctive dynamic of conflict.
This contribution aims to explain the impact of economic resources on the
actual behaviour of an armed movement, through a discussion of a former
militia called the Armed Forces of the Congolese People (Forces Armées du
Peuple Congolais, FAPC).2 This militia, which was led by Commander
Jérôme Kakwavu, existed from February/March 2003 until April 2005.3 It
was created with the support of the Ugandan government, which wanted to
protect its interests in the area. During this period, it was in control of the
localities of Aru, Ariwara and the northern part of Mahagi in northeastern
Congo (van Puijenbroek 2008; UN 2005a, b; Human Rights Watch 2005).
This area has been continually economically important and resource-rich: It
has a great number of natural resources, such as gold mines and timber; it is
also an important trading centre, and the authorities control the regional
trading routes leading to it as well as the local customs institutions (and the
consequent taxation possibilities).
As I will demonstrate, the political economy literature on the behaviour
of armed groups predicts that a negative relationship will exist between the
presence of natural resources and the behaviour of armed groups. Although
the FAPC was operating in an economically important and resource-rich
area – and contrary to other groups that were operating in the area under
similar circumstances, it was characterized by relatively disciplined behaviour
1 The author wishes to thank Zachariah Mampilly, Nelson Kasfir, Ana Arjona, Joost
Van Puijenbroek, the participants of the 2009 seminar “Rebel Governance” (Yale
University) and the 2010 “Militias and State-building” panel (ASA annual meeting),
as well as the two anonymous reviewers and the editors of this journal for their
helpful comments. The usual disclaimers apply. The field research for this article
was financed by the Research Fund of the Institute of Development Policy and
Management (University of Antwerp) and the Research Foundation – Flanders
2 This attention to economic factors has been inspired largely by the “greed and
grievance” debate, which was sparked by Berdal and Malone’s (2000) volume of the
same name. Their work sought to understand the “economic dimension” of con-
flict “in order to better understand the causes and persistence of conflict”.
3 The FAPC surrendered to the UN in April 2005; Commander Jérôme (as he was
commonly referred to) was integrated as a general into the new Congolese army,
the Kinshasa-based FARDC. The majority of the rebels chose disarmament and
community reintegration, while a minority were absorbed into the FARDC.
Access to Resources and Predictability in Armed Rebellion
– the FAPC did “not live off the land”,4 but rather tried to create a certain
degree of predictability by constituting a basic form of social and economic
order. The comparative discipline of its combatants constituted an im-
portant aspect of this. The core question that this article seeks to address is
why this was the case. Why did this armed movement behave in this way,
particularly in a territory where resources are seemingly readily available?
Moving beyond a strictly economic approach, the article argues that two
factors played an important role in this being the case: First, the political
economy literature underestimates the ease of accessibility of these “loot-
able” resources, and also does not distinguish between the exploitation of
and the actual trade in these goods. In accessing these goods, the armed
movement was to a certain extent dependent on pre-established trading
networks, which affected its behaviour. In order to access these networks, as
well as to attract as many traders as possible, it had to increase the predicta-
bility of economic interactions. Second, the article shows how specific ex-
ante conditions – such as the availability of resources – are not the only fac-
tors that can influence the behaviour of armed movements; instead, the
article seeks to illuminate how conflict itself creates particular dynamics that
impact the latter.
Resources, Conflict and Armed Groups
The political economy approach advanced by the “greed and grievance”
debate has proven to be particularly influential in the analysis of conflict
(Collier 2000a; Collier and Hoeffler 2002). This argument posits that the
availability of natural resources – which are then exported as primary com-
modities – provides an incentive for the formation of armed groups and, as
a consequence, violent behaviour. In this context, it is proposed that “min-
eral resources are also easily captured” and that resources are “seen to act as
a ‘honey pot’ that provides incentives for profit-seeking groups to engage in
violent actions” (De Soysa 2000: 115; Collier 2000b: 95).
Not all resources have the same effect though: Lootable commodities,
in particular, are presumed to have an effect on the behaviour of armed
movements. Ross (2003) argues that a distinction has to be made between
“lootable” and “obstructable” resources: Whereas the transportation of ob-
structable resources can be easily blocked, lootable resources can be mobi-
lized without problems. Primary commodity exports are a good example of
the latter as they do not “depend upon complex and delicate networks of
information and transactions, as with manufacturing”. Moreover, they are
4 E-mail interview with a UN area expert, 22 May 2010.
Kristof Titeca
“easy for an organized military force to impose predatory taxation on, by
targeting these trade routes” (Collier 2000b: 93). Lootable resources – such
as drugs, gemstones, agricultural products or timber – therefore increase,
from this perspective, the likelihood of war. In seizing these lootable goods,
combatants often act in a socially destructive manner in which violence
against their own communities is committed (Collier 2002). Also, the trade
in these lootable goods becomes a source of conflict and predatory behav-
iour. While it can sustain armed groups, this trade becomes a target for vio-
lent activities which are part of broader socially destructive processes, nega-
tively impacting the wider population (Collier 2000a). This outcome was, for
example, particularly prominent in the 1991–2002 war in Sierra Leone,
where the control of diamond-mining areas – and the diamond trade –
played an important role in the strategies of all armed forces (in other words,
both government and rebel forces) (Reno 2009: 314; Keen 2005).5
Instead of taking as a starting point the nature of the resources, the re-
lationship between resources and violence can also be explained by taking
the armed movements and their individual members as the primary unit of
analysis. In this context, Jeremy Weinstein (2007) argues that the strong
availability of resources has a negative impact on the behaviour of rebel
movements. In doing so, he distinguishes between “opportunistic” and
“activist” rebellions. Opportunistic rebellions emerge from resource-rich
environments or with support from outside patrons who keep all the bene-
fits to themselves and who commit high levels of violence against the local
population. In contrast, activist rebellions emerge in resource-poor contexts,
and its participants commit fewer abuses while also employing violence
selectively and strategically.6 In other words, the strong availability of re-
sources may create a “resource curse”, in which the movement is flooded
with opportunistic actors, which has detrimental consequences for the af-
fected population.
5 Other research has also shown how conflict tends to concentrate itself in particular
geographic locations: As economic opportunities – and more precisely resource ex-
traction – are spatially fixed, they are a focal point in conflict situations. The pres-
ence of mineral resources, in particular, creates a narrower geographical scope dur-
ing conflict (Buhaug and Gates 2002).
6 This distinction is similar to Olsen’s (1993) distinction between “roving” and
“stationary” bandits: The former do not settle down in the area, but occasionally
raid the population and steal everything. This leaves little incentive for the popula-
tion to keep producing. In contrast, a stationary bandit settles down in a particular
area and steals from the population by taxing them, but also limits theft in the area.
In doing so, the population continues to have an incentive to produce, which al-
lows for further taxation.
Access to Resources and Predictability in Armed Rebellion
Resource-rich rebel groups offer short-term rewards, or payoffs, to
motivate participants. Resource-constrained rebel groups rely on
promises about the selective benefits that individuals will receive in
the future (Weinstein 2007: 603).
Because of the presence of economic endowments, groups attract oppor-
tunistic consumers who have a particularly short-term perspective and who
are mainly interested in their own personal enrichment. These opportunistic
rebellions tend to be detrimental to civilian populations, as the participants
turn the movement into “destructive, violent and state-destroying rebel
organizations” (Weinstein 2007: 53).
In this way, Weinstein illustrates how individual actions have a strong
impact on the character of an armed movement as a whole; in other words,
much depends on the motivations of individual fighters. A related argument
has been coined by David Keen, who reveals how violence in this context
can be the result of “top-down” and “bottom-up” actions. Violence can be
mobilized in a top-down fashion by political leaders and entrepreneurs for
both political and economic reasons; it can also be the consequence of those
bottom-up initiatives wherein a variety of actors (both military and civilian)
embrace violence as a solution to their problems. These might not only be
psychological but also economic – in which case violence becomes violent
private accumulation (Keen 2000: 25). The latter can be an especially attrac-
tive motivation for joining a particular rebel movement.
Through a case study of the FAPC, this article will add nuances to
some of the findings about the links between the presence of resources and
the behaviour of armed groups. Although this armed movement operated in
an environment rich with resources – a “honey pot” with, consequently, the
strong potential for there to be a resource curse – and was supported by an
external patron, it exhibited a rather different attitude toward the popula-
tion. The next section explains the history of the movement and will also
explain why the FAPC decided to cooperate with the local trading commu-
nity. I will show that contrary to what might be expected – and contrary to
other active groups in the area with similar characteristics – this particular
armed group engaged in disciplined behaviour within its centres of control.
The findings herein are based on field research undertaken in eastern
Congo in July/August 2009 and January/February 2010, as well as on long-
term ethnographic field research carried out along the Congolese–Ugandan
border between 2004 and 2011. Interviews were conducted with traders,
former combatants, civil servants, civil society representatives, journalists
and representatives of international organizations.
Kristof Titeca
History of the FAPC
An important factor in the creation of the FAPC was the role of Uganda,
which has supported armed forces in eastern Congo (and in Ituri in partic-
ular) to protect its interests. Since 1999,
every Congolese rebel in charge of Ituri was enthroned by Uganda,
then replaced by another of its creatures (International Crisis Group
2003: 3).
Uganda, and more specifically Ugandan military officials,7 were strongly
involved in the economic exploitation of eastern Congo (such as illegal trade
and the exploitation of natural resources) (International Crisis Group 2003,
2004; Human Rights Watch 2003, 2005; UN 2001, 2005a, b). It was impos-
sible for Uganda to protect its economic and security interests on its own,
and it therefore relied on cooperation with these armed groups (Veit 2010).
Uganda not only trained and armed these groups, but was also directly in-
volved in the violence (International Crisis Group 2003).
After strong international criticism of its engagement in eastern Congo,
Kampala signed an agreement with Kinshasa on 6 September 2002, in Lu-
anda, which consented to Uganda’s withdrawal from northeastern Congo
within three months as well as to a pacification commission for Ituri that
would involve Uganda (International Crisis Group 2003). Uganda did not
honour this timeline, but did finally withdraw from eastern Congo in
April/May 2003. However, Uganda still wanted to preserve a degree of
economic influence over the district.8 In order to do so, it needed a mini-
mum form of control over the violent and quickly changing circumstances
in Ituri, as a result of which Uganda continued to support local armed
groups; of the ten armed groups active in Ituri in May 2003, every single one
of them had been supported (that is, armed, trained and/or politically sup-
ported) by Uganda at some stage of its existence (Human Rights Watch
2003: 14-15). The creation of the FAPC has to be scrutinized in light of
these circumstances: Uganda wanted continued control over Ituri, and when
7 Cf. UN (2001, 2005a, b). Also, the Ugandan Porter Commission, established by the
Ugandan government to look into allegations of Ugandan involvement, argued that
Ugandan army officers had “lied to protect themselves” and that “officers at very
senior levels, and men of the Ugandan army, have conducted themselves in the
DRC in a manner unbecoming” (Porter Commission 2002: 202, 207).
8 This, for example, manifested itself in the quiet diplomacy between UPDF (Uganda
People’s Defence Forces) General Salim Saleh (the brother of President Museveni)
and Kinshasa, directly after the Luanda agreement (International Crisis Group
2003: 7).
Access to Resources and Predictability in Armed Rebellion
one of its proxies – the UPC9 – turned to Rwanda for support, Kakwavu
was approached by the Ugandan government with the request to form his
own group (International Crisis Group 2004: 10; Human Rights Watch
2003: 16, 2005: 10). In this context, a report by the United Nations Organi-
zation Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) claims
that “Ugandan General Salim Saleh created the FAPC [in] early 2003, when
he tried to broker a truce between [the] UPC and [the] FNI”10 (MONUC
2005: 4).
Before he founded the FAPC, Jérôme Kakwavu had a long history of
involvement with other armed groups. Originally, he was part of the Zairian
army under Mobutu; when this was dissolved, he joined a number of other
armed groups. First, he was a member of the AFDL,11 but he subsequently
allied himself with a broad range of movements in the quickly shifting land-
scape of regional coalitions and armed groups: After the AFDL, he then
joined the RCD12 and the RCD-ML.13 Jérôme commanded the RDC-ML in
the gold-mining region of Durba, from where he was pushed back by two
other armed groups (the RCD-N and the MLC) in September 2002. After
this, he retreated to the economically important areas of Aru and Ariwara,
where he took control of the border posts. From there, he and his troops
became part of the UPC, with whom he again attacked the Mongbwalu area
(Human Rights Watch 2005: 25-29). During these attacks, the UPC – as well
as Jérôme’s troops – received weapons from Rwanda (Human Rights Watch
2005: 25). At the end of February 2003, Jérôme terminated his links with the
UPC and started his own movement, the FAPC, with the support of
Uganda. In this context, Jérôme can be seen as a “mercenary leader” (Inter-
national Crisis Group 2003: 9) who “joined whatever armed group hap-
pened to control the region in which he was stationed” (Veit 2010: 130).
The FAPC was never a rebel group which sought to overthrow incum-
bents, nor did it organize its activities to do so. Its only political aim was to
pacify the area – something that Commander Jérôme did on several occa-
sions. The movement also produced T-shirts and calendars carrying this
message (they displayed a picture of Commander Jérôme with “pacificateur”
written next to it). However, none of the citizens, traders, civil servants or
collaborators in the area was aware of this or had ever seen a political mani-
9 Union des Patriotes Congolais.
10 FNI or Front des Nationalistes et Intégrationnistes.
11 Alliance des Forces Démocratiques pour la Libération du Congo-Zaïre, or, Alliance
of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire.
12 Rassemblement Congolais pour la Démocratie, or, Congolese Rally for Democracy.
13 Rassemblement Congolais pour la Démocratie – Mouvement de Libération, or,
Congolese Rally for Democracy – Liberation Movement.
Kristof Titeca
festo; because of this, it was considered to be largely rhetorical. The FAPC
can, therefore, be described as a militia, and one which was started by
The FAPC consisted mainly of people foreign to the area under its
control: The military staff was formed predominantly by those from Rwan-
dophone ethnic groupings of the Kivu. Jérôme Kakwavu, for example, a
Congolese Tutsi, did not speak any of the local languages (such as Alur or
Lugbara), but instead relied on the use of the national languages, Swahili and
Lingala. The high command of the FAPC consisted of a number of officers
– about seven people – originating from Rwandaphone ethnic groupings of
the Kivu, with whom Jérôme had been working in his previous movements
(Veit 2010: 130). There was no structural link with Rwanda; these officers
can be considered to be mercenary elements that followed Jérôme in his
struggle. The movement itself was ethnically mixed; it also contained rem-
nants of the previous movements of Commander Jérôme, as well as locally
recruited combatants. In contrast to other groups in the area, the movement
did not have an ethnic agenda.14 There are no exact or reliable figures on the
precise number of combatants active within the movement, but local esti-
mations range between 2,000 to 3,000 people.
Even from the inception of the movement there were negotiations for
a peace agreement, in which the movement itself was also involved. Negoti-
ations with the armed groups in Ituri resulted in the Dar-es-Salaam Accord
of 16 May 2003,15 as well as the Acte d’Engagement signed in Kinshasa on
14 May 2004. By signing the latter, the armed groups agreed to the pro-
gramme of Disarmament and Community Reinsertion (DCR) that was led
by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and supported by
the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the
Congo (MONUC) (International Crisis Group 2004: 10). The leaders of the
armed groups were promised high posts within the national army. All of this
had only a limited effect, though, as fighting continued to rage on and be-
cause disarmament proved to be an unsuccessful venture: Hardly any com-
batants showed up for this process. However, things changed after nine
Bangladeshi peacekeepers were killed in Ituri in February 2005. MONUC
reacted strongly, increasing its military offensive by attacking some of the
armed group’s camps and arresting some of their leaders, who had moved to
Kinshasa in the meantime. Jérôme, who had stayed in Ituri, remained out-
side of MONUC’s reach, and thus was not arrested. Finally, MONUC is-
sued an ultimatum to all fighters that they had to lay down their arms by 1
14 Interview data 2009–2010, as well as Van Puijenbroeck (2008), Human Rights
Watch (2005: 21).
15 DRC: Ituri Factions Recommit Themselves to Peace, IRIN News, 16 May 2003.
Access to Resources and Predictability in Armed Rebellion
April 2005. This proved to be successful; by June 2005, more than 15,000
combatants had handed in their weapons (Veit 2010: 156-160). The FAPC
started its reintegration at the beginning of March;16 the last FAPC fighters
were officially disarmed on 11 April 2005, which signified the actual end of
the movement.17 After this, Jérôme Kakwavu became an army general,
based in Kinshasa.18 A number of his fellow combatants were absorbed into
the Congolese army, while others reintegrated into civilian life. A small
group – among which were a number of generals – fled to Sudan and
The FAPC and Its Economic Activities
In contrast to its hazy political agenda, the movement had a very clear eco-
nomic agenda: It settled itself in economically important areas and showed a
direct interest in profiting from the available resources there. In this context,
Veit (2010: 130) describes Jérôme Kakwavu as a “business soldier”; in other
words, trade was at the centre of the FAPC’s activities. Concretely, the
movement had its main base in the important trading markets of Aru and
Ariwara in northeastern Congo, on the border with Uganda. These markets
connect eastern Congo with regional and international markets and are also
used as distributional points for goods into eastern Congo (Meagher 1990;
Titeca 2009a). Many of the goods that arrive in the area are also subse-
quently smuggled back into Uganda; in other words, Aru and Ariwara act as
mere entrepôts for these items, whose final (illegal) destination is Uganda,
where additional profits are readily made (Titeca 2009a). Moreover, they are
also important areas for mineral resources: Timber can be found here, while
the area also borders mineral-rich regions to the west and south, and also
includes the important Kilo Moto (Mongbwalu) gold mines (UN 2005a:
para. 117). Ariwara is, therefore, an important gold market, where gold is
16 DRC: Who’s Who in Ituri – Militia Organizations, Leaders, IRIN News, 20 April
17 As reported by the Commission Nationale de Désarmement, Démobilisation et
Réinsertion on Radio Okapi. Also, “Bunia: désarmement de derniers miliciens
FAPC”, Radio Okapi, 11 April 2005 and “Ituri: le délai du processus de désarme-
ment ne sera pas prolongé, d’après la MONUC”, Radio Okapi, 1 April 2005. In
contrast to other groups, the FAPC was disarmed during the first phase of dis-
armament, with all heavy weapons being handed over to MONUSCO. See also,
Human Rights Watch (2005) and Van Puijenbroek, Elela and Malolo (2008). These
document how combatants from other groups continued to be disarmed up to No-
vember 2006 and beyond.
18 In April 2010, however, he was the first Congolese army general to be arrested on
war crime charges of rape and torture (Human Rights Watch 2011).
Kristof Titeca
bought from the surrounding mines and taken to markets in Kampala, Nai-
robi, Dubai and elsewhere. In other words, for an armed group that is
looking for profit or simple survival, Aru and Ariwara are excellent locations
in which to settle.
Trade in natural resources became an essential component in the FAPC
regime: The important timber areas and gold mines (such as Alur Djuganda
in northern Mahagi and Kilo Moto) soon came under the control of the
FAPC (Van Puijenbroek 2008; UN 2005a). Control over these different
mines gave the FAPC a rich income from the sale of gold. Moreover, all the
gold produced in the surrounding gold mines passed through Aru/Ariwara
(Van Puijenbroek 2008). According to Human Rights Watch (2005: 104), in
2004 the value of this gold trade was between 1 million and 2 million USD
per month. As they did with other armed groups in Ituri, certain Ugandan
elites collaborated closely in the gold trade: Gold was being heavily exported
to Uganda, where it was sold to Kampala-based businessmen. Once the gold
arrived in Uganda, it became Ugandan property and was subsequently sold
as Ugandan gold on the world market.
The movement also started levying taxes on regional trade. Upon arriv-
ing in the area, the FAPC took firm control over revenue from the customs
points. According to the Textes Relatifs au Mode de Règlement des Dettes vers
l’Etat, collected custom duties should normally be transferred to the Office
des Douanes et Accises, as well as to the public treasury and the Ministry of
Finance. Naturally, the customs points were no longer controlled by the
state but by the FAPC, for whom it was a major source of revenue through
the establishment of “parallel customs, taxation and duty-levying mecha-
nisms” (UN 2005a: para. 96). These came to mimic
the official customs regime, in which customs officials [were] in-
structed not to release or permit the passage of goods until confirma-
tion of revenue payment by the trader [had] been received (UN 2005a:
para. 110).
Everyone who passed through the customs points had to pay taxes to the
FAPC. Crucial to the success of this was the fact that these taxes were sig-
nificantly lower than the official government taxes and the taxes in other
areas as well. The reason for this was simple: The FAPC wanted to attract as
many traders – read: tax revenue – as possible. The Aru/Ariwara areas
therefore soon became a regional tax paradise – an African “Monaco” as it
were – which attracted traders from distant locations.
Central to the FAPC’s customs apparatus was a so-called “pre-financ-
ing system”, in which the traders paid a certain amount of money before-
hand. This payment permitted the privileged import and export of goods –
in other words, no custom duties or levies had to be paid for a certain
Access to Resources and Predictability in Armed Rebellion
amount of time (between three and six months).19 For example, a trader
who paid 6,000 USD was allowed to import a certain amount of goods (for
example, one trailerful) a certain number of times (for example, four). This
pre-financing system was developed in close collaboration with the local
trading association, the Fédération des Enterprises du Congo (FEC), the
local branch of the national/provincial FEC. The main advantage of this ar-
rangement was that
it supplied the FAPC with a stable income. In contrast
to other movements in the area, this financing allowed the movement to
have a regular supply of food and medical treatment for its combatants. The
regular income also allowed the movement to purchase weapons and am-
Additionally, the movement participated in the regional contraband
trade: It was active in both importing goods into Aru/Ariwara and smug-
gling wares back into Uganda (such as cigarettes or batteries), as well as in
exporting natural resources. In none of these cases did it do so alone, but
rather organized this trade alongside local (Congolese) traders and Ugandan
actors, both of whom played an important role in these trading activities. As
argued above, this movement was started to protect Ugandan interests in
the area, and particularly the interests of Ugandan military officials. The
latter participated actively in this contraband trade, either directly or by using
Ugandan traders as proxies. In this situation, the most profitable commodi-
ties – such as cigarettes, gold, ivory and timber – in the regional contraband
trade were traded by a coalition of high-level actors, consisting of Ugandan
traders and military officials, selected Congolese traders – such as the chair-
person of the local trading association – and FAPC officials such as Com-
mander Jérôme. This “closely knit network” (UN 2005b: para. 70) was pro-
tected by Ugandan officials on the Ugandan side of the border and the
FAPC on the Congolese side. Uganda’s significant role notwithstanding, the
FAPC also conducted economic activities in which Uganda was not directly
involved. Uganda did not, for example, control the pre-financing system that
was used by the FAPC to sustain itself.20
19 This system was not invented by the FAPC; it had previously been used in other
areas. See, for example, Raeymaekers (2007: 126), who describes how the RCD-ML
– a rebel movement in another area in eastern Congo (Butembo) – used a similar
tax arrangement, one that “evolved from a simple technical note to fully institu-
tionalized back payments or loans from the businessmen to the rebels”. See also
Raeymaekers (2010).
20 A report by the UN group of experts documents how the income from border
taxation was used by the FAPC to buy military emergency supplies, combat rations
and motorcycles (UN 2005a: para. 109).
Kristof Titeca
According to the political economy approach of Collier and Weinstein,
this ready availability of resources – minerals, timber, illegal trading oppor-
tunities – and the support of an outside actor should lead to violent behav-
iour in which the “constant demand for short-term rewards also drives
combatants to loot, destroy property and attack indiscriminately” (Weinstein
2007: 10-11). This was effectively the case for most armed groups in Ituri.
Similar to the FAPC, they controlled mineral resources, trading centres, land
and other income opportunities, and were also engaged in widespread loot-
ing and numerous human rights abuses in which the “civilians bore and con-
tinue to bear the brunt of the casualties” (Human Rights Watch 2003: 19).
One armed group, the Nationalist and Integrationist Front (Front des Na-
tionalistes et Intégrationnistes, FNI), can be considered typical in this re-
gard, in that it was engaged in arbitrary, irregular taxation; it also used “arbi-
trary arrests, beatings and other forms of cruel and degrading treatment to
obtain the maximum possible payments and services from civilians” (Hu-
man Rights Watch 2005: 48). For most groups, this behaviour manifested
itself through both top-down and bottom-up violence (Keen 2000); in other
words, this violence was both instructed by the leadership and materialized
through violent private accumulation by individual fighters. The violence
was committed by loosely organized armed groups (for example, the Lendu
and Ngiti militias) (International Crisis Group 2003: 10) as well as in groups
with a stronger authority over their members. As a UN report on the Con-
golese conflict summarizes, the result was that:
Armed conflict has spread throughout society, as economic and per-
sonal insecurity reach extreme levels. […] Widespread armed activity
is characterized by opportunistic and chaotic encounters. Children are
killed, adult victims are eviscerated, women are raped, property stolen,
houses burned, churches demolished and whatever infrastructure ex-
ists is laid waste (UN 2002: para. 1215).
In sum, the FAPC was led by a “business soldier” or mercenary who had in
the past engaged in undisciplined and violent behaviour;21 it had a rather
minimal political agenda while at the same time showing a direct interest in
economic activities. Similar to other armed groups in the area, the FAPC
would, therefore, have been expected to engage in undisciplined and preda-
tory behaviour. In reality, this was not the case: In its centres of power, the
trading areas of Aru and Ariwara, the FAPC was fairly disciplined, and,
regionally, the area was considered relatively peaceful. For example, it con-
21 He had been involved in massacres in the area, such as in Durba, where he was
stationed as an RCD-ML officer, and where, for example, he had carried out a
number of public executions (Human Rights Watch 2005: 87).
Access to Resources and Predictability in Armed Rebellion
tinued to attract refugees from neighbouring areas, as it was considered a
safe haven by those fleeing violence perpetrated by other groups. In his
communication with the local population, Commander Jérôme continually
emphasized how he wanted to pacify the area, and how his troops therefore
had to be disciplined. For example, in an interview with Human Rights
Watch in 2004, he argued:
We are here to satisfy the population. We need popular measures to
maintain discipline (Human Rights Watch 2005: 87).
In reality, these “popular measures” were a very strict and dictatorial regime,
in which discipline was strictly and brutally enforced. This discipline is evi-
denced in numerous examples given by former combatants, rebel adminis-
trators or the population themselves. Generally, people who disrespected
the orders or who misbehaved in the urban centres of Aru and Ariwara were
strongly punished. In other words, bottom-up violence in these areas was
not tolerated. For example, in one incident, a combatant had thrown a gre-
nade into Ariwara market, killing three people and injuring fifty others. After
this event, Commander Jérôme asked the injured and the general population
(who were gathered in the marketplace) what should be done with the guilty
combatant. Some of Jérôme’s own guards asked him to spare the combat-
ant, after which these guards were themselves whipped. Jérôme then asked
the population again what should be done with the combatant, to which
they responded that he should be killed. He was shot by one of Jérôme’s
bodyguards.22 In another incident, an FAPC combatant was accused of
killing a motorbike taxi driver. Commander Jérôme gathered a crowd to
decide on the fate of the combatant in question. After a number of people
demanded his execution, he was shot on the orders of Commander
Most of these punishments happened directly at the hands of Com-
mander Jérôme: Even though specific conflict-resolving institutions were in
place – such as the Bureau de Renseignement Militaire (Bureau of Military
Advice) and Bureau Deux (Bureau Two) – he nevertheless acted as “the sole
arbiter of the law” (Human Rights Watch 2005: 87). This proved to be very
effective in enforcing discipline in Aru and Ariwara, as his dictatorial rule
and strong punishments created among the combatants a palpable fear of
their leader. A former FAPC combatant recounted the following:
22 Human Rights Watch (2005: 86) and also in interview data 2009–2010.
23 Human Rights Watch (2005: 86-87) and also in interview data 2009–2010.
Kristof Titeca
We were fearing Jérôme very much. He could punish you anytime,
and very hard. If you did not do as he wanted, you were finished.24
Another ex-combatant summarized:
We were being strictly controlled; we could not go against the com-
mands of the movement. If someone did so, he was simply shot,
there was no process whatsoever.25
In other words, bottom-up violence was rare in Aru and Ariwara, and if it
did occur, it was strongly punished; meanwhile, top-down violence had to
be used only sporadically, but still proved vital for the FAPC’s success.
This militarized rule not only manifested itself within the movement,
but also in the wider resolution of conflict. This was particularly the case for
economic conflicts, where rule enforcement and intervention mainly hap-
pened through the use of force. For example, in 2004 an incident occurred
in which a trader owed 19,000 USD to a major gold trader. The latter, and
some of his employees, abducted the smaller trader and beat him in order to
recover the money. When this did not work, FAPC combatants came to
assist the major gold trader in the torture of the smaller trader, who eventu-
ally died of his wounds.26 In a similar case in 2003, a trader was abducted
after having been accused of having stolen some gold. He was taken to
Commander Jérôme’s residence, where his life was threatened. After having
been tortured, he was forced to pay back the amount of money in ques-
tion.27 The result of this militarized and brutal means of conflict resolution
was that the major traders felt they were operating in a (more or less) secure
economic environment, while the smaller traders lived in fear. This did not
mean that the major traders were protected at all costs. Smaller traders per-
ceived Jérôme’s regime to be relatively fair because any misbehaviour by the
major traders was also punished. For example, on one occasion a major
trader embezzled some money that was to be invested in the gold trade
from an FAPC officer, after which the trader’s car was confiscated by the
The principal question to be asked in this context is that of why the
movement put effort into constructing a relatively predictable social and
economic order. Why did the FAPC not engage in predatory behaviour, and
24 Interview with a demobilized FAPC rebel, Aru, 26 October 2010.
25 Interview with an ex-combatant, Aru, 28 October 2010.
26 Human Rights Watch (2005: 87) and also in interview data 2009–2010.
27 Human Rights Watch (2005: 87). Various other incidents occurred in which con-
flicts emerged between two traders, and in which Commander Jérôme ordered the
torture of one of the traders (interview data 2009–2010).
28 Interview data 2009–2010.
Access to Resources and Predictability in Armed Rebellion
why did it instead put considerable effort into enforcing discipline in its
centres of power (in other words, why manifest long-term behaviour)? To
be able to answer this, we must examine the relationship between the FAPC
and the local economic space.
The FAPC and Control over
Local Economic Space
As Raeymaekers (2007: 112) highlights, a distinction has to be made be-
tween economies of war and economies at war. On the one hand, war offers
a range of new commercial opportunities and ventures: It may lead to profit-
able price movements, or limited state control may facilitate previously pro-
hibited trade (Keen 2000: 30). For example, various reports (Human Rights
Watch 2005; UN 2005 a, b) show how the war in eastern Congo allowed for
the export of minerals and the import of weapons (which were often im-
ported/exported by the same plane). On the other hand, this is not the case
for all economic activities: War is not a “blank slate” that allows outside
actors to take over any economic activity. Existing trading networks have to
be taken into account that were not created through military involvement or
the specific conditions of conflict and which were not necessarily abolished
by the arrival of military actors. Although significant attention has been paid
to the economic dimensions of the Congolese conflict (cf. the reports of the
UN group of experts), little attention has been paid to how these forms of
organization, and the consequent strategies of the armed movements, are
“hardly based on new modes of organization and control” (Vlassenroot and
Romkema 2002). On the contrary, these armed movements are embedded in
pre-existing economic figurations, and are, therefore, to a certain extent
dependent upon these pre-existing networks. As Eric Kennes argues with
regard to the Congo:
The numerous pre-existing and sometimes highly structured informal
trade networks were not created by military involvement, although
they have been controlled by them. Very few military groups are en-
gaged in trading themselves. They do, however, try to exploit the ex-
isting networks for their own profit by controlling essential points of
access such as airports and trading posts, in order to levy taxes (2002:
In other words, external actors – armed movements – try to embed them-
selves in these pre-existing networks, and are to a certain extent dependent
upon them. Even though these armed groups control the “essential points
of access” to these trading chains, they cannot control the whole network.
Kristof Titeca
Also, participation in these trading networks is not straightforward: Instead
of outright domination, this leads instead to a situation of mutual depend-
ency. As an example, the local trading community in Butembo (in eastern
Congo) was certainly no weaker than the occupying RCD-ML rebel force
(Raeymaekers 2007). While the traders were dependent on the protection of
the rebels, the latter – as “novel political actors” – were not able to over-
come their precarious financial position, which was largely propped up by
taxation income from the traders who “were the only ones that were left”.29
In doing so, they could not be too exploitative of the traders if “they did not
want to lose the very matter from which to steal” (Raeymaekers 2007: 136).
A similar set of circumstances applied to the FAPC: It was impossible
for them to take over and control the whole regional trading network. This
trade has a long history in the area (Titeca 2009a; Titeca and Deherdt 2010),
and the rebels could not simply organize this by themselves, and certainly
not from Aru/Ariwara alone. For example, the profitable cigarette trade is
reliant on cigarettes that are purchased in Kenya or the Far East, traded to
Aru/Ariwara and then sold inside eastern Congo or smuggled back into
Uganda. In each of these locations, traders have particular arrangements in
place either to buy this commodity and import it into eastern Congo or to
sell it, in which case they rely on another network of middlemen or retailers.
The FAPC did not have the power or means to extend its activities to all
points on this trading network. The same goes for natural resources or
highly lootable commodities such as minerals: It was impossible for the
movement to control all mineral extraction in the area (there are too many
mines, and these were also strongly contested by other groups), but the
movement, instead, tried to participate in the mineral trade that was passing
through Aru and Ariwara. However, in doing so, it was dependent upon the
participation of local traders, who could decide whether to bypass the mar-
ket and the FAPC altogether.30
The lootability argument neglects, therefore, the importance of regional
trading networks, and in particular the key brokering role of traders “in
providing a link between local production zones and international markets”
(Jennings 2007: 21). In reality, it often proves impossible for rebel move-
ments to control the exploitation, brokerage and sale of lootable goods –
this is particularly true in such a highly violent, unpredictable and hostile
environment with fast-changing alliances as eastern Congo. As Vlassenroot
29 Interview by Raeymaekers with a former member of the RCD-ML Presidential
Protection Unit (Raeymaekers 2007: 129).
30 For example, by buying in particular mines (not controlled by the FAPC) and/or by
going directly to the international markets.
Access to Resources and Predictability in Armed Rebellion
and Raeymaekers (2005: 13) argue with regard to rebel groups in eastern
their financial woes as well as their lack of control over the country’s
interior (where natural resources are exploited) ultimately make them
inferior to established and pre-existing trade networks.
Moreover, the most profitable aspect of the trade in illicit goods does not lie
in their production, but rather in their brokering and transportation (Naim
2005). In this context, it was therefore more advantageous for the FAPC to
cooperate with the local traders (by sharing the spoils with them) than it was
to try and overrule them.
Another factor that made the control of the local and regional eco-
nomic space more difficult was the fact that, as noted above, the movement
consisted of many people foreign to the locality. Therein lacking knowledge,
control and contacts in the local and regional trade domains, the movement
had no other choice than to cooperate closely with the local trading com-
munity and particularly with the organization of local traders (FEC), with
whom it co-organized economic activities in the area. The UN group of
experts argues that the FAPC used its control over the area to force local
traders into business arrangements with them (UN 2005a: para. 96), but the
situation was never that clear-cut. While, on the one hand, traders had no
choice but to cooperate with the FAPC, on the other hand the movement
did make collaboration very attractive: Many of the new economic condi-
tions – such as the pre-financing arrangement – were developed together
with the FEC.
More importantly, the FAPC created very profitable economic condi-
tions in the area. As argued above, taxes were significantly lower, thus at-
tracting a large number of traders to the area. This was not only profitable
for the local traders, but also for the wider population: Through the lower
taxes, commodities became significantly cheaper on the Aru/Ariwara mar-
kets. Moreover, the FAPC officers participated in another way in the re-
gional contraband trade: Traders were not only involved in the one-way
giving of large amounts of money to the FAPC (by paying tax), but the
FAPC officers themselves also reciprocally invested heavily in the regional
contraband trade by becoming business partners to the local trading com-
munity – which led to large profits for both traders and FAPC officers.
Although the most profitable commodities were monopolized by a small
number of high-level actors (Ugandan and FAPC officials and a few selected
Congolese and Ugandan traders), other traders could still make significant
profits from different commodities. A concrete and visible manifestation of
Kristof Titeca
the economic empowerment of these traders was the fact that many hotels,
shops and houses were constructed in these areas during this period.31
The FAPC also installed a variety of other beneficial measures for trad-
ers: They were given a range of positions within the armed movement and
state administration. A number were also given high military ranks – for
example, the FEC chairperson was given the rank of major, while another
trader was nominated the assistant administrator of the area (the second-
highest political-administrative function in this particular locality). The
movement also started investing in the area – through a local development
fund, it constructed a football stadium, co-financed the local university, and
so on. By doing so, the movement demonstrated its commitment to the
area. In this context, traders – as well as the general population – felt that
taxes were no longer “lost” to the central government (wherein nothing was
given in return), but rather that they benefited the general population. Not
only did the movement make some (limited) investments in the area, but,
more importantly, the combination of lower taxes and higher trading vol-
umes in the area made market prices significantly cheaper. A small shop-
keeper summarized the situation like this:
At the time of the Jérôme rebellion, the population finally managed to
breathe! Not only did refugees from other places come to this area,
everything became much cheaper here.32
An expression that was used several times in interviews was that the area
had become une républiquette (a small republic), which controlled its own
resources and therefore had greater input in its own development. As one
trader argued,
[during the FAPC regime], things went much faster than before, when
things had to be decided by Kinshasa. And more importantly, the
money remained here, it did not have to go to Kinshasa! […] At that
time, the area was a Kinshasa in itself!33
In sum, the FAPC created various mechanisms to attract both traders and
the wider population to their side. This could be seen as a solution to the
general difficulties faced by external actors in gaining access to pre-estab-
lished trading networks, and particularly in response to the specific problem
of the FAPC’s position as an outsider to the area. The creation of a favour-
able business climate and common financial interests were, therefore, reme-
31 There were no financial institutions in Aru/Ariwara, because of which investment
in real estate was seen as being the best option.
32 Interview with a shopkeeper, Aru, 30 July 2009.
33 Interview with a trader, Ariwara, 28 July 2009.
Access to Resources and Predictability in Armed Rebellion
dies for their lack of inherent connections and ties with the locality (Veit
2010: 131).
Moreover, the movement needed the traders on its side in order to re-
ceive taxes and to control trading routes. A non-disciplined armed move-
ment could easily disrupt this relationship and the consequent revenue from
it. To make the analogy with the European tax paradise Monaco again: No
one would invest in Monaco if the monarchy of this republic began to en-
gage in widespread violence or extortion. In order to be a “Monaco”, the
armed movement had to act like one, primarily by being disciplined and by
investing in a minimum of social and economic order. As explained above,
the movement – or better, the leadership – also intervened in economic dis-
putes. Although these interventions were militarized and personalized, these
efforts were nevertheless perceived by traders as being important because
they increased the predictability of economic interactions. The discipline of
the movement was therefore instrumental for the trade, and the consequent
tax income, to flourish: Harming trading practices in the area – for example
by using violence against traders or creating a generalized situation of inse-
curity – would hurt not only the traders, but also the FAPC’s own economic
interests. If the FAPC were to engage in large-scale violent practices, this
would deter traders from entering its territory, reduce economic activity and
lower customs revenues. In other words, the armed group has every interest
in engaging in peaceful governance practices in the area, in order to attract
traders from the wider region into its territory. Inversely, the traders had
every interest in having a territory governed by rebels (“rebel governance”) –
as this meant lower taxation – but not in chaotic and violent governance
practices. The widespread use of violence in its territory was, therefore,
simply not a rational choice for the movement, as it would also take away
the incentive for future investments in local society (Olsen 1993: 567).
Given the engagement of Uganda with the movement, an important
question to ask is whether the FAPC acted in this particular (disciplined)
way because it was forced and obliged to do so by Ugandan actors. If sup-
port for the FAPC was intended to protect Ugandan interests, then did
Uganda compel the FAPC to be disciplined in its behaviour? This was,
however, not necessarily the case: Similar to its support for other armed
movements in the area, several examples illustrate how Uganda itself was
ready and willing to support, and/or even engage in, violent activities when
necessary. Uganda supplied the FAPC with weapons (Human Rights Watch
2005; UN 2005a, b) and intervened militarily on a number of occasions – a
UPDF camp was stationed just across the border, and thus allowed for rapid
deployment. For example, according to the UN group of experts, one hun-
dred Ugandan soldiers and intelligence officers entered the DRC again in
Kristof Titeca
2004 in support of the FAPC following its defeat by the FNI in the war for
control over the Djalasiga mines (UN 2005a: para. 135, 136; Human Rights
Watch 2005: 85). Ugandan Colonel Peter Karim was even reported to have
held a public meeting in the area to support the FAPC (Human Rights
Watch 2005: 95). In May 2003, Ugandan forces crossed the border into
eastern Congo to defeat a mutiny against Commander Jérôme. The Ugandan
forces also helped to arrest those believed to be responsible for the mutiny,
and detained some of those who had fled to Uganda in Ugandan military
barracks (in Arua). These people were later handed over to Commander
Jérôme (Human Rights Watch 2005: 89). According to a UN report, a
Ugandan major was paid by Jérôme for various services, such as the delivery
of FAPC fighters who had fled to Uganda (UN 2004: para. 137).
In sum, Uganda – or better, the complicit Ugandan military officials
and traders – wanted to reap as much profit as possible, and supported the
FAPC in whichever ways necessary. In doing so, their role was essential to
the functioning of this regional political and economic complex; Uganda did
not, however, force the FAPC to act in this particular way. The FAPC’s
investment in a more stable social and economic order happened instead
because it allowed for the better control of, and participation in, the local
economic space. This fact also helps to explain some of the movement’s
institutional choices, such as the efforts to reinvigorate the area’s state appa-
ratus. Before the FAPC installed itself in the area, there was a state structure
already in place, albeit a weak one. The armed movement did not simply
take over these state institutions, they also reinvigorated and strengthened
them. On an overall level, the number of state agents increased. However,
this was primarily because it was necessary in order for the regime’s tax
system to function as well as for regional trade to function and burgeon. For
example, the movement needed to increase the number of officials working
in the customs offices because of the strong trading activities in the area.34 It
also installed other “state-like” practices in the area: For example, for gold
traders to be able to work, they had to purchase so-called “gold trade per-
mits” (cartes de négociant d’or) – something that was modelled on state prac-
tices (Human Rights Watch 2005: 104). In this context, the FAPC’s invest-
ments in an institutional structure can be seen as instrumental toward the
fulfilment of their economic goals: Most structured governance activities
(“state-like functions”) were centred around economic activities. Other
sectors – such as education or agriculture – did not receive the same “atten-
tion” and institutional support.
34 For example, a report by the UN group of experts (2005b: para. 60) indicates how
even after the end of the FAPC regime, 104 ex-FAPC officers (who had been ap-
pointed during the FAPC regime) were still working in the customs offices.
Access to Resources and Predictability in Armed Rebellion
The relationship between the disciplined behaviour of the movement
and particular economic interests seems to be further confirmed by the fact
that outside the trading areas of Aru and Ariwara the movement acted in a
much more ill-disciplined manner: Individual rebels harassed the local pop-
ulation much more, by asking for financial contributions or by confiscating
things – practices that occasionally led to hostile confrontations. Looting
also happened on a larger scale – for example, after a battle with a rival force
over the Mongbwala gold mines, the movement pillaged an entire hospital
for fridges, furniture, vaccinations, and so on. Everything was taken as war
booty. Complaints by the population to the FAPC leadership did not result
in anything being done about it.35
A last important factor in the explanation of the FAPC’s behaviour is
military security. Throughout the existence of its regime, Aru/Ariwara re-
mained firmly controlled by the FAPC – no confrontations with other
armed movements took place, and no external threats were made to its rule
in these territories. This made it easier to behave in a disciplined manner. To
refer again to Weinstein’s terminology (2007), short- and long-term behav-
iour mean very different things in situations of military confrontation. In
other words, it becomes much more difficult to behave in a disciplined way
when faced with strong military pressure.36 This becomes clear when look-
ing at the other wealth-generating activities undertaken by the FAPC. As
mentioned at the outset, the FAPC was engaged not only in regional trade,
but also in the exploitation of natural resources: At different times, it con-
trolled a number of gold mines in northeastern Congo.
While the FAPC
considered it worthwhile to invest in a predictable social and economic or-
der in the trading hubs of Aru and Ariwara, their economic centres of con-
trol, this was much less the case in these gold-extracting areas. The fact that
these areas were strongly contested by other groups also played an im-
portant role in this. The uncertain and hostile environment with quickly
changing splits and strategies among and between the different militias often
resulted in fighting between the different groups, with strongly negative
consequences for the population. Fighting over the gold mines led to a refu-
gee movement of tens of thousands of people, and summary executions of
civilians took place (Human Rights Watch 2005: 95-96). In this hostile and
militarily challenging environment, it became much more difficult for the
FAPC to invest in economic and social predictability, and the movement
was far less disciplined. In these circumstances, it often engaged in violent
activities to protect its economic interests.
35 In interview data 2009–2010.
36 Thanks to an anonymous reviewer of the article for the suggestion of this point.
Kristof Titeca
In sum, these events show the importance of the dynamics of a partic-
ular conflict: The political economy literature of Collier and Weinstein pre-
sumes that particular ex-ante conditions – such as the availability of resources
– play a determining role, in which further changes over time are path-
dependent (Guichaoua 2009: 5). Yet, conflict in itself generates particular
dynamics that impact armed groups. The behaviour of the FAPC demon-
strates how military security allowed the movement to make particular
institutional choices in its centres of control. Throughout its uncontested
reign, it was able to engage in – relatively – peaceful economic activities, and
also to build a peaceful relationship with the local population. This was far
more difficult in other contexts, ones of violent competition with other
armed groups – where violence, instead of discipline, proved necessary to
protect one’s interests.
This article discussed the activities of the FAPC, a short-lived armed group,
which was in power from February/March 2003 until April 2005 in a small
area of northeastern Congo. Similar to other armed movements in the area,
it had access to many natural resources, and was supported by an external
patron. Instead of becoming an “opportunistic rebellion”, though, and in
contrast to other movements in the area, the FAPC was relatively disci-
plined: The militia did not engage in predatory behaviour in its centres of
control – the economic hubs of Aru and Ariwara – but instead invested in
creating a relative degree of predictability in the social and economic order,
wherein misbehaviour was brutally punished.
The first point to note is that this behaviour can be explained, but not
by the dominant way of thinking in the literature on the availability of re-
sources (Weinstein 2007; Collier 2000, 2002), and certainly not by theories
of lootable resources. This literature underestimates the accessibility of these
resources and does not distinguish between the exploitation of and the ac-
tual trade in these goods. This case study suggests that this literature eventu-
ally, or more generally, overestimates the capacity of rebel movements to
control the commodity chains of natural resources from their source to their
eventual appearance in international markets. This is certainly the case for
non-local actors, who lack the necessary contacts and knowledge to operate
in a foreign location. Concretely, this article has shown how the FAPC was
to a certain extent dependent upon pre-existing trading networks, which had
a tangible effect on the particular governance choices of the armed move-
ment. On the one hand, the FAPC wanted to attract as many traders as
possible, because of which it manifested relatively disciplined behaviour and
Access to Resources and Predictability in Armed Rebellion
strongly punished misbehaviour within the economic centres of Aru and
Ariwara. On the other hand, the movement had to rely on local traders in
order to control these trading networks. By investing in a relatively stable
social and economic order, it managed to gain the trust of the traders, stim-
ulated the economic activities of the area and created a common interest.
This relationship between specific economic interests and the type of be-
haviour demonstrated by the armed movement is further illustrated by the
way that the movement acted outside of these particular economic centres,
where it was not necessary to construct a predictable social and economic
order. In these circumstances, combatants were far less disciplined.
Second, the FAPC example illustrates how the general literature can
underestimate the specific conflict dynamics. Military security as a factor has
a strong impact on the behaviour of an armed movement: While a situation
of high military security may enable an armed movement to establish a sta-
ble relationship with the local population (if the movement wishes to do so),
military insecurity, in contrast, makes this rapport much more difficult. In
the latter situation, violent behaviour may be the only way to protect eco-
nomic interests.
In sum, this case study of the FAPC strongly suggests that it is neces-
sary to look beyond monocausal economic arguments about the relationship
between resources and the behaviour of armed movements. Similarly, in
testing Weinstein’s presumptions about “opportunistic” and “activist” re-
bellions, Guichaoua (2009: 34) shows how the behaviour of Nigerian militias
results from a complex combination of interdependent external and internal
influences which are hardly attributable to the “initial conditions” of access
to finance in which the movements are created (which, according to Wein-
stein, would lead to a particular kind of behaviour). Concretely, Reno (2002)
illustrates how the behaviour of Nigerian militias ends up being influenced
by external actors – patrons – in the context of a collapse of formal state
institutions. It is, therefore, “not cross-border and clandestine rackets in and
of themselves that cause predatory conflict and political fragmentation”, but
instead the “relation of patronage to power and state collapse that shapes
this social space of mass rebellion” (Reno 2002: 848). In other words, the
behaviour of armed movements is profoundly influenced by the constraints
and opportunities that present themselves through a variety of actors – such
as the civilian population, transnational actors and networks (Mampilly
2011), and less influenced by the availability of resources, per se.
The activities of a particular armed group cannot, therefore, be under-
stood without taking these different actors into account, as they do not exist
independent of one another. Rather, they are what Norbert Elias (1987: 85)
calls “figurations” or a “pattern which interdependent human beings, as
Kristof Titeca
groups or as individuals, form with each other” (cf. Titeca 2009b). While the
FAPC was founded as an intermediary for Uganda, in being an outsider to
the area, it had to rely in turn on the local trading community as intermedi-
aries in order to gain access to the local economic space. The presence of a
foreign backer did not directly impact their behaviour, but rather provided
the armed movement with the necessary support to safeguard the economic
interests at stake. This led to a situation of mutual dependence between all
those actors involved – Ugandan military officials, Ugandan traders, Con-
golese traders and the FAPC – which, combined with the military security of
the area and situation, resulted in the disciplined behaviour of the move-
Finally, the different behaviour of the FAPC as compared to other
armed groups with similar characteristics (those with access to resources and
the support of Uganda) is best explained as a result of internal and external
factors, but above all by the characteristics of the Aru/Ariwara areas. Other
groups had to face many more military confrontations, while the areas of
Aru and Ariwara were exceptional for the paucity of military challenges
made to the FAPC throughout its presence there. Second, not many other
movements were confronted with a historically embedded market and pre-
existing trading networks (such as in the Aru/Ariwara areas), or the oppor-
tunity and challenge of organizing customs points. This was the case for the
RDC-ML (Raeymaekers 2007), which demonstrated a similar behaviour
toward traders as the FAPC did. Lastly, as the main basis for political mo-
bilization, ethnicity played a crucial role in the violence of eastern Congo,
and in Ituri in particular. The FAPC was multi-ethnic and positioned itself
outside of these ethnic conflicts: Commander Jérôme was not primarily
interested in the constantly changing alliances between different actors and
ethnic groups – instead, as a report by the International Crisis Group (2003:
9) describes, ultimately, he “was only interested in personal gain”.
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Zugang zu Ressourcen und Berechenbarkeit von bewaffneten Rebelli-
onen: Das kurzlebige “Monaco” der FAPC im östlichen Kongo
Zusammenfassung: Dieser Beitrag widmet sich der Bedeutung von öko-
nomischen Ressourcen für das Verhalten bewaffneter Gruppierungen. An-
genommen wird, dass der Zugang zu Ressourcen, und insbesondere zu
verwertbarem Beutegut, negative Wirkung auf das Verhalten einer bewaff-
neten Gruppierung der Zivilbevölkerung gegenüber hat. Demgegenüber
belegt der Fall der FAPC (Forces Armées du Peuple Congolais) im Osten
Kongos, dass es notwendig ist, jenseits dieses monokausalen Arguments
nach weiteren Einflussfaktoren zu suchen. Der Autor diskutiert zunächst,
inwieweit polit-ökonomische Ansätze Zugriffsmöglichkeiten auf Kriegs-
beute unterschätzen. Er zeigt auf, dass sich das Verhalten der FAPC auf ein
ganz bestimmtes ökonomisches Interesse zurückführen lässt: Um Zugang
Kristof Titeca
zu vermarktbarem Beutegut zu erhalten, war die Rebellengruppe abhängig
von etablierten Handelsnetzwerken. Und um deren Funktionieren zu ge-
währleisten, musste die Berechenbarkeit ökonomischer Interaktionen durch
die Schaffung eines Minimums an sozialer und ökonomischer Ordnung
gewahrt werden. Der Artikel stellt zudem infrage, ob polit-ökonomische
Ansätze spezifische Konfliktdynamiken nicht möglicherweise unterschätzen;
in diesem Kontext habe beispielsweise militärische Sicherheit einen hohen
Schlagwörter: Demokratische Republik Kongo, Uganda, Bewaffneter Kon-
flikt, Streitkräfte/militärische Verbände, Informeller Grenzhandel
... Uganda has invaded, occupied and looted significant parts of Eastern Congo from 1998 onwards, leading to a 2005 International Court of Justice ruling, ordering Uganda to pay $10 billion in reparations. 65 Uganda, and more specifically Ugandan military officials, were strongly involved in the economic exploitation of eastern Congo (such as illegal trade and the exploitation of natural resources), and have been training and supporting armed groups in the region (Titeca 2011). For example, the rebel group 'Armed Forces of the Congolese People' (Forces Armées du Peuple Congolais, FAPC), were used as a proxy by Ugandan military from February/March 2003 until April 2005 in the nearby border towns of Aru/Ariwarawhere it was profiting from the smuggling business in gold, cigarettes and other commodities (Titeca 2011). ...
... 65 Uganda, and more specifically Ugandan military officials, were strongly involved in the economic exploitation of eastern Congo (such as illegal trade and the exploitation of natural resources), and have been training and supporting armed groups in the region (Titeca 2011). For example, the rebel group 'Armed Forces of the Congolese People' (Forces Armées du Peuple Congolais, FAPC), were used as a proxy by Ugandan military from February/March 2003 until April 2005 in the nearby border towns of Aru/Ariwarawhere it was profiting from the smuggling business in gold, cigarettes and other commodities (Titeca 2011). In other words, up to a few months before the arrival of the LRA, Uganda had been using armed forces as proxies for economic profit -also in the close vicinity of affected region. ...
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While much has been written about the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), hardly any analyses focus on the rebel group's activities in (northeastern) Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)-although the rebel group conducted some of the biggest massacres in its history in the country, and continues to be active there. This analysis focusses on a consistent claim which is made among many actors in the DRC: that the LRA was invited, and supported, by the Congolese authorities. This analysis reviews this claim, by zooming in on the available evidence, such as the circumstances in which the rebel group arrived in the country. It concludes that, while freelancing individuals indeed might have brokered such an agreement, institutional Congolese government support to the LRA was (most probably) not the case. Yet, it shows the murky circumstances which allowed such claims to emerge, involving war entrepreneurs, freelancing government officials, ineffective protection, and a government more interested in state security rather than human security.
... One such example is the short-lived Armed Forces of the Congolese People (Forces Armées du Peuple Congolais, FAPC) in eastern Congo. As discussed by Titeca (2011), the group was reliant on connection with local traders in order to gain access to income from lootable goods. Consequently, the group purposefully used tax policy, including a simplified 'pre-payment system' as well as low and predictable rates, in order to attract traders, seeking to create a 'Monaco' in Eastern Congo (Titeca 2011: 52). ...
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Armed groups tax. Journalistic accounts often include a tone of surprise about this fact, while policy reports tend to strike a tone of alarm, highlighting the link between armed group taxation and ongoing conflict. Policymakers often focus on targeting the mechanisms of armed group taxation as part of their conflict strategy, often described as ‘following the money’. We argue that what is instead needed is a deeper understanding of the nuanced realities of armed group taxation, the motivations behind it, and the implications it has for an armed group’s relationship with civilian and diaspora populations, as well as the broader international community. This paper builds on two distinct literatures, on armed groups and on taxation, to provide the first systematic exploration into the motivation of armed group taxation. Based on a review of the diverse practices of how armed groups tax, we highlight that a full account of their motivation needs to go beyond revenue collection, and engage with key themes around legitimacy, population control, institution building, and the performance of public authority. We problematise common approaches towards armed group taxation and state-building, and outline key questions of a new research agenda.
... From 2003 to 2005, this rebel group of 2,000 to 3,000 combatants took charge of a small area in northwestern Congo bordering Uganda, and more particularly of the important border market of Ariwara. 57 The rebel movement was created with support from Uganda, which wanted to protect its interests in the area. 58 The movement never had an outspoken political agenda, but had a very clear economic agenda: having settled in economically important areas, it showed a direct interest in profi ting from the available resources. ...
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This chapter discusses the relationship between the state and illegal trade in the border region between Uganda, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo. It will be shown how the state always had an ambiguous relationship towards smuggling: on an official level, it has countered these illegal practices, while on an informal level, it has helped to regulate and instrumentalise these practices. On the one hand, this will be done by analyzing the relationship between the state and different groups which have appeared and engaged in these trading practices, such as organized groups of smugglers, rebel groups or major businessmen. On the other hand, it will be shown how on a more day-to-day level, state officials relate to these illicit practices. Through both levels of analysis, the ambiguous relationship between the state and illegal activities will be shown; and how stateness itself ‘waxes and wanes’ (Lund 2006), both in time, and on different levels of interaction.
... 26 Even in countries with regional disparities, such as in the DR Congo, regional elites aim to maintain some stability through organized disorder, for instance, via local protection rackets. 27 Alex de Waal speaks of a political market place in which the highly monetized nature of political exchange is unpacked. 28 Meanwhile, Douglass North and colleagues argue that 'individuals and groups with access to violence form a dominant coalition, granting one another special privileges. ...
Assumptions about the political economy of African states predominantly centre on a dominant elite’s ability to stabilize power. A key assertion is that elites maintain clientelistic networks of rents and redistribution and in turn extend their control over their respective territories by instrumentalizing disorder. We challenge the assumption that disorder plays such a functional role. Largely drawing on data and fieldwork from the Central African Republic, we demonstrate the profoundly unproductive consequences of disorder that tend to be overlooked through current approaches to the political economy of African countries. We investigate how disorder impacts three dimensions of effective politics of domination: a set of elite groups that structure power in society, a political economy that redistributes its benefits through formal and informal networks, and the existence of functional centre–periphery ties across a territory. The article shows with regard to the Central African Republic that disorder has produced a small political elite that is largely unable to stabilize its power basis. We argue that certain African states are subject to forms of disorder that political elites cannot turn into an advantage.
Based on a review of the diverse practices of how armed groups tax, we highlight that a full account of why armed groups tax needs to go beyond revenue motivations, to also engage with explanations related to ideology, legitimacy, institution building, legibility and control of populations, and the performance of public authority. This article builds on two distinct literatures, on armed groups and on taxation, to provide the first systematic exploration of the motivations of armed group taxation. We problematize common approaches toward armed group taxation and state-building, and outline key questions of a new research agenda.
My dissertation explores the state in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) through a case study of the Congolese police and their reform. In short, it is about the police and their everyday work, about the effects of police reform and the nature of the state. While scholarship on the police in the post-colony and in Africa in particular has been growing over the past decade, this is the first comprehensive academic account of the police in Congo. Moreover, despite the crucial role of the police in state-society relations, in Congo and the wider region they remain underexplored in the study of these relations as well as of the state in general. My thesis, then, aims to contribute not only to scholarship on the police in Congo, but to broader questions of the state and its nature in Central Africa. It addresses the following question: How do the police perform the state in Congo? Or, more specifically, in what ways do police practices and encounters with the public reproduce, sustain or collapse Congo’s state? The shortest answer to this question lies in what I refer to as the Craft of the Congo Cop. Based on a year of immersive fieldwork consisting of interviews, focus groups and participant observation, my dissertation traces this performative way of doing the police in a context marked by acute contingency, scarcity and plurality. Following police officers from the classroom via the station to the street, I argue that officers make policework possible through their everyday performativity (Butler 1994, 2010) that draws on, combines as well as subverts rationalities, technologies and techniques of prevailing—and entangled—governmentalities. While some of these police performatives project an effect of the state that instils them with its authority, not all do. In fact, everyday police performatives subvert as much as sustain the ‘state effect’ (Mitchell 1991). The Craft of the Congo Cop lies in the ability to reconcile colliding governmentalities and to project the state as a temporary, yet convincing effect of authority as and when it is required. This effect may barely last through one interaction only to crumble in the next and call for its transformation in the one thereafter. Therefore, rather than implying weakness, failure or chaos from this inherently contingent performative process, I propose that the state in Congo is best understood as a composite of temporary and fast-changing effects summoned by police performatives to gain an edge in a given social encounter. This composite nature explains why the state in Congo seems to be everywhere and nowhere, tangible and illusive, enduring and fleeting all at once.
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Informal Cross-Border Trade (ICBT) plays a critical role for Uganda and the DRC. It acts as (i) an essential source of livelihoods for traders and their families on both sides of the border; (ii) a crucial source of foreign exchange, with knock-on effects on employment creation and income; and (iii) an important source of food security and the supply of other products in the border region, by linking up various markets across the border. These effects play out on a number of levels: (i) locally, ICBT supplies goods for the towns and areas along the Uganda–DRC border; (ii) nationally and regionally, ICBT provides goods to the wider region, on both sides of the border; (iii) globally, more resourceful traders operate on a global scale, importing goods to the borderland from Dubai, Hong Kong, Singapore, Indonesia, and Malaysia. Over the last 10 years, ICBT between Uganda and the DRC has intensified. Informal exports from Uganda have almost doubled, from USD 143.2 million in 2010 to USD 269.8 million in 2018. This intensification is also reflected on a political level: in recent years, there have been a range of bilateral initiatives to improve relations and enhance cross-border trade, such as the removal of non-tariff trade barriers. While women constitute the majority of ICBT traders, they make less profit than men. This has to do with more limited access to credit, less time (due to household tasks), and the fact that more profitable goods – such as fuel or cigarettes – carry with them risks of harassment or violence from men. Youth also play a central role in ICBT and are explicitly mentioned as a target audience in political initiatives on cross-border trade. The COVID-19 lockdown measures implemented in March 2020, and particularly the closure of borders, had a profound impact on ICBT in the Uganda–DRC borderlands. As ICBT mainly operates between small-scale traders with fragile supply chains, these measures led to an almost complete standstill of trade. The measures further enhanced pre-existing fragilities and inequalities of the trade, notably: • Women were disproportionally affected by the pandemic and containment measures: they are mostly engaged in small-scale trade with low profit margins and have a less diversified income base. • There were many complaints about the behavior of Ugandan security officials in the enactment of the lockdown policies.
What are the different political institutions rebels create to engage captive civilian populations, and how do they arrive at distinct political arrangements? Rebel-controlled territories host a diversity of political institutions ranging from structures designed to promote democratic decision-making to martial law. Although previous research has focused on rebel social service provision and other aspects of rebel governance, few have investigated variation in the institutional arrangements rebels adopt. In this article, we identify a set of four dimensions along which rebel political institutions vary leading to six ideal–typical forms of political arrangements. We argue that an iterative and dynamic stepwise process, determined by rebel group strategies and local conditions, produces one of these political institutional outcomes. Importantly, the type of rebel political institutions within one location can change throughout the war, and variation sometimes emerges across territories the same rebel group controls. We demonstrate the plausibility of our arguments through a series of illustrative case studies that correspond to the formation processes of our six ideal–typical political arrangements. We conclude with recommendations for future research.
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At George Mason University’s School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, under the direction of Dr. Douglas Irvin-Erickson, the combined doctoral and master’s level Engaging Conflict class conducted a risk assessment on the potential for a mass atrocity event in Uganda. This report is the conclusion of a 16-week course focused on research, interviews, and analysis of current risk factors on the ground. During this process, our team evaluated critical parts of existing mass atrocities frameworks and developed a context-specific framework using modified locally informed indicators.
The two main rebel groups in the Second Congo War (1998–2003) evolved in remarkably different ways. While the MLC maintained organisational cohesion throughout the war, the RCD split into two rival groups within less than a year. The larger of these rivals then remained cohesive, whereas the smaller group experienced further fragmentation. This article draws on interviews with key protagonists to show that these cross-group differences resulted from different patterns of state sponsorship. Fragmentation occurred when the intra-group distribution of power between a rebel leader and an internal rival hung in the balance because external troops supported both sides.
Those who wish to facilitate peace will be well advised to understand the nature of war. Yet the label war is one that often conceals as much as it reveals. We think we know what a war is, but this in itself is a source of difficulty: Throwing a label at the problem of conflict may further obscure its origins and functions; and the label, moreover, may be very useful for those who wish to promote certain kinds of violence. The idea of war can confer a kind of legitimacy upon certain types of violence, given the widespread belief that certain kinds of war are just and legitimate. This chapter attempts to throw some light on the nature of contemporary warfare by looking closely at some of its functions—notably, the economic functions, which are often partially obscured. The chapter challenges two common notions: that war is a contest between two sides, with each trying to win; and that war represents only a breakdown or collapse rather than the creation of an alternative system of profit, power, and protection. A number of economic functions of warfare are outlined, and attention is given to the interaction of political and economic agendas.
dqThis book presents a theory that accounts for the different strategies pursued by rebel groups in civil war, explaining why patterns of insurgent violence vary so much across conflicts. It does so by examining the membership, structure, and behavior of four insurgent movements in Uganda, Mozambique, and Peru. Drawing on interviews with nearly two hundred combatants and civilians who experienced violence firsthand, it shows that rebels' strategies depend in important ways on how difficult it is to launch a rebellion. The book thus demonstrates how characteristics of the environment in which rebellions emerge constrain rebel organization and shape the patterns of violence that civilians experience.dq--BOOK JACKET.