New publication on patronage networks and cohesion in the Congolese army

Soldiers of the Congolese army (FARDC) (large view)

Soldiers of the Congolese army (FARDC)

(12-03-2018) CRG researcher Judith Verweijen published a new article on patronage networks and cohesion in the army of the DR Congo

CRG researcher Judith Verweijen recently published a new article in the journal Armed Forces & Society. Based on extensive field research in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, she analyzes how “patronage networks” (which revolve around personal bonds between patrons and clients) affect cohesion in the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC).  Cohesion refers to bonding between combatants as well as between subordinates and commanders in both small-scale fighting units (e.g. squad) and secondary combat groups (e.g. battalion). Additionally, it describes military personnel’s feelings of connectedness with the military organization at large and the relative integration of its various components.

The article shows that while patronage networks provide support to individual military personnel, they undermine both peer and commander–subordinate bonding. One of the reasons is that these networks promote unequal service conditions and statuses and link these to extra-unit and extra-military forms of social identification (e.g. ethnicity, regional origins, language group). Patronage networks also impair meritocracy and frustrate the extent to which commanders live up to their subordinates’ expectations. Finally, these networks fuel internal conflicts, and foster distrust toward the political and military leadership. The article concludes that cohesion formation in the FARDC follows different patterns than in well-institutionalized and well-resourced militaries. Given that cohesion impacts combat performance and norm enforcement, these findings are relevant for defense reform efforts and military cooperation.