Painting by Cheri Samba

Lokuta eyaka na ascenseur, kasi vérité eyei na escalier mpe ekomi. Lies come up in the elevator; the truth takes the stairs but gets here eventually. - Koffi Olomide

Ésthetique eboma vélo. Aesthetics will kill a bicycle. - Felix Wazekwa

Saturday, March 13, 2010


A cash for weapons operation began in North Kivu this past week. It is being led by an organization called PAREC, which is run by the Pastor Daniel Ngoy Mulunda, a close associate of President Kabila. The idea: bring us your weapons and we give you money - $50 for an AK-47. The operation was funded by the provincial government to the tune of $10,000.

It is was a highly orchestrated production, with Kabila's twin sister Janet in attendance, and two national MPs contributed several hundred dollars to the operation.

The result? In Kitchanga, the former capital of CNDP-held territory, only 14 weapons were handed over after local leaders had told them not to hand over their guns. The population there is heavily militarized after Governor Serufuli distributed thousands of weapons in 2001-2003 (although Gen Bosco declared that it was a huge success). In Goma, however, the population handed over 986 weapons in just 3 hours. But what kind of weapons: according to people who were there, barely a single AK-47. Instead, a lot of old, decrepit rifles, the kind that poachers use, barely functional. A lot of doubts that this was for real. "They needed to show something for the president's sister," one Congolese soldier who attended the ceremony told me. Others have suggested that this has been a way to pay off disgruntled CNDP officers after they failed to get positions in government. Nonetheless, some national newspapers (close to Kabila) hailed it a huge success and proof that peace had come to the eastern Congo.


Unknown said...

I wonder why only 50$? That doesn't seem like all that much money in N Kivu for a Kalachnikov -- wasn't PAREC offering 100$ in Kinshasa? And a Bicycle in Katanga? (which is also probably worth a bit more than 50$ in the local market there). One would think that given the arms market and security concerns, the price would be a bit higher in Goma.

Alex Engwete said...

I don't know if you saw this February 18 Radio Okapi report entitled "Opposition in Masisi against operation 'Weapon for $50'": "Community leaders forbid populations to turn in their weapons for $50, determining that they are the only guarantee of security in the advent of a resurgence of hostilities."...

Anonymous said...

Hello Jason,

I have been following your blog since I discovered it a few months ago. I was in Goma in 2008 and 2009, working with IDPs, and I wrote a blog from there (

I have read the last press release by Global Witness and now some news are starting to criticize it. Do you agree with it?

Nicolás Dorronsoro

rrm364 said...

@ Mike J - Problem with cash for guns is that it goes against the market. Suppose an AK goes for $100 on the market (I have no idea what it really costs) and the government offers $150. Well, then I'll give you my gun, buy another gun for $100 and pocket the $50. Then I'd go back to the government, and give my gun for $150 and start all over. Cash for guns programs can only work when there is no demand for work, and are (in my opinion) more or less useless.

Jason Stearns said...

That's more or less right - apparently, an AK goes for between $25-40 on the black market around Goma these days, so you can more than cover the cost with your PAREC money.

Alex, the Okapi story you mention is about people like Erasto, a Hutu local chief around Kitchanga who is very close to Bosco and the CNDP leadership - so the CNDP were pretty hypocritical about this.

Rachel said...

Ha. I was wondering why the road between the 1st and 2nd roundabouts was so crowded last week. Oh. Thanks for this!

Unknown said...

Don't forget about the sweet PAREC teeshirts people were getting. They put them on about 50 taxi moto drivers who honked around town all morning.

Unknown said...

I have been watching this exercise closely and though it is not a runaway success, its fairly satisfying.
If some weapons were worth only killing animals(actually what can kill an animal can also kill human), at least be satisfied that already depleted animals would be saved.
Please do not try to find faults, or read between the lines. Support the good initiative. If you can afford, donate some money and help take out some weapons out of circulation.

By the way AK rifle can cost anything over 1000 USD.

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