We spoke to Mr. Honoré Katamba from Securitas Congo to get his perspective on the private security sector in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Mr. Katamba is a security sector reform expert and Securitas Congo is an ICoCA Member civil society organisation that works in the field of human rights education, information and advocacy, including on the issue of private security.
Can you tell us about the private security landscape in the DRC, for example:
– How big is the sector, particularly in terms of the number of private security companies?
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, private security markets have been expanding rapidly over the past few decades. Although turnover figures are not known due to a lack of statistics. The private security industry in the Democratic Republic of Congo includes approximately one hundred companies that market surveillance and protection services using human, physical and electronic means. Officially, the regulatory authority recognizes only about eighty companies that operate legally. In the field, there are also companies that operate informally and illegally.
– How is the sector regulated?
In the DRC, some of the ESPs have been operating since 1970 in a total legal vacuum. Several activities carried out by the ESPs are not regulated (close protection, transport of funds, investigation, intervention, access and exit control, fire service…). The Ministerial Order of 2014 deals in a lacunar way, with conditions for opening a guard service, and no longer focus on the fees to be collected by the public authority. There is no provision for the exercise of foreign ESPs in the DRC.
Regulation of the private security sector should be a primary concern, especially in the absence of any or inadequate oversight, the activities of security companies can easily contribute to human rights abuses.
For some time, civil society organizations (CSOs), including Securitas-Congo, have been interested in the activities of ESPs in the DRC and are particularly concerned about the legal vacuum in which these companies (more than 100) operate. Nevertheless, since 2020, civil society organizations have begun to advocate for reform of the legal framework governing the private security industry in the DRC.
– Who are the clients of private security companies?
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, private security is provided primarily by Congolese companies. There are few foreign companies. Some private security companies have been established for nearly two decades. The clients of these companies are mainly diplomatic missions, gas stations, supermarkets, MONUSCO, mining quarries, telecommunication companies, banks, nightclubs, airlines. Some event services and private individuals punctually resort to ESPs for security during sports events, public demonstrations, funerals, wedding parties, and academic grade collations.
– What human rights issues involving private security companies do you see?
Private security companies are increasingly present in the public space in the DRC to the point that they interfere with the exercise of certain rights in public. The agents of these companies control bags and do body searches before authorizing access to certain spaces. If citizens fail to comply, they can prohibit access to these spaces.
In particular, human rights abuses associated with private security in the Democratic Republic of Congo include arbitrary detention, arbitrary arrest, assault, and verbal abuse. The elements assigned to guarding the sites are sometimes faced with threats that may cause them to defend themselves; this action may also result in death, serious injury, or other human rights abuses.
What do you think are the concrete consequences on the life and work of guards when they work for private security companies that do not respect norms and standards? How does this differ from working for responsible private security companies?
Under Congolese law, private security companies are private commercial enterprises engaged in the business of providing protection services to third parties, on a permanent or occasional basis, without taking the place of law enforcement.
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, Article 189 of Law No. 16/010 of July 15, 2016, prohibits labor employees from working more than 40 hours per week and 8 hours per day. This provision is not respected by private security companies; agents sometimes spend 24 to 48 hours on duty, sometimes without a place to shelter in case of rain. The working conditions of the agents remain too precarious. In most companies, the monthly salary ranges from an average of US$70 to US$100 for national companies. 200 to 400 dollars for foreign companies. This salary is sometimes modest compared to the risks involved and does not allow them to take care of themselves.
Union associations for the defense of agents’ causes exist only in certain companies. In case of illness, death, or disability, agents do not benefit from any social benefits or any other social protection.
Congolese private security companies do not employ women as guards, only in administrative positions. Some of them claim to respect the injunctions of the Ministry of the Interior regarding recruitment. This provision remains very contradictory to the constitution of the Republic in its article 14.
According to the ministerial order, the recruitment of demobilized former police and military personnel is prohibited, thus depriving them of the opportunity to find employment for their economic reintegration. This measure is truly discriminatory, as former police officers or demobilized soldiers lose their military status and become civilians who can offer their services to anyone who requests them.
How do their interactions with the communities they serve differ?
In particular, the interactions with the communities are nonetheless good. The behavior of private security officers is acceptable compared to public security officers. The explanation remains simple, the private security sector constitutes an agglomeration that counts within it more literate people (Graduate, Graduated, Licensed). They are able to understand, listen, read and write. Unfortunately, the agents are often pushed to beg due to the low salary, especially those working in front of the stores. In addition, due to the lack of a reasonable salary, they run the risk of being corrupted or engaging in other illicit practices (theft, harassment), thus tarnishing the image of their service sector.
What are the challenges for civil society organizations working on these issues in the DRC, and what role could ICoCA play in helping to overcome them?
First, human rights organizations working on this issue are few and far between and are not well equipped to document abuses committed by private security companies. Our concern would be to see ICoCA engage in capacity-building training for Congolese civil society organizations in the areas of human rights monitoring and democratic governance of the security sector.
Second, there is a problem with funding for Congolese civil society organizations. There are few financial partners who are willing to support the actions of civil society working on security governance. We think that, if possible, if ICoCA can provide financial support to the extent of its means to support civil society actions to enable us to carry out actions of surveillance or monitoring of human rights.
How did you first hear about ICoCA?
We heard about ICoCA through the various meetings and activities we participated in as part of the implementation of a project on good governance of the private security sector in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), a project led by DCAF Switzerland.
What are your expectations as an ICoCA member?
We would like to see our participation in different meetings, notably the different meetings, training, and all other activities that ICoCA organizes in the framework of its mission. We would also like to receive the necessary documentation to enable us to carry out our work in the field of human rights monitoring and monitoring the actions of private security companies (PSCs). In short, we would like to receive any form of support capable of enabling us to carry out concrete actions for the good governance of private security in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
What do you hope to bring to ICoCA?
First, we can contribute by monitoring the actions of private security companies operating in the Democratic Republic of Congo to ensure that they respect national laws and human rights and do not overstep their authority. We will also submit reports of incidents of human rights violations committed by private security companies to ICoCA.
Second, we will contribute through the popularization of the International Code of Conduct. In a study we conducted in the city of Kinshasa on the governance of private security, it was found that only two out of a hundred companies are members of ICoCA in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
We will also continue to advocate for the government and private security companies to apply for membership in ICoCA.
How do you hope to engage with ICoCA?
We will continue to work in collaboration with ICoCA to monitor human rights in the Democratic Republic of Congo in the field of the private security industry, we will regularly send our reports of activities in the field of private security to the ICoCA office.