Perspectives of conflict management based on R. Darendoph's conflict regulation theory: the case of the DRC

Research article
Issue: № 6 (144), 2024


The object of this study is the military and political instability in the DRC, which serves as a basic element in the actualization of established and historically/culturally determined contradictions. These contradictions have a significant degree of conflictogenicity. The subject of this study is the prospect of applying conflict resolution in the DRC in the context of taking into account the peculiarities of conflicts in this region. Methodologically, this study is based on Coser's concept of conflict functions and Darendorph's model of conflict in society. A wide range of scientific sources were analyzed: sociological, political science, and conflict literature, as well as periodic scientific publications and analytical reports of international organizations and institutions monitoring wars. Among the research methods involved are the following: comparison, generalization, and synthesis. The main problem to be addressed was the need to assess the procedure of conflict management in the DRC the possibility of reducing the presence of the violent component in the interaction, and the role of socio-political institutions of society that could favorably act as institutions of peacebuilding and peace enforcement was analyzed. The authors emphasize the importance of reforming the armed forces and police and the relevance of intervention of international actors in conflict resolution through mediation missions. The novelty of the study is focused on, but not limited to the absence of a conflict analysis of the prospects for conflict resolution in the DR Congo within the framework of the conflict model of the Darendorph society as a basis for building a comprehensive model of conflict resolution in the Congo. The authors of this study propose their concept of conflict resolution in the DRC based on Ralph Darendorph's theory of social conflict. The authors take the position that the conflict is intractable and that it can only be resolved.

1. Introduction

In this paper, the authors reflect a modern view of the problem of constitutionalized conflict in the DRC. Its development in political science in the countries of the former Soviet Union is engaged in such well-known specialists as G.M. Sidorova

. In the Western and African scientific community, reputable specialists on the subject of military and political instability in the region are Byamungu, Caparini, Ntung, Büsher
. A huge number of reports, resolutions, and materials of "field" activities of the UN contingent in the DRC provide access to information about the real situation in the region. The analysis of the Congolese problem proposed in this paper differs from previous attempts to comprehend this issue, first of all, by the essence and innovation of the approach to the study of the problem (interdisciplinarity, synthesis, and generalization of knowledge from different fields), which allows us to consider the problem from different positions. The relevance of the study is determined by the constantly increasing risks associated with the need to search for and implement effective tools for conflict resolution and diagnosis in regions with political and military instability. The main purpose of this study is to examine the key parameters of conflict processes in the DRC. These processes appear to be self-constituting, complicated by horizontal development coupled with the expansion of the range of interest groups included in the circle of parties and opponents. The main problem to be solved in this study was to develop a concept of conflict theorization of conflict resolution processes in the DRC based on Ralph Darendorf's conflict model. The role of socio-political institutions of society serving as positive elements of conflict resolution processes was analyzed. The main result of the study is the construction of a concept of conflict resolution in the DRC, developed based on Ralph Darendorf's theory of social conflict. The authors conclude that the reduction of violence in the conflict in the DRC and the resolution of the conflict in this region is only possible with proper conflict methodological and theoretical support for the peacebuilding process. It is necessary to continue reforming the army and police in the DRC, to establish them as instruments of conflict resolution; it is necessary to manage the conflict in the DRC through international organizations through their authority, expert opinion, supervision, building effective cooperative relations with the DRC authorities, rather than through direct intervention in the conflict process. 

It should be noted that the risk of improper conflict management instruments has increased. The authors have chosen DRC as a subject for their research due to many factors, including the role of Russia in this region as a key actor. Theoretic research in the field of effective conflict management is dedicated to securing the interests of investors in DRC. Facilitation of investment is an instrument of the development of human resources in the region.

On October 24, 2019, Sochi hosted the Russia-Africa summit, which marked the transition to a new stage of Russian-African relations, in particular, the study of the potential of the Central African region, the prospects for expanding Russia's economic presence here, and, at the same time, potential threats and risks. The main block of Russia's interests in Africa lies in political and economic cooperation and the expansion of Russia's zones of influence on the African continent. The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is an interesting and promising partner in this sense, and its economic potential and political and strategic importance can hardly be overestimated, despite the modest trade turnover between the countries at the present stage. Russia has sufficient experience in bilateral cooperation with the DRC in various spheres. 

Today, we can note a special mutual interest of the Russian Federation and the DRC: on April 16, 2019, at the International Forum ATOMEXPO-2019 in Sochi, a roadmap for cooperation between the DRC and the Russian Federation on the development of peaceful use and development of nuclear energy was signed. The upper house of the DRC parliament (Senate) has had a "DRC-Russia Friendship and Cooperation Group" since 2007. Congolese senators have visited Russia many times, for example, the delegation of the National Assembly in 2010 and the DRC Senate in 2012 and 2015

. Russian education is still attractive for Congolese. Congolese students in Russia are often provided with scholarships. Recently, there has been a tangible interest of the Russian Federation in the DRC and in improving diplomatic interaction in general. However, Russia enters the economic arena of the DRC with due caution due to the lack of stability in the country for a long period. But the situation has recently started to change for the better. Putin during his meeting with DRC President Felix Tshisekedi on October 23, 2019, noted that in 2018 the trade turnover between Russia and DRC increased by 45%, moreover, the Russian president expressed confidence in the possibility of cooperation in many other areas - engineering, infrastructure, military cooperation, etc.
. Felix Tshisekedi expressed hope for further investments in the DRC economy by the Russian Federation and the continuation of the warm diplomatic traditions of interaction between the states. The DRC will make it possible to bypass the constant connection with the same Western countries as modern metropolises of the 21st century. In this light, it seems promising to organize banks with international participation, located in the DRC and specializing in strategic for the DRC sectors of extraction and industry. These organizations will make it possible to develop business integration in the Congo and accommodate Western economic models to the style and peculiarities of doing business in the DRC. Also, such financial structures will attract foreign capital to Congo and build a system capable of integrating foreign companies. As for military cooperation between Russia and African countries, Russia's experience and reputation as a major supplier, as well as its image as a mediator in conflict resolution in the Middle East, make it an attractive partner. This is where the strongest mutual interest is outlined. The demand for Russian trainers reflects the DRCs desire to build up its armed forces and police, and the DRC's defense order will be beneficial to the Russian Federation as a long-term economic and political platform for building relations.

However, Russian interests cannot be realized without building an effective system to protect them. The DRC is a territory suffering from constant political conflicts, where, along with their direct subjects – numerous illegal armed groups, the interests of large international industrial and financial groups are particularly prominent, which in itself is a serious and long-term threat to the successful expansion of cooperation and requires careful scientific analysis and assessment.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo, as a country with large mineral resources, remains an arena of confrontation and conflict of interest for both local and global players. According to estimates by the "National Investment Promotion Agency", the approximate total value of Congolese minerals is more than 36 trillion dollars. There are almost 47% of the world's reserves of cobalt, 25% of industrial diamonds, 14% of tantalum, 5% of gem diamonds, 3% each of copper and tin


The result of fierce competition for these resources was the entry into the Congolese economic life of powerful financial and industrial campaigns represented by the American "Freeport McMoran", South African "Kibaligoldmines" and "Randgold", "Metorex", Chinese "Sinoidro", Swiss "Glencore". Cheap "slave" labor, with the most primitive equipment, allows intermediary corporations to buy cobalt at a low price and then resell it to the world giants

. Hence, the characteristic feature of the actions of local illegal armed groups seeking first of all to take control of the mines

In 2016, staff from Amnesty International investigated and uncovered the fact that the main buyer of cobalt from illegal mines in the DRC is Congo Dongfang Mining, a subsidiary of the Chinese giant corporation Zhejiang Niaoyi Cobalt Co., Ltd. Documentary research has revealed that "Zhejiang Niaoyi Cobalt Co. Ltd." prepares cobalt for resale and sells it to battery factories producing batteries for various types of equipment in China and South Korea. Thus, the world's big giants are encouraging alienation of all kinds, exploitation, and reproduction of poverty.

2. Research methods and principles

The methodological basis of the study was based on the research of both well-known researchers in the field of conflict sociology and a significant number of contemporary representatives of political science and international relations. The sources used are presented in different languages, which testifies to the relevance of the request to study the problem of conflict in African countries, and in particular the DRC, as one of the main countries about the presence of sustainable conflict. All of the above speaks in favor of the authors of the study using interdisciplinary tools for conducting scientific research. The authors also analyzed sources of analytical information and media materials, which allowed them to build a position on the perception of the political and economic situation in the region by the general public. The authors adhere to the position that conflict resolution is the most effective form of conflict management. Based on the results of Darendorf's and Kozer's studies, the authors were able to theorize the moment of conflict resolution and put it into the context of the DRC, it should be emphasized that no such attempts have been made in conflict studies before. Among the research methods involved are the following: comparison, generalization, and synthesis.

3. Main results

Conflict interaction with a high level of violence in the DRC. It must be understood that it is constitutive, and the reduction of violence in conflict is only possible if it is properly managed. In this respect, we will refer to Ralph Darendorf's concept of conflict. The main point of interest for us is the thesis that the conflict cannot be resolved, since the basic contradictions underlying the conflict in the DRC, namely economic factors as the primary basis for the intervention of large corporations, foreign states, and a huge number of gangs in the conflict, cannot be removed as determinants. In this case, the conflict can be interpreted as a clash of antagonistically intolerable interests of social groups. Lewis Kozer, a representative of the functional theory of conflict, gave the following definition of social conflict in "Functions of Social Conflict": social conflict is a struggle for the values and claims to status, power, and resources, in the course of which opponents neutralize, damage or eliminate their rivals

. Hence, it becomes clear that social conflict has an agonal aspect, it is always a kind of competition for the most complete satisfaction of one's needs, but not always the interests of an individual can combine with the interests of society, social groups, etc. It is necessary to take into account that conflict is always a way of negative interaction, characterized by the presence of the subjects of interaction of the attitude to struggle. Also, the realization of destructive tendencies in the achievement by actors of their interests at the expense of the interests of the opponent bears the signs of negative leadership. Lewis Krisberg noted that it is necessary to consider conflict not as a structure isolated from reality, but as a part of the context of reality, often influencing the environment
. To resolve conflict is to have such an impact on the determinants of contradictions that they cease to exist and are not allowed to arise again; we are talking here about the causes and their manifestations in the form of controversial issues but in no way about the manifestations of conflict
. Resolution from Darendorf's perspective is an untenable concept
. Thus, there are two main ways to influence conflict. The first way is to suppress the conflict
. In the case of political conflict, this method is the destruction of the possibility of articulation of interests by the opposition or partial satisfaction of its interests with the subsequent fulfillment of these interests in the field of practice. Yes, violent forms of manifestation of conflict contradictions will run covertly and their mimicry and partial destruction of the opposition will not yield results in the long term, the Mobutu regime demonstrated variants of suppression of political conflict with the opposition by including oppositionists in the corruption network, but such suppression still did not allow the Mobutu regime to hold on forever, so it can be understood that suppression is ineffective in terms of monumentality and duration of the result achieved. Given the specific features of the genesis of the DRC's political process, such as the difficulties of communication within the country, tribalism, the role of the armed forces and their poor preparedness and equipment, and the power and influence of bandits, one can conclude that the causes are too fundamental to be measured in temporal terms, they must be measured in cultural terms: that is, their "otherness" must be recognized and the peculiarity of their impossibility to eliminate them from the outside by influencing the causes of disputes, as well as the independent completion of the life cycle of such controversies
. Such idealistic models will not work here. Therefore, in the case of DRC, it is necessary to declare conflict resolution as a method that has real theoretical power to influence conflict interaction. This method is aimed at the manifestations of conflict interaction and assumes the long-term existence of contradictions, which cannot be removed at once. The life cycle of those contradictions is not limited due to the fact of certain factors like the existence of social groups and their social hierarchy, and cultural features.

4. Discussion

It is worth noting that at least three factors must be met to achieve effective conflict resolution, according to Darendorf.

First, the parties must realize the inevitability and realism of their mutual pretensions in the conflict, coupled with the legitimacy of the existence of the opponent's motives. This is not to say that the content of the opponent's interests must be understood as just, but fair and legitimate in terms of the nature of the claim itself and the existence of one's interest in the conflict: recognition of the realism of the conflict by both sides as the inevitable existence of a problem and the right to achieve their goals in the conflict, to state their position in a multilateral dialogue. The focus on common goals should not be overemphasized; in the case of the DRC, this aspect will lead to the disintegration and self-destruction of coalitions of government forces and overindulgence of the interests of the gangs, which should not be allowed; we must be aware of the "lines of demarcation in the conflict"


Secondly, it is necessary to achieve institutionalization of interest groups - an organization as a body that is capable of making decisions, in this case using the example of gangs. Organization means the structuring of coalitions of parties for mutually productive articulation and formation of problematic issues to be discussed and hence resolved. According to Lewis Koser's position described in "The Functions of Social Conflict", the formation of groups will lead to effective dialogue and a clearer understanding of their goals in the conflict, for the vast number of gangs this point is quite controversial, as their very nature does not imply structuring and organizing in coalitions with each other. Their destruction is out of the question, as social causes themselves give rise to them. But there is a legal and economically sanctioning impact of international forces, such as the UN and coalitions of foreign states included in peacekeeping activities on the territory of the DRC, on their beneficiaries – mineral exporters, buyers, transporters, etc., in other words, an impact on the source of material well-being. The impact is to narrow the channels of illegal or undesirable exports to a narrow range of companies, this moment will allow to put bandit groups in the face of a single danger for all of them. K. Marx believed that the unity and universality of suffering leads to the integration of classes, and the same is true for gangs, because their integration, as an element of forced coalition building, will lead to their structuring in conditions of "survival" – hence the possibility of their broader coalition representation in dialogue with government forces. Government is likely to discuss the problems with an organized institution, not with atomized groups of interest without any common structure.

The third and most important moment of conflict resolution is the formalization of the procedural process and the choice of the form of the role of the third party in conflict resolution. Procedural rules include procedural restrictions in the interaction of subjects that affect the form of the settlement processes without affecting the outcome of the conflict. Such procedural restrictions may include the establishment of agreements and procedural pacts of subjects on the time and place of negotiations, the neutrality of the territory where the settlement process will take place, the status of third-party participation, etc. Such rules help to institutionalize the settlement procedure, make it as constructive and rational as possible, and reduce the influence of emotional background and effects. As for the form of conflict regulation to reduce the violent component – here it is worth referring to Kerr, who was quoted by Darendorf in his work: conciliation, mediation, and arbitration as the most effective forms


From a practical point of view, which of these three forms is the most preferable in the DRC conflict context? Taking into account cultural aspects, and ethnic diversity, we can conclude that reconciliation is the option that is most difficult when dealing with a routinized conflict in conditions of such large-scale ethnic and linguistic diversification, as well as in conditions of tribalism and corruption

. Therefore, third-party participation (mediation and arbitration) appears as the most effective form of conflict management in the DRC context. The same is true for negotiations with the participation of a third party, as an organizer and authoritative supervisor of the entire procedural process, the selection of neutral territory, the development of normative organizational documents, a companion of negotiations at all stages, and an assistant in drafting the final documents on agreements and a guardian of their implementation. Thus, the authority and coercive power of the third party will help overcome resistance to conflict resolution, while the resource and normative framework will help keep track of agreements and strengthen the legislative power of the agreements.

Thus, the UN, through the UN mission in the DRC, influences and has influenced the bandit and rebel groups not through force of arms in the first place, but through authority, and the UN itself, in the totality of all its sub-agencies and mandates, has acted as a guarantor of the fulfillment of obligations by the parties. It should also be emphasized that the international community, including the UN, has for many years contributed to the building of effective armed forces in the DRC. It is worth noting the efforts of Ukraine, which supplied the DRC armed forces with T-62 BVM tanks. It is also worth emphasizing that Congo's military budget has been constantly growing, and the army has been modernized. However, in recent years, the budget for the army has been constantly decreasing. So in the graph "Military expenditures in DRC per year 2016-2022" we can see the pattern of military spending in DRC as a percentage of the country's GDP between 2016 and 2022. Data provided by the Institute for Peace Studies in Stockholm

. It should be emphasized that the downward trend in spending on army reform is a concern for the authors of this article. Effective armed forces and their reform play a key role in the development of peacekeeping initiatives in the region. The DRC, as an independent state, must realize its security architecture based on its forces and resources. The assistance of the international community is undoubtedly relevant, but it should have a consultative and mediative nature in supervising the reform processes that are being implemented by the DRC government. Subjectivity and responsibility in decision-making are a guarantee of respect for such decisions at the level of the people.

Military expenditures in DRC per year 2016-2022

Figure 1 - Military expenditures in DRC per year 2016-2022

Note: Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. (2022). Military expenditure (% of GDP)-Congo, Rep. (SIPRI). Stockholm

The regularity and institutionalization of relations relieve the severity and reduce the component of violence in conflict. It is impossible to eradicate and eliminate the causes of conflict that have self-constituted, but it is possible to effectively regulate the conflict and influence its manifestations while making it an instrument of social progress. It is important to determine the form of participation of the DRC as a state in this process. According to Kenneth Thomas, the main strategies of behavior here can be cooperation, compromise, and consensus. The DRC should transmit its authority in the peace process and be ready to make some concessions, but it should not demonstrate indecision, weakness, or deviation from the central course in the settlement of the problem. The authority and strength of support of the world community are the DRC's assistants.

5. Conclusion

The problem of analyzing self-constitutive conflict in DRC remains a persistent issue. What makes working with conflict possible and productive? How is it possible to build a cooperative and constructive process of conflict resolution in this case, and what will be its basis? The answer to this question lies within the essence of cooperation

. Here, of course, two elements are important – dialog and consideration of the opponent's interest in the competitive struggle. With the construction of a constructive dialog process, everything is clear, taking into account the interest of the opponent leads to the productivity of interaction and overcoming ethnocentrism, so developed in the DRC. This is not a weakness of the government, but a guarantee of the future integration of members of bandit groups into society; moreover, the threat of losing everything will only aggravate the resistance of the rebels. The authors consider the optimal solution to be the development of state social programs for the integration of gang members into the social environment – this includes amnesty for ordinary members (not war criminals), employment opportunities, integration programs, etc.

How can the political and economic dimensions of this conflict be scaled here? The first thing to consider is the huge sector of the state economy in Congo's extractive industries, in which foreign giants and intermediary firms are still the prevailing force, making morally "dirty" cobalt clean and legal. On the other hand, bandit groups can be an instrument of conflict constitution and vitalization in the DRC, as instruments of social disintegration. In which way does this benefit foreign capital? As is well known, the DRC has been a field of interest for European mining corporations since the colonial period of its history; 1960 and gaining independence did not change much in this context. The conflict is beneficial for this side as a diversionary maneuver to hide exploitation and alienation. It is easy to blame the war and the post-war period; devastation, theft, poverty, patron-client relations, and domestic corruption are the quintessence of the stagnation and involution so dangerous to the DRC, but it is hard to disagree that the war does not always bring this about. It is worth paying attention to the essence of class relatedness in the economic and other relations of the population and gang members. All these people are on roughly the same social level, and there is a problem of poverty and lack of social mobility.

It must be recognized that assistance in building an effective army and police is an integral part of the conflict resolution process. The army and police are the most important institutions for conflict resolution in the DRC. It is worth noting that an important institution for the integration of the DRC's many ethnic groups and a universal tool for articulating the interest of stability is the Catholic Church of the DRC, as an authoritative institution that is understood and accessible to the majority. Church hierarchs have repeatedly proven their ability to influence the masses, the Church helps to build the education system and gives hope to people in the most remote areas of the Congo, even where the government is only nominally present. The role of the Catholic Church in Congo as a mediating institution in the negotiation process cannot be overemphasized. An example of this is the work of Appoliner Malou Malou, who mediated the negotiation process between more than 20 groups in the east of the country in 2008

The Church is an institution of accessible integration that seeks to be the starting point of integration and the future of the conflict resolution process depends on the right attitude towards it. What are the main problems and ways to influence them in the contemporary Congolese AF? The problem in this case is the gap between the current reality and the desired reality. The main problem for the army of the DRC is tribalism, which is common to many African countries in general, in the case of the Armed Forces it is expressed in nepotism and unfair and illegal distribution of leadership and other positions and embezzlement of funds and property. The second important problem is small salaries and pensions, which leads to abuse of office, and hence to human rights violations - theft and violence. The next point is technical under-equipment of the Armed Forces and the police. The sluggishness in the development of the Armed Forces in Africa is connected with coups d'état, the reluctance to make the army strong to avoid a strong opponent in case of the next coup. Another point is the flourishing routinized animism, the belief in supernatural forces that are supposedly ready to protect soldiers from bullets or make them invisible; this has led to the collapse of combat operations many times in the past, even since the siege of Stanleyville. Defection was also common, and indeed a lack of discipline and understanding of what service was all about. There have been attempts to modernize the army, exemplified by the strategic planning days in 2003 when an attempt was made to field contingents of the Congolese armed forces and the DRC police, and the postulate of catching up between domestic political institutions and government regulations. In August 2011, a law was ratified that fundamentally changed the essence of the DRC: the Law on the Armed Forces of the DRC, the legal foundation and regulation of legal relations in the armed forces as a contract army. It is worth noting that this law provided a platform to overcome human rights violations in the army such as forced recruitment of children, robbery, and sexual violence, which had become routinized for the armed forces. We should note the essence of the political discourse formation and its influence on the political process.
The breakdown in discipline and in the army itself can be attributed to the involvement of soldiers in gangs and the smuggling of resources. The way out in this case is to re-equip and diversify the ethnic composition of the army and establish its development as an institution for conflict resolution and peacekeeping. Tribalism, insufficient equipment, and training are the main problems of the army. Here opens a huge springboard for cooperation between the world's leading military blocs and the DRC. Overall, the overall picture of the productivity of the police force and the army is improving, with productivity and professionalism on the rise.

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