No issue is more important than security sector reform in determining the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s prospects for peace and development. Two particular challenges loom large: the security services must be able to maintain order during the national elections scheduled for April 2006 and reduce the country’s staggering mortality rate from the conflict – still well over 30,000 every month. On the military side, far more must be done to create an effective, unified army with a single chain of command, rather than simply demobilising militias and giving ex-combatants payout packages. International attention to police reform has been much less than that given to military restructuring: the limited efforts have had some important successes but suffer from a patchwork approach that largely neglects the countryside. Establishing a secure environment is not possible without a thorough security assessment that takes into account the country’s risks, needs, capabilities and financial means. A realistic plan is needed that defines the role of the security forces and reconciles their needs and means for a sustainable future. Reform of the army is far behind schedule. Eighteen integrated brigades were supposed to be created before elections but only six have been deployed, some of which are as much a security hazard as a source of stability, since they are often unpaid and prey on the local population. The police are supposed to be responsible for election security but are no match for local militias in many parts of the country.