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Increased rebel activities in eastern Congo

Over the past few weeks, eastern Congo has seen a resurgence of rebel activities in many places. The rebel groups ADF, FDLR, FRPI, Lafontaine, Morgan, LRA, and Sheka were increasingly active with civilians bearing the brunt of the violence in Beni, Walikale and South Lubero in North Kivu province as well as Mumbasa, Irumu and Haut and Bas-Uele in Orientale Province.

In more positive news, in contrast to failed attempts with FRPI and Morgan, ongoing negotiations with Nyatura and APCLS in Masisi territory seem to make progress

Beni territory: ADF (map)

In Beni territory, the ADF rebel group reportedly killed nine people and wounded several others in the town of Oicha and Tenambo on 8 October, prompting the displacement of approximately 70% of Oicha’s population. A week later, ADF allegedly staged another attack in the provincial capital of Beni, killing close to 30 people. (Listen to a first reaction of North Kivu civil society.)  MONUSCO peacekeeper later specified that more than 10,000 people have been uprooted, adding that “the situation remains tense.”

In staging new attacks, ADF underscores that it can still wreck devastation despite having lost all of its strongholds and many combatants during a fight against the Congolese army and UN peacekeepers earlier this year. For background, see my earlier reporting.

Editor’s note: On 21 October, Dominic Johnson of Germany’s TAZ raised a number of questions about the alleged involvement of ADF. His points are very worth considering. 

Orientale Province: FRPI, Mai-Mai Morgan, LRA (map)

Further north, in Orientale Province, the FRPI rebel group staged several attacks (here and here) in Irumu and Walendu Bindi after earlier attempts to negotiate a disarmament of the group had failed. In response, the Congolese army conducts military operations against them in collaboration with MONUSCO. (For a background of the negotiations and group, see my earlier reporting.)

Another group, which is increasingly active in Orientale Province is Mai-Mai Morgan, which most recently abducted 47 people (herehere, and here), sparking protests of angered citizens. Later, on Wednesday, authorities uncovered three mass graves of potential victims of Mai-Mai Morgan. In early 2014, the group also negotiated with the Congolese army about a possible surrender but the talks collapsed after its leader was shot by the army.

The activities of FRPI and Mai-Mai Morgan underscore the difficulties of providing credible and trustworthy incentives for rebels to surrender while at the same time making sure that human rights abusers are brought to justice. As we will see further below, negotiations with Nyatura and APCLS seem to make progress, however.

Further north in Orientale Province, the LRA resurged as well operating in Haut et Bas Huele. The renewed activities prompted chief of MONUSCO Martin Kobler to visit the area. He expressed his support for joint FARDC/US-Africom and MONUSCO operations against LRA and for a greater securization of Garamba Park, an important sanctuary of the group (here, here, and here). For background, I suggest you have a look at three info graphics that visualize latest LRA activities (here, here, and here) .

Walikale and Lubero: Sheka, Lafontaine and FDLR

Lubero territory saw renewed clashes between Sheka and Lafontaine around Bunyatenge, which is now reportedly secured by the army. Sheka has also been increasingly active on the Mpofi-Kashebere axis in Walikale. Rumors that Sheka might have reconciled with Gedeon have not been officially confirmed yet. Sheka has been under attack by the Congolese army and UN peacekeepers since 2 July. The operations are still ongoing but have yet to deliver a final blow. As I described in an earlier report, Sheka needs a military as well as political solution. The latter is missing, however.

As for the FDLR, negotiations about the disarmament process are ongoing but effectively stalling. In early July, the group had been given a last chance to surrender over the course of six months or face military confrontations. Kobler together with a delegation of British diplomats recently visited a transit camp for FDLR elements in Kanyabayonga, urging them to honor the agreement. While FDLR is very unlikely to do that, recent findings by Human Rights Watch that more than 100 men, women and children in a demobilization camp of the Congolese government starved to death do not necessarily invite more surrenders, however.

Disappointed at FDLR’s lack of commitment, a high-ranking official at MONUSCO reported that they “don’t move. They have unrealistic goals and want to blame others for a later failure of the process. […]. They are playing games. What happens on 3rd of January [a day after the ceasefire expires] will be very interesting. Maybe SADC will no longer be asked [about what to do about FDLR].” SADC had single-handedly decided to give FDLR another chance in July, angering MONUSCO as well as Rwanda.

Pressure to eventually use force against the rebel is mounting. During a Security Council debate on the increasing challenges of peacekeeping on 9 October MONUSCO’s force commander reiterated the “moral duty” to protect civilians and use force if necessary (here, and here; video here). Earlier, on 3 October, the UN Security Council issued a press statement (here and here) “noting with deep concern that since 2 July no further voluntary surrenders of FDLR have happened and the FDLR have failed to deliver on their public promise to voluntarily demobilize.” Reiterating the need for a “swift neutralization” of ‪FDLR, the Council stressed that “only substantial progress toward the full demobilization called for by the region and committed to by the FDLR could justify any further reprieve from military action against the FDLR.” Days prior, the US Ambassador to Congo expressed similar disappointment.

In addition, during a high-level meeting on the situation in the Congo at the margins of the UN General Assembly on 22 September, FDLR received particular attention with Presidents and Foreign Ministers urging FDLR to disarm in earnest, echoing the sentiment of the International Contact Group that met a week earlier in London.

(For further background on 6-month process, see my earlier reporting. In addition, Washington Post recently published a series of features about the FDLR (here and here).

Masisi: Nyatura, APCLS, ‘M27’ (map)

In Masisi, the situation looks more promising. For example, Nyatura ‘Colonel’ Kotala Dedieu, better known as Kikingi, surrendered together with ten of his men on 12 October. The surrender seems to be a direct result of a 30-day deadline to lay down arms by the Governor of North Kivu. Apart from Nyatura groups, the appeal called “Masisi sans arms” might also have a positive effect on near-by groups such as FDC, Kifufua (details of negotiations here) and certain Raia Mutomboki groups. Sharing this sentiment, MONUSCO asserts that “we can expect more to come out.”

Another rebel group, which is currently negotiating a possible surrender is APCLS.  Large-scale military operations against APCLS started in February this year but are currently suspended to make room for negotiations. Leader of APCLS Gen. Janvier reportedly wants to avoid any further confrontations in light of the crushing defeat he suffered in the earlier operations. Operations might re-start in the following weeks if negotiations fail to bear fruit.

In southern Masisi, around Remeka and Ngungu, unconfirmed reports about recruitment drives by a group called M27 – a possible successor of M23 – continue to circulate (here, here, here, and here). While MONUSCO “doesn’t rule it out,” it “struggles” to verify it. “We are still ascertaining,” the mission said on Wednesday. M23 and the Deputy Ambassador of Rwanda to the UN Security Council refute the rumors.

Last week, MONUSCO released new findings that M23 killed, raped and tortured hundreds of people. (See commentary by author). News broke also that its former leader Bosco Ntaganga will face trial for 13 war crimes and five counts of crimes against humanity in June 2015. The fate of approximately 2,000 ex-M23 elements remaining in neighboring Rwanda and Uganda remains unresolved.

Katanga: Bakata Katanga (map)

Meanwhile, the situation in northern Katanga remains worrisome. After clashes with the army in Kyona Nzini (Pweto territory), Bakata Katanga reportedly conducted several incursions, prompting the displacement of 3,000 people (here and here). For a recent mapping of displacement in the province see here.

Conclusion:

The resurgence of rebel activity underscores that military operations alone will not yield sustainable effects (see ADF in particular) even though they seem to have pressured APCLS and Nyatura into negotiations, a development that authorities should pursue with conviction. However, these negotiations will only produce meaningful results if authorities finally put in place a credible DDR program (see FRPI, Morgan, partially FDLR, and HRW reporting). And next to a robust DDR, political efforts are needed to resolve rebellions (see M23 and Sheka).

Further resources:

For a mapping of armed groups see Christoph Vogel.

Photo credits:

  • 1-4: Photos of ADF attack by Dearbhla Glynn for Vice and AlJazeera.
  • 5-7: Cobra Matata, Germain Katanga, and Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui (the latter two stood trial at ICC)
  • 8-9: Paul Sadala of Mai-Mai Morgan by UN Group of Experts and RFI.
  • 10-11: Sheka.
  • 12-14: Visit in Kanyabayonga by Iain Griffiths
  • 15-16: FDLR elements by Pete Muller for Washington Post (here and here).
  • 17-22: APCLS elements by Alexis Bouvy for Search for Common Ground.
  • 23-25: M23’s Sultani Makenga and Bosco Ntaganda at the ICC.
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Discussion

13 thoughts on “Increased rebel activities in eastern Congo

  1. Thank you for covering this region and contributing your important analysis. I’m wondering about whether Mai Mai Morgan & FRPI activities/impacts are conflated. Mai Mai Morgan had previously been linked more closely to groups operating in N. Kivu than with FRPI, though they’re both active in Ituri District. Is that right or has it changed?

    Posted by Joel M | October 19, 2014, 3:56 am
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