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Mayi-Mayi / Mai Mai
Alliance pour la resistance democratique (ARD)

The Mai Mai [less frequently but also correctly Mayi-Mayi] are one of the main militia groups active in the Kivus region of Congo [Zaire]. The Mai Mai are a loose association of traditional Congolese local defense forces, which primarily fought Rwandan government forces and their Congolese allies. It is opposed to "Tutsi domination" and the Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD), but are otherwise seemingly without any clear objective and frequently change allegiances.

Mai Mai units' quality and reliability depend on the quality and interests of their commanders. They tend to have local interests and concerns, bad equipment, little training, and no discipline. No homogeneity exists between the various Mayi-Mayi groups, and the names of various commanders such as Louetcha, Padiri and Dunia frequently come up. As of late 1999 these forces were being re-supplied all over North and South Kivu to attack the positions of the Rwandan army. The Alliance pour la resistance democratique (ARD), based in the Fizi region, is believed to be a Mayi-Mayi front.

In a report issued in March 2003, the NGO Commission de vulgarisation des droits de l'homme et de developpement (CVDHO - a human rights group from Katanga Province in the Democratic Republic of the Congo) singled out Kabale Makana a Nshimba and his followers as being ringleaders of rampant human rights abuses in the region. It appealed to the international community to establish a commission of inquiry into the alleged violations.

On 30 May 2003 CVDHO decried a fresh outbreak of fighting between Mayi-Mayi militiamen and police in the isolated Malemba Nkulu region in central Katanga. A report by CVDHO said fighting broke out on 13 May in Kayumba and Malemba Centre and resulted in the deaths of several civilians, including a local administrator, his secretary and the clerk of a local court. According to the NGO, the leader of the Mayi-Mayi faction, Kabale Makana a Nshimba, was also killed. The report said that police had fled Malemba Centre after militiamen seeking revenge attacked the police station, leaving the population at the mercy of "the new strongmen".

The problem of child soldiers and their recruitment has diminished significantly in the past several years. The Congolese government body, CONADER (Commission Nationale de la Demobilization et Reinsertion), coordinates the disarmament process began its activities in 2003, and by 2007 more than 29,000 children had been identified and removed from various armed groups, although many still need to be reunited with their families. As of 2007 approximately 3,000 child soldiers still remained in the DRC, mostly with militias in Ituri District and with Mayi-Mayi groups in the Kivu provinces and northern Katanga. MONUC's Child Protection division reported in early March that 32 children, including 28 boys and four girls, were removed from the Balenie Mayi-Mayi group in North Kivu after being identified at a military integration center.

Clashes between rival Mayi-Mayi militias continued in 2007, as fighting in March and April between opposing factions of the region's Mayi-Mayi (local defense forces) caused thousands of civilians to flee. Several firefights in early July that killed at least four fighters loyal to Mayi-Mayi commander Colonel Jackson. These conflicts caused tens of thousands to flee according to humanitarian officials. The growing sense of insecurity in North Kivu was driven by a variety of military and political factors. The GDRC has failed to follow through on the integration of the so-called "mixed" brigades, whose presence contributed to rising tensions since the beginning of 2007. Continuing low-level fighting involving the Congolese military, the FDLR, and various rival Mai-Mai factions contributed to these concerns. Increasingly public activities by dissident General Laurent Nkunda and his political front group further added to tensions.

Elements from fifteen of the Mai-Mai groups in North and South Kivu agreed in May 2009 to form a party called the Union of Democratic Congolese Resistance (in French, "Union de Resistance Democratique Congolaise"--URDC). It comprised elements from the following groups: Mai-Mai Yakutumba, Zabuloni, Ny'Kiriba, Mahoro, Kapopo, Kasindien, Shikito, Kirikicho, Simba, Rwenzori, Mongol, Mudundu 40, PARECO/South Kivu, UJPS, and Raia Mutomboki. The President of this party was Vincent Ngeya Tambwe, the Yakutumba representative to the Amani structures, and its Secretary-General was Assanda Mwenebatu, the Yakutumba spokesman. The latter had also been the permanent secretary of the Amani joint commission since the middle of 2008. As a Yakutumba-driven creation, it was likely to be more focused on South Kivu than on North Kivu despite its mixed membership.

The second Mai-Mai grouping is known as the "Alliance of Popular and Patriotic Forces of Congo" (in French, "Alliance des Forces Populaires et Patriotiques du Congo"--AFPC). It brought together elements from seven Mai-Mai groups across the two Kivus. Certain Mai-Mai groups have elements represented in both parties. The seven groups were as follows: Mai-Mai Vurondo, Kasindien, Shabunda, Mongol, Simba (North Kivu), Simba (South Kivu), and PARECO/South Kivu. The architect of this party appeared to be Jules Ziringabo, member of Simba (South Kivu) and formerly of the AFDL. Most of the others involved appeared to be political novices. The AFPC claimed to represent the "real Mai-Mai groups," with a political agenda, unlike the URDC, which was said to beonly concerned with gaining government positions for its leadership. The AFPC claimed to be not just Kivu-based; rather, it claimed nation-wide support.

It was no surprise that PARECO-Hutu opted to become a political party, but there were a number of issues to monitor in this context. PARECO-Hutu appeared to be more interested in a political alliance with the Tutsis, i.e. CNDP, than in joining with former fellow PARECO members in other factions of that movement. This would complement the kind of reconciliation with CNDP that some within PARECO-Hutu reportedly sought. Additionally, the PARECO-Hutu party will officially oppose splitting North Kivu because it knows it is a controversial point. However, the principals all clearly favor a split.

The obvious absentees from these four groups are the FRF and PARECO-Nande. If the former finally entered integration, its members were likely to form their own party - they will not want to be associated with the North Kivu Rwandophones, nor any of the Mai-Mai (and vice-versa). PARECO-Nande, by contrast, was likely to be absorbed into the well-established Nande political structures.

If a PARECO-Hutu/CNDP reconciliation didi occur, it will signal a significant step towards a Rwandophone agenda and could precipitate a political response from the non-Rwandophones in North Kivu, such as an alliance between the Mai-Mai parties and the Nande. As for the various Mai-Mai groups, they have sensibly come together. However, it was unclear how much electoral support even these consolidated groups will have.

On 04 May 2009, representatives of seven North Kivu Mai-Mai groups declared they were withdrawing their fighters from the Congolese armed forces (FARDC) and suspending their recognition of the March 23 agreement signed with the GDRC. Their complaint was that the government has appointed only one from their ranks to the monitoring committee for the agreement. This might not have become a problematic issue if not for two additional factors. First, the Mai-Mai groups originally thought the committee was going to be based in Goma and not terribly significant. However, the GDRC recently called all those appointed to the committee to Kinshasa and, in Goma, the capital signifies power and opportunity. Therefore, those who were not invited suddenly saw the stakes raised with respect to this committee. Additionally, the majority of the members from North Kivu on the committee are apparently Hutus; as previously reported, many of the (non-Rwandophone) Mai-Mai have complained of preferential treatment for Rwandophones over the previous several months.

On 03 June 2009, the Kisangani Military Tribunal, holding court in Lieke Lesole village (Orientale), found five Mai Mai members guilty for their involvement in the 2007 mass rapes in Lieke Lesole. All five defendants (one at-large defendant was convicted in absentia) were found guilty of crimes against humanity and rape. The guilty included Colonel Thomas, the commander who ordered the atrocity. Four of the five, including Colonel Thomas, received sentences of life in prison. The fifth Mai Mai soldier, Okanga Likunda, alias Musique, received a sentence of 30 years in prison. The tribunal also ruled that the defendants pay $10,000 to each of the 135 rape victims and $2,500 to each of the unspecified number of assault and battery victims.

Mai Mai Kifuafua, drawn from the Tembo ethnic group, was formed in the early 1990s in the context of fighting between Tembos and Hutus, primarily over land issues. It operates in the forests southeast of Walikale, near the borders with Masisi and the South Kivu territory of Kalehe. It claims to number 2,000 combatants, and claims to be the "original" Mai Mai group from which all others sprung. While these claims are exaggerated, Kifuafua is one of the more serious Mai Mai groups.

Over the summer of 2009 there was an increase in new Mai Mai groups, including the following:

  • Mai Mai Manua Manua was based around Kishero in northern Rutshuru. It was primarily ethnic Nande, claiming to protect the local population against abuses by recently integrated CNDP elements in the Congolese armed forces (FARDC).
  • Mai Mai Coutumier was based around Bunyatenge in western Masisi. It drew primarily from PARECO-Hutu, also protecting the local population against ex-CNDP (now FARDC) abuses. It insisted that it did not collaborate with the FDLR.
  • Mai Mai Populaire was based in western Masisi and eastern Walikale. Led by "General" Tabu Panda Pascal, a FARDC deserter, this group claimed to protect locals from ex-CNDP (specifically FARDC 211 and 212 Brigades) abuses. This group reportedly had cooperated with the FDLR against the FARDC.
Each of the new Mai Mai groups had its own locally specific reasons for taking up arms. State authority is non-existent in a wide swath of the Kivus. Newly integrated FARDC units (ex-CNDP) had advanced into areas where they are viewed with deep suspicion. FDLR targeting of the civilian population since the beginning of operation Kimia II contributed to the formation of more local self-defense groups. None of these groups, old or new, appeared to want to or be able to create wider instability. However, should these groups coalesce with other anti-government forces (FDLR, Mai Mai Kifuafua, APCLS), they could present a real challenge to the Congolese armed forces (FARDC).

While the GDRC signed the 23 March 2009 Goma Accords, by the end of 2007 it had not honored the terms of the agreement regarding integration of CNDP and Mai-Mai into the FARDC. Kinshasa had not fulfilled obligations under the Goma Accords to integrate National Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP) and various Mai-Mai militia into the DRC armed forces (FARDC) at the appropriate rank and with a regular salary.

Mai Mai were disenchanted by their inability to integrate into the FARDC at ranks they consider appropriate and resent the influence of ex-CNDP in the army. Major active, unintegrated groups in the area include Janvier's ACPLS (Hunde), LaFontaine's PARECO group (Nande), and Mai Mai Kifuafua (Tembo, Nyanga, etc). The ACPLS appeared to be the most powerful of these and was notable for its hostility to Congolese armed forces (FARDC) and MONUC, its working relationship with FDLR in the area and its good ties with (non-Tutsi) local civilians.

Fears that Tutsis will move back to their land fueled the growth of Mai Mai groups to defend locals from the outsiders. Local chiefs strongly opposed the movement of refugees, which they believe is related to the issue of land-grabbing by ex-CNDP integrated into Congolese armed forces (FARDC). Ex-CNDP FARDC moved into the Bisie mines and violently pushed civilians, primarily Hutu and Hunde, from areas around Nyabiondo and Lukweti. By late 2009 statistics from UNHCR, MONUC, the Congolese National Commission for Refugees (CNR), and independent field investigations indicate that significant numbers of ethnic Tutsis are entering North Kivu from Rwanda. UNHCR's estimate of 12,000, while plausible, is probably inflated. Those crossing the border say they are Congolese refugees returning to lands they fled during the violence of the 1990s, but very few possess official refugee identification. Reports from IDP camps and other sources on the ground suggest returnees are young adults under 30 years old with little recent connection to the Kivus, but family groups also settled in Congolese IDP camps. The movement appeared to be encouraged by ex-CNDP elements on the Congolese side of the frontier, who had long called for the return of Congolese Tutsi refugees in Rwanda and Burundi.

Ending a long period of speculation about a cabinet reshuffle, President Kabila announced his new government 19 February 2010. The biggest surprise of the reshuffle was that no former armed group received any posts in the government reshuffle. Didier Bitaki, leader of the Mai Mai Kifufua group, threatened to take up arms again if they did not receive representation in the government. Information Minister Lambert Mende rejected the statement as blackmail, adding that the only legitimate way to gain a seat in the cabinet was by forming a valid political party and joining a coalition. Bitaki's reaction to the new cabinet was classic Congolese political theater. Even though the national armed forces have little real military capacity, it is unlikely any armed group except the CNDP would be willing to resume fighting on a pretext so minor as a failure to receive ministerial appointments for its members.

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Page last modified: 21-11-2012 18:50:36 ZULU