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Congo Civil War - Kivu and Ituri

Following the adoption of the joint strategy on the progressive and phased drawdown of MONUSCO and pursuant to Security Council resolution 2556 (2020), the Mission continued to engage with the Congolese authorities on the establishment of a joint working group with the Government. A gradual, conditions-based transition of MONUSCO wouldt reflect the evolution of the security situation on the ground in the provinces where the Mission is still present.

The year 2021 saw an increase of armed group activity in the eastern provinces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, particularly by the Allied Democratic Forces in North Kivu and Ituri, and numerous local armed groups in South Kivu. The number of people in need of protection and humanitarian assistance increased from 15.6 million in 2020 to 19.6 million in 2021. The humanitarian situation in the country was marked by a significant increase in the number of people in need of protection and humanitarian assistance and compounded by armed group violence and the challenging overall protection environment in conflict-affected areas.

In Ituri, the security situation deteriorated because of continued attacks on civilians and State security and defence forces by the Coopérative pour le développement du Congo (CODECO) and the Front patriotique et intégrationniste du Congo (FPIC) on the outskirts of Bunia. Intercommunal tensions between the Bira and Hema communities continued to increase in the wake of FPIC attacks on civilians. In Ituri, MONUSCO increased joint patrols with the Congolese National Police and FARDC to deter attacks in Bunia town and its outskirts. In Grand Nord, North Kivu Province, the security situation continued to deteriorate, amid attacks on civilians and FARDC positions. From 2 December 2020 to 18 March 2021., ADF conducted 44 attacks in Beni territory, resulting in the killing of 178 civilians, including 48 women and 2 boys. In December, ADF concentrated its targeted attacks on the Rwenzori sector, bordering Uganda, while remaining scattered across four areas in Beni territory. The deterioration of the security situation and inflammatory statements made by some local opinion leaders further eroded confidence in the Congolese security and defence forces. Consequently, an increase in the use of “mob justice” against suspected ADF members was observed.

In Petit Nord, North Kivu, the security situation deteriorated in most territories, in particular in Masisi and Rutshuru, following a spike in armed group activity. In early January 2021, sporadic clashes between the Mai-Mai forces patriotiques populaires-armée du peuple (FPP-AP)and the Nduma défense du Congo-Rénové (NDC-R) Guidon faction resulted in the displacement of approximately 3,000 people to Lubero territory. Clashes between the NDC-R Bwira faction and a coalition of armed groups, including Nyatura, Alliance des patriotes pour un Congo libre et souverain (APCLS) and Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda, increased as the NDC-R Bwira faction attempted to reclaim territory previously lost in Masisi territory.

The Head of State of the Democratic Republic of the Congo declared, by order 21/015 of 03 May 2021, a state of siege in North Kivu. The state of siege made it possible to strengthen the partnership between MONUSCO and the FARDC, which translates into progress on the planning and execution of operations. In that regard, all rapid reaction units would be deployed by the end of October 2021 to strengthen our capacities to protect civilians during joint operations against armed groups, in accordance with the human rights due diligence policy. However, despite its ninth extension, the state of siege did not seem to be meeting the expectations of the Head of State — to eradicate all armed groups at the local and national levels that pose a serious threat to the integrity of the national territory. The people of North Kivu and Ituri have made some progress, overall, in the area of peace and security, but Irumu, Djugu and Beni had not fared well.

The implementation of the state of siege led to the voluntary laying down of arms by many combatants and warlords from both national and foreign armed groups, thereby increasing the number of demobilized persons that must be taken care of. That is why there was an urgent need for an operational disarmament, demobilization and reintegration strategy that was adapted to that reality.

To that end, on 04 July and 07 August 2021, the Head of State signed two ordinances creating the Disarmament, Demobilization, Community Recovery and Stabilization Programme and appointing its members. The implementation of the Programme will accelerate the processing of several hundred combatants who surrendered since the declaration of the state of siege and beyond. The new Disarmament, Demobilization, Community Recovery and Stabilization Programme promotes an integrated, community-based approachthat harnesses local resources, with the overarching goal of ensuring the stability and security of local communities in order to promote development for all. However, combatants who had previously surrendered were reportedly returning to the bush.

An alarming number of human rights abuses have been carried out against civilians this year by armed groups in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said on 10 September 2021. In the two most affected provinces of North Kivu and Ituri, UNHCR and its partners recorded more than 1,200 civilian deaths and 1,100 rapes, constituting a total of 25,000 human rights abuses. In total, more than a million Congolese have been internally displaced in the east of the country in 2021, putting “enormous pressure” on those forced to flee and on host families, which have taken in 94 per cent of DRC’s forcibly displaced population.

North Kivu and Ituri Provinces are now led by military governments, following the state of siege. This has led the national army to ramp up its operations and replace civil courts with military tribunals. Some of these armed groups have surrendered after seeing their territory shrink, others have countered military operations with reprisals against villages, and individuals they believe are supporting the government.

Despite the five-month state of siege in Ituri and North Kivu by the Government, the security situation in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo deteriorated. The threat posed by armed groups, such as the Coopérative pour le développement du Congo and the Allied Democratic Forces, to civilians was particularly concerning. The continual security challenges led to more than 5 million people being internally displaced and has further deepened the severe humanitarian crisis. Despite the military operations carried out since the beginning of June 2021, according to the civil society monitoring report for Beni and Ituri, 897 civilians had been killed, 580 disappeared and 148 had been kidnapped by late October 2021.

On 16 November 2021, shortly after twin suicide bombings in the heart of Kampala killed four people and wounded dozens, President Yoweri Museveni vowed to eliminate the “terrorists” and “deal with those operating from outside”. The bombings were not the first attack by the Allied Democratic Forces (AFD), a militia with ties to the Islamic State (IS) group, in Kampala. The group conducted two attacks in the Ugandan capital in October, but the casualties were low – one person was killed besides the suicide bombers – indicating limited logistics and bomb-making capacity. The sophistication of the November 16 attack – at the entrance to the city’s main police station, followed by another minutes later on the road leading to parliament – rattled Ugandans, forcing the government to act. In his statement to the nation, Museveni, a septuagenarian strongman who has ruled Uganda for more than 25 years, did not mince his words. “The terrorists invited us and we are coming for them,” he promised. The statement was signed “Ssabalwanyi” – a nickname harking back to his civil war days, which means, “the greatest of fighters”. Two weeks later, Ugandan troops crossed the border into the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo in what the two countries called a joint operation targeting the ADF. The Ugandan military launched air and artillery raids against the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) armed group in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), in an operation agreed with Congolese forces. “This morning, we have launched joint air and artillery strikes against ADF camps with our Congolese allies,” a spokesperson for the Uganda People’s Defence Force said 30 November 2021. Ugandan authorities have blamed the ADF for deadly suicide bombings in the capital, Kampala, earlier in the month. Patrick Muyaya, the DRC’s government spokesman and communications minister said “targeted and concerted action with the Ugandan army started today with air strikes and artillery fire from Uganda against positions of the terrorist ADF in the DRC”.

A Ugandan military operation in Congo is fraught with challenges, including the spectre of human rights violations triggering fresh rounds of jihadist recruitment and further violence, analysts warn. What’s more, Ugandan troops have operated inside Congo before, with disastrous consequences, and there are fears that history could repeat itself in a resource-rich border area that has borne the brunt of weak governance and regional power games. The latest operation sparked deep unease in Congo, where memories of the Ugandan army’s brutal conduct during the 1998-2003 civil war are still alive. In 2005, the International Court of Justice based in The Hague ordered Uganda to pay reparations to Congo for violating its sovereignty and breaching human rights laws. Kinshasa is still seeking $13 billion in compensation, which Kampala has called “ruinous”. “Uganda was active in the Democratic Republic of Congo during the Congo wars and it is accused of violations and looting resources, so crossing the border back into the DRC is extremely contentious,” Kristof Titeca, a Central and Eastern Africa expert at the University of Antwerp, told FRANCE 24.

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Page last modified: 05-01-2022 15:43:13 ZULU