Peace in DRC elusive as armed groups still thrive

Saturday November 9 2013


The apparent demise of the 18-month-old M23 rebellion is unlikely, on its own, to deliver peace to the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo, where, in the absence of a significant presence of the state, at least 40 armed groups operate, and a chronic humanitarian crisis persists.

“One of the predictors of where a new insurgency will emerge in the DRC is to look for past movements: armed groups beget armed groups, as commanders take advantage of networks of former combatants and rekindle relations with smugglers, arms dealers and miners,” says Enough Project, an anti-genocide and crimes against humanity lobby in its latest report. 

“The complexity of the war in eastern Congo, with its entangled web of actors pursuing a multiplicity of agendas, can be overwhelming and confusing. The region is a fertile environment for the development and growth of armed groups and warlordism,” says the report.

Here is an overview of a selection of the armed groups present in eastern DRC:

M23- The M23 rebel group came into existence in April 2012 when hundreds of mainly ethnic Tutsi soldiers in FARDC (the Congolese army), led by Gen Bosco Ntaganda, mutinied over poor living conditions and pay. Most of the mutineers were previously members of the pro-Tutsi Congrès National pour la Défense du Peuple (CNDP).

Fighting between M23 and FARDC has displaced hundreds of thousands in North Kivu and forced tens of thousands to flee across the border to Rwanda and Uganda. Both sides have been accused of gross human-rights abuses against each other and civilians, some of which amount to war crimes, according to rights groups.

Forces Démocratiques de Libération du Rwanda (FDLR)- The FDLR was founded by some of the key perpetrators of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, who fled across the border into eastern DRC in the wake of those massacres.

It is led by Maj-Gen Sylvestre Mudacumura, who has been indicted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court. According to the 2013 Midterm Report by the UN Group of Experts, FDLR grew weaker in the first half of 2013, with the decrease in numbers attributed to a high surrender rate. 

Some FDLR splinter groups-

1) FDLR/RUD- The group, led by Brig-Gen Jean Damascène Ntibabagije (“Musare”), comprises 400-600 mostly ethnic Hutus. It has non-aggression pacts with several groups and tolerates M23, according to Enough Project’s August report. The group is involved in the mineral, timber and coal trade, and also engages in illegal taxation and poaching.

2) FDLR/SOKI- The group, whose leader “Colonel” Soki was killed by M23 in July, has 60-100 mostly Hutu men. According to Enough Project, the group is noted for its banditry activities in northern Rutshuru Territory, North Kivu.

3) FDLR/FOCA- This 1,500-5,000-strong faction led by Maj-Gen Mudacumura includes some 1994 Rwanda génocidaires, according to the Enough Project. It has been accused of human rights violations and the illicit exploitation of natural resources. Its enemies include the M23.

4) FDLR Mandevu- Led by “Colonel” Mandevu, the group, which split from FDLR/FOCA in 2010, reportedly joined M23 and is opposed to FARDC.

Allied Democratic Forces (ADF)- The ADF is a Ugandan-led Islamist rebel group operating northwest of the Rwenzori Mountains around DRC’s Beni Territory. Its supreme leader, Jamil Mukulu, a Christian turned Muslim, founded ADF in 1995 with a view to establishing an Islamic state in Uganda.

Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA)- The LRA was founded in northern Uganda in 1987 and is led by ICC indictee Joseph Kony. It gained infamy for its brutality and forced recruitment of thousands of children.

Forces Nationales de Libération (FNL)- The FNL is now chiefly a Burundian opposition political party. Armed remnants of its former incarnation as a rebel group continue to operate in the areas of Magunda and Ruhuha, in South Kivu’s Uvira plateau. Formerly led by Agathon Rwasa, FNL is now headed by Isidore Nibizi with “General” Aloys Nzamapema as the military commander.

Forces des Défense des Intérêts du Peuple Congolais (FDIPC)- FDIPC’s aim was to expel M23 from Rutshuru Territory (captured by government forces on 27 October). It was formed in April 2013, according to the Enough Project, which adds that the group has about 250 mainly Hutu members from Rutshuru and Kiwandja. 

M26- M26, created on October 26, 2012, comprises veterans of Nyatura who refused integration into FARDC.