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Congo (Kinshasa): Conflict Background Analyses

AfricaFocus Bulletin
Dec 13, 2007 (071213)
(Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor's Note

"North Kivu has been the epicentre of Congo's violence since the conflict began more than fifteen years ago. Now is the time to address this major gap in the Congolese transition and end a crisis which is producing immense suffering and continues to carry wider risks for Congo and its neighbours." - International Crisis Group

This call from the International Crisis Group on October 31 was accompanied by recommendations for "a comprehensive initiative [that] needs to be launched urgently to de-escalate the crisis." Instead, new military action by the Congolese government appears to be escalating the crisis. An early November agreement between the Congolese and Rwandan governments pledging cooperation against groups in Kivu that have been continuing the conflict was welcomed, but its implementation was soon in doubt.

This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains excerpts from several current analyses of the current crisis, its roots, and prospects of solution, from the International Crisis Group, African Rights, and Refugees International. Another AfricaFocus Bulletin has several reports on the most recent developments.

For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and related links, visit

++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++++++++

Congo: Bringing Peace to North Kivu

International Crisis Group

Africa Report N 133
31 October 2007

Executive Summary

[For recommendations and full report visit]

North Kivu is again a crucible of conflict in Congo. Since fighting resumed between the insurgents of Laurent Nkunda and the national army in December 2006, over 370,000 civilians have been displaced in the province. Due to the failure of the latest attempt to integrate Nkunda's troops into the army, the crisis has become much worse since May 2007. UN attempts to impose a ceasefire and appoint a special envoy to mediate have failed. President Joseph Kabila's 15 October decision to suspend offensive operations and his subsequent call on all Congolese armed groups in the region to present themselves for disarmament or army integration is welcome but fighting continues, and there is no real dialogue with Nkunda. A comprehensive initiative needs to be launched urgently to de-escalate the crisis and address the root causes of the conflict.

This new crisis results from failures of the Congo peace process on army integration, economic governance and transitional justice. During the second half of the political transition - which formally ended with the election of President Kabila and a new legislature in 2006 - a policy of containment, appeasement, and international emphasis on the holding of elections cooled tensions but left their causes unaffected. The province remained in effect split into two pieces, with Masisi and Rutshuru territories caught in a cold war between dissidents from the former Rwandan-backed rebel group, the Congolese Rally for Democracy (RCD), and the national army (FARDC). Little progress was made on disarmament and reintegration of Mai Mai militias or repatriation of the Rwandan Hutu (FDLR) rebels. The illegal exploitation of natural resources continued unabated as all communities armed, animated by deep mutual resentments over land security, mass human rights abuses during the war and control of natural resources.

The 2006 national and provincial elections liquidated politically the RCD. Strengthened by his election, Kabila held discreet talks with Nkunda, facilitated by Rwanda, and concluded an agreement for the progressive integration of Nkunda's troops into the regular armed forces, a process locally known as mixage, with the understanding that they would not have to leave the province until the general security situation improved significantly. But neither Nkunda nor Kabila was able to contain their hardliners opposed to the settlement.

Afraid to become the victims of revenge killings and lose everything they had illegally acquired during the war, Goma-based Tutsi leaders accused Nkunda of betrayal and threatened to stop supporting him. Kabila's hardliners attacked him over the perceived preferential treatment given to the Tutsi in the army integration process and used the public outcry over the massive human rights violations and displacement of civilians caused by the operations against the FDLR to undermine the agreement's legitimacy. Mixage collapsed in May 2007, leading to new escalation.

So far, the crisis has not jumped the border to draw in Rwanda. Both Kinshasa and Kigali have shown restraint and chosen to continue with regular consultations. However, on the ground, there is combat; the humanitarian situation is appalling; neither side has a good prospect of military success; and escalation continues to carry the risk of destabilisation of the wider region.

To compensate for the national army's weakness, Kabila has been trying to co-opt the UN mission (MONUC) into his operations, a move the UN should continue to resist lest it be caught in the crossfire between Nkunda and the FDLR. The international community should encourage Kabila to suspend his military offensive and launch a comprehensive peace initiative for North Kivu, aimed first at de-escalating the conflict and improving the general security environment in the province, then addressing the core issues related to restoration of state authority such as regulation of the exploitation of natural resources, return of refugees and a transitional justice process facilitating community reconciliation. A prolonged deadlock would inevitably result in further displacement of civilians and increased risk of ethnic cleansing and revenge killing on both sides.

Over the past three years, ending the North Kivu conflict has been repeatedly postponed in favour of efforts to consolidate the transition and secure Kabila's election. But North Kivu has been the epicentre of Congo's violence since the conflict began more than fifteen years ago. Now is the time to address this major gap in the Congolese transition and end a crisis which is producing immense suffering and continues to carry wider risks for Congo and its neighbours.

A Welcome Expression of Intent - The Nairobi Communique and the Ex-FAR/Interahamwe

African Rights

Press Release

11 December 2007

[Excerpts. For the full press release see
The full report is available as a PDF download at
For more information contact African Rights at, or by phone Rakiya Omaar or Theodore Nyiliknwaya at (+250) 503679.]

On 9 November 2007, representatives of the Governments of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Rwanda met in Nairobi, Kenya, and signed a communique pledging "a common approach to address the threat posed to our common security and stability by the ex-FAR/Interahamwe." The agreement was facilitated by the United Nations and witnessed by the United States and the European Union. This new accord represents a comprehensive and constructive point of departure that could pave the way for an end to the armed presence of the ex-FAR and interahamwe in eastern DRC, and to the needless suffering of those living in North and South Kivu provinces, who have been the most directly and seriously damaged by the recent violence in the region. A Welcome Expression of Intent reveals details of the organization and functioning of the ex-FAR and interahamwe both within eastern DRC and internationally. In publishing this report, African Rights hopes to support and encourage the crucial process of dismantling these forces.

The protracted lack of co-operation in finding lasting solutions to long-standing problems in eastern DRC, in which the two governments and the peoples of both countries have an enormous stake, has profoundly hurt the entire Great Lakes region in terms of human security, political stability and economic development. The neighbouring states of Burundi and Uganda have also been affected by the troubles in this shared border region. Yet, as the signatories themselves point out, there has been no shortage of agreements - bilateral, sub-regional and regional - to promote co-operation between the DRC and Rwanda. It is therefore easy, and tempting, to write off this late st initiative as just another document. Indeed, it may turn out to have little real impact, or far less than the civilians whose lives have been devastated need and deserve. It is for their collective benefit that every effort must be made to translate the promise of Nairobi into reality.

... The clashes have been particularly intense in North Kivu. Here, soldiers loyal to the National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP), set up by a Tutsi general, Laurent Nkunda, are at war with the armed forces of the DRC. The communique draws special attention to the need to reign in Nkunda's CNDP, whose military campaigns have been a major contributing factor in the humanitarian disaster. Also ranged against the CNDP are the Mayi Mayi militia, and the Coalition of Congolese Patriotic Fighters, (PARECO), a militia force essentially made up of Congolese Hutus, both working in close collaboration with the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), a Rwandese militia directed by former officers deeply implicated in the 1994 genocide, and which counts many genocide suspects among its combatants and civilian cadres. ... These multiple conflicts reinforce each other, providing new opportunities and justifications for the endless cycle of conflict.

Whatever the political, ethnic and social tensions that characterize the history of eastern Congo, there is little doubt that the seemingly permanent crisis in the Kivus dates from the arrival of more than two million Rwandese refugees in July 1994, incl ding soldiers of the Rwandese Armed Forces, known as the ex-FAR, and their allies, the interahamwe militia. Their activities, and those of the groups which express their political interests and aspirations, and which fight on their behalf, for example the Republican Rally for Democracy (RDR), the FDLR and the Rally for Unity and Democracy (RUD/URUNANA), are at the source of the violence, mistrust and sense of hopelessness which feed on each other in the Kivus. ...

Although the most recent fighting and atrocities in the Kivus were sparked by the rebellion of Laurent Nkunda, there is little prospect of stemming the violence, of restraining the armed groups or of facilitating the voluntary return of Rwandese refugees without first neutralizing the ex-FAR and interahamwe. ... Even if Nkunda is brought under control, so long as the ex-FAR and interahamwe hold sway, as they do, in large parts of the Kivus, there will be neither peace nor security for the Congolese people or Rwandese refugees, and the Great Lakes region will continue to be unstable and fraught with tension.

In addressing the complex configurations of warfare, the Nairobi communique rightly acknowledges that all foreign as well as national armed groups in the Kivus are part of the problem and must be tackled in a serious, urgent, concerted and collaborative manner, and places particular emphasis on the hazards inflicted by the ex-FAR and interahamwe. It calls for military action to dismantle illegal armed groups, as well as political programmes to enable fighters to lay down their arms, move away from the border areas and, for the Rwandese, to exercise the right to choose between voluntary repatriation to Rwanda or peaceful integration in the DRC. Rwanda and the DRC have committed themselves to impose strict controls to prevent cross-border movements of fighters, weapons and the provision of food and medical supplies to all groups; to refrain from giving human, material or political support, directly or indirectly to the armed groups; to desist from engaging in destructive propaganda against each other, to encourage and enable refugees to return home; to share information and to use existing mechanisms to deal with issues of common concern. It urges the DRC to "arrest and hand over to the ICTR [International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda] and Rwanda those indicted for crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes."

Calling the ex-FAR/interahamwe a "genocidal military organization", the communique also calls on the Security Council to impose sanctions against them, and appeals to all member tates of the UN to "prev all fund-raising, mobilization or propaganda activities of the ex-FAR and interahamwe." International concern about the serious crimes the ex-FAR and the interahamwe combatants have inflicted on communities in eastern DRC is crucial to achieving progress in the region, but African Rights believes that attention must simultaneously be focused on the activities and presence of their members abroad. Little consideration, if any, has been given to their representatives and spokespeople in Africa, Europe and North America, who raise funds; lobby governments, Churches and NGOs for political and other support; recruit within the large Rwandese diaspora communities; facilitate travel and travel documents for their leaders and their families; act as conduits through which relatives send money to the fighters; win over public opinion, especially through contacts with the media, and spread the propaganda of their groups to mislead the world. ...

The presidents of the FDLR and RUD, Ignace Murwanashyaka and Jean Marie-Vianney Higiro, are based in Germany and the US respectively, along with other senior officials, an advantage that gives their organizations considerable exposure and opportunities internationally. FDLR cells or satellites exist in Zambia, Congo-Brazzaville, Tanzania, Cameroon, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Malawi, South Africa, Sudan, Uganda, and also in Norway, Sweden, Austria, Switzerland, Denmark, Canada, Belgium, France and the US. A Welcome Expression of Intent provides extensive information about the identities and backgrounds of the men and women who act and speak in the name of the ex-FAR and interahamwe in the DRC and on the world stage. Many of their names are on the wanted lists of Interpol, the US Rewards for Justice Programme and the ICTR.

Contrary to the arguments that there are only a small number of genocide suspects among the FDLR in the Congo, there are hundreds. And there are dozens more genocide suspects, living in comfort in Africa, Europe and North America, among their representatives. ... African Rights' report discusses the allegations against dozens of people, both military and civilians, who are in the DRC, in Africa and in Europe. The report also refutes the argument that the military commanders implicated in the genocide are now too old to be among the commanders of the FDLR. A substantial number of officers in senior positions are in their late thirties, and for the most part in their forties and early fifties. ...

DR Congo: Civilian Protection Must Remain MONUC Priority

December 6, 2007

Refugees International

Peacebuilding Program Officer Mark Malan and Peacebuilding Associate Erin Weir just returned from a three-week assessment of the security and protection situation in eastern Congo.

[Excerpts: for full report visit]

After a successful democratic election in 2006 violence has re-erupted in the eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and security conditions continue to deteriorate, particularly in the volatile province of North Kivu. Violent confrontations between the Congolese military - the FARDC - and the armed group lead by dissident General Laurent Nkunda, claiming to fight on behalf of the Tutsi minority in the east, have precipitated new waves of internal displacement and have caused a sharpening of ethnic tensions throughout the region. Meanwhile, the security vacuum and persistent lack of a functioning justice sector has meant that rape, looting, and violence against civilians continue to go unpunished.

Civilians at Risk

Displacement in North Kivu alone has risen to nearly 400,000 people in 2007, with over 190,000 fleeing their homes in just the last four months and even greater displacement expected. The internally displaced are increasingly dividing themselves along ethnic lines, with non-Tutsis fleeing into areas controlled by the FARDC and Tutsis moving primarily into Nkunda-controlled areas, raising concerns about the potential for ethnically targeted massacres. These people have been traumatized by ongoing violence, and frequently arrive at IDP sites with almost nothing, having been 'taxed' and looted along the way. ...

Due to lack of proper pay, housing, and family support, as well as a general sense of impunity enjoyed within the ranks of the military, the FARDC continues to be among the major perpetrators of violent crime, rape, and theft. The troops loot civilians through the exaction of 'taxes' and use forced labor to move military equipment and supplies to the front lines. Foreign and internal armed groups perpetrating violent crimes and intimidating civilians throughout North and South Kivu include: the forces of Laurent Nkunda, the FDLR (forces led by the remnants of the Rwandan genocidaires who fled to DRC - then Zaire - in 1994), and the Mayi Mayi militias (an ethnically based armed group operating throughout North and South Kivu).

The Security Situation

General Nkunda is the major source of instability in North Kivu. Despite ultimatums, the buildup of FARDC troops in North Kivu, and President Joseph Kabila's very public intention to seek a military solution to the 'Nkunda problem,' Nkunda and his estimated 5,000 fighters continue to refuse to reintegrate back into the Congolese national army.

In South Kivu the situation is tense, but calm. The FDLR are currently concentrated in the Nindja Forest, Bunyakiri, and Fizi areas of South Kivu. The FDLR and their associated armed groups continue to pose a threat to civilians throughout North and South Kivu, and represent a major thorn in the side of the Government of Rwanda, which wants to see the former genocidaires brought to justice. Under increasing international pressure to resolve this issue, the Congolese Government recently endorsed the 'Nairobi Communiqu‚,' outlining their intention to take military action against the FDLR. Staff of humanitarian agencies fear that any military action against the FDLR will result in reprisal killings against civilians, a tactic that it historically favors.

MONUC and Protecting Civilians

In this difficult context MONUC, the UN peacekeeping mission in DRC, has a mandate to protect civilians under threat of violence, and - somewhat paradoxically - to provide combat support to the undisciplined and under-resourced FARDC. In accordance with the responsibilities laid out in Security Council resolution 1756, MONUC forces continue to bolster FARDC capacity by providing logistical and material support, low-level capacity building, and - where necessary - taking strong intervening action in defense of strategic locations.

In spite of the heavy support burden shouldered by MONUC, the mission's primary responsibility continues to be the protection of civilians, a task not easily accomplished in the vast, hilly, densely forested eastern region, with just one MONUC soldier for every 123 square kilometers. In order to maximize limited resources the Protection Cluster, composed of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, UNICEF, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, MONUC Civil Affairs and Civil-Military Affairs officers, and a number of
protection-focused NGOs, is working collaboratively to identify protection priority areas, and has shown great creativity and flexibility in meeting the current and projected civilian protection needs. ...

While MONUC can never guarantee complete physical protection, there is no doubt that this "thin blue line" has contributed substantially to the containment of military violence, the prevention of massacres, and the safe delivery of humanitarian assistance in a complex and often chaotic environment. ...

Policy Recommendations

  1. The UN Security Council should ensure that civilian protection remains the first priority of MONUC, and that force levels remain at present authorized strength, at a minimum. Any additions to the current responsibilities of MONUC must come with sufficient human and material resources to ensure that civilian protection priorities do not suffer.
  2. MONUC and humanitarian agencies in eastern DRC should increase the number of high-level political and civilian representatives, including representatives from the Protection Cluster, in Goma and field locations in the east to give MONUC a civilian face, enhance analysis that can contribute to contingency planning and durable political solutions, and relieve some of the pressure on MONUC military forces.
  3. The Congolese government should take steps to publicly denounce the anti-Tutsi rhetoric and fear mongering that is ongoing in the east, and take action to demonstrate a real commitment to the protection of ethnic minorities, while at the same time sustaining and redoubling efforts to find political solutions to continued insecurity, impunity, and human suffering in the region.

Additional Background Reports

On Human Rights: Human Rights Watch

Renewed Crisis in North Kivu (October 2007) and other reports

Role of Mining Companies

Global Witness
For reports and press releases on the Democratic Republic of the Congo:

Rights & Accountability in Development

On UN Peacekeeping

The United Nations Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC): Lesson and Experience by Ambassador William Lacy Swing, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the Democratic Republic of the Congo. ISS Situation Report November 23, 2007

Institute for Security Studies
For links to situation reports:

AfricaFocus Bulletin is an independent electronic publication providing reposted commentary and analysis on African issues, with a particular focus on U.S. and international policies. AfricaFocus Bulletin is edited by William Minter.

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