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Democratic Republic of the Congo – update April 2022

From Atrocities Watch Monitor No. 3
April 2022. Read full newsletter here

ACLED recorded a total of 90 incidents of attacks against civilians by non-state actors in March.52 Kivu Security Tracker recorded 716 violent deaths, attributing 119 to the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) and 97 to the Cooperative for Development of the Congo (CODECO).53 Nada Al- Nashif, UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights reported an overall 12% drop in documented human rights violations from the previous year, while at the same time noting that abuses by the ADF have increased.54 MONUSCO has documented a 10% increase in violations to human rights and attacks since December 2021, mostly in the form of reprisals against civilians in North Kivu and Ituri.55

Ugandan and Congolese forces continue to combat ADF fighters. On 1 March, they killed 16 rebels and rescued 12 children who had been kidnapped by the group. According to a UPDF commander over 1,000 ADF terrorists have been killed since the launch of the joint operation in November 2021.56 Despite this, it was reported that between 10 and 15 March, ADF killed at least 60 people in at least five villages,57 including 15 in Apende, 18 in Ndimo and 19 in Otomabere.58 Plus, on 20 March, four were killed in Eringeti,59 and at least 27 were killed in Kikura on 27 March.60

Targeted attacks against civilians, especially displaced people in Ituri, continued. On 9 March, 18 civilians in Banyali Kilo, Ituri, who after being displaced from their villages had sought refuge in a church.61 On 19 March, 14 people, including seven children, were killed in a camp in Ituri.62 On 24 March 12 people, 11 elderly civilians and one soldier were killed in Djugu.63 CODECO was suspected of carrying out the attacks.

Clashes between the Congolese army and the M23 rebel group broke out during the last days of March, following attacks on two army positions near the Ugandan and Rwandan border. The Congolese army accused the Rwanda Defense Forces (RDF) of supporting the M23, which Rwandan authorities denied. M23 spokesman Willy Ngoma also claimed that the movement does not receive “any help, either from near or far, from any neighbouring country.”64 The violence led to 6,000 refugees crossing the border into Uganda on 25 March.65 Eight UN peacekeepers died when their helicopter went down on 29 March, which the Congolese army claims was a result of the helicopter being shot down by M23.66

In early March, the Congolese human rights minister launched national consultations on the establishment of a truth and reconciliation commission.67 Political tensions are on the rise, with elections are scheduled to take place in 2023, and the 2011 and 2018 widely seen as fraudulent. Activists and NGO’s warn preparations “have been marred by irregularities and violations of fundamental procedures, all amid suspicions of corruption.”68 Congolese President Tshisekedi reassured the elections would be held on time and that he hoped to win for a second term.69

Context

Eastern Congo has been plagued by violence for more than two decades. More than 120 militias and armed groups are active in eastern DRC. A state of siege was declared in May 2021 and is still in place in northeastern DRC in response to the violence.

Since April 2017, ADF has reportedly been responsible for the deaths of at least 2300 people and the abduction of 900, according to KST. Bombings in neighbouring Uganda during October and November 2021 paved the way for a joint Congolese-Ugandan military operation against ADF. Many continue to believe Uganda has ulterior motives for intervention.70

CODECO is a coalition of militia founded in the 1970s, in recent years the group started engaging in armed attacks again with the objective of defending the Lendu population against the Hema. The Kivu Security Tracker reports that they are responsible for at least 529 violent deaths, over 200 abductions and at least 78 clashes since March 2021.71

The M23 or March 23 Movement are a fraction of National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP), whom many were integrated into the Congolese army. They are of Tutsi ethnicity and have close ties to the Tutsi in neighbouring Rwanda.72

International response

 On 29 March 2022, UN Security Council held a meeting on the security situation in the country where they discussed the need for a “comprehensive political strategy to address the conflict’s structural causes.”73

On the same day, the UN Human Rights Council held an interactive dialogue on the need for justice and reparation of the serious crimes committed in the country during the last decades. Experts indicated there is a “a need for truth – without this, rumours and incitation to revenge- based violence were hard to combat.”74

The US Department of the Treasury on 17 March 2022 sanctioned Alain Goetz, the African Gold Refinery in Uganda and a network of companies allegedly involved in the illicit movement and sale of gold from the Democratic Republic of Congo. The proceeds of these sales are suspected to fund armed groups that are undermining security in the DRC.75

Doctors Without Borders (MSF) was forced to withdraw from Nizi and Bambu, Ituri province, after attacks on MSF marked vehicles went without response.76

On 29 March, the DRC joined the East African Community (EAC) becoming its 7th Partner State, expanding the territory of the trade bloc, giving it access to the Atlantic Ocean.77 Congolese lawmakers must ratify the EAC laws and regulations for them to come into effect.78

_______________________________

52 ACLED

53 Kivu Security Tracker https://kivusecurity.org/

54 OHCHR, Statement Update on the Democratic Republic of Congo, 29 March 2022, https://www.ohchr.org/en/statements/2022/03/update-democratic-republic-congo

55 UNSC, SC/14845, Comprehensive Political Strategy Needed to Tackle Structural Causes behind Conflict in Democratic Republic of Congo, Mission Head Tells Security Council, 29 March 2022, https://www.un.org/press/en/2022/sc14845.doc.htm

56 All Africa, “Uganda: Operation Shuja – 16 ADF Fighters Killed as UPDF Targets Top Commanders,” 1 March 2022, https://allafrica.com/stories/202203020497.html

57 Reuters, “Rebel attacks in eastern Congo kill more than 60,” 15 March 2022, https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/rebel-attacks-eastern-congo-kill-more-than-60-2022-03-15/  58 TRT World, “Dozens of civilians killed in DRC by suspected ADF rebels,” 16 March 2022, https://www.trtworld.com/africa/dozens-of-civilians-killed-in-drc-by-suspected-adf-rebels-55552 59 Al Jazeera, “DR Congo: Fourteen killed in machete attack in Ituri province,” 20 March 2022,

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/3/20/armed-group-in-dr-congo-kills-fourteen-people-in-machete- attack

60 Al Jazeera, “At least 20 civilians killed in attack in eastern Congo: Report,” 28 March 2022, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/2/28/at-least-20-civilians-killed-in-attack-in-eastern-congo- report#:~:text=At%20least%2020%20civilians%20have,organisation%2C%20told%20the%20news%20ag ency.

61 Reuters, “Congo militiamen kill 18 civilians in church compound,” 9 March 2022, https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/congo-militiamen-kill-18-civilians-church-compound-2022-03-09/ 62 Al Jazeera, “DR Congo: Fourteen killed in machete attack in Ituri province,” 20 March 2022, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/3/20/armed-group-in-dr-congo-kills-fourteen-people-in-machete- attack

63 The Defense Post, “12 Killed in Rebel Attack in DR Congo’s Ituri Province,” 24 March 2022, https://www.thedefensepost.com/2022/03/24/rebel-attack-ituri-congo/

64 Africa News, “DRC army accuses Rwanda of supporting rebel group,” 29 March 2022, https://www.africanews.com/2022/03/29/drc-army-accuses-rwanda-of-supporting-rebel-group// 65 Zawya, “M23 rebels make advances in eastern Congo,” 29 March 2022, https://www.zawya.com/en/world/africa/m23-rebels-make-advances-in-eastern-congo-ot7m1nho

66 Egypt Independent, “8 UN peacekeepers killed in Congo helicopter crash amid rebel fighting,” 30 March 2022, https://egyptindependent.com/8-un-peacekeepers-killed-in-congo-helicopter-crash-amid- rebel-fighting/

67 Human Rights Watch, “Important Step Toward Justice in DR Congo?” 11 March 2022, https://www.hrw.org/news/2022/03/11/important-step-toward-justice-dr-congo-0

68 The Sentry, “Kinshasa Declaration Today: 62 Congolese Groups, Activists, Int’l NGOs Warn Elections in Jeopardy,” 17 March 2022, https://thesentry.org/2022/03/17/6898/kinshasa-declaration-today-62- congolese-groups-activists-intl-ngos-warn-elections-jeopardy/

69 Sky Scrapper City, “DRC: Felix Tshisekedi believes “not having had much time” and wants a second term,” 18 March 2022, https://www.skyscrapercity.com/threads/fatshi-presidency.2159250/page-146

70 France 24, “Ugandan mission in DR Congo opens old wounds, sparks new anxieties,” 2 December 2021, https://www.france24.com/en/africa/20211202-ugandan-mission-in-dr-congo-opens-old-wounds- sparks-new-anxieties

71 Kivu Security Tracker.

72 Al Jazeera, “Q&A: Who are DR Congo’s M23 rebels?” 5 November 2013, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2013/11/5/qa-who-are-dr-congos-m23-rebels

73 UNSC, SC/14845, Comprehensive Political Strategy Needed to Tackle Structural Causes behind Conflict in Democratic Republic of Congo, Mission Head Tells Security Council, 29 March 2022, https://www.un.org/press/en/2022/sc14845.doc.htm

74 OHCHR, Human Rights Council: the Democratic Republic of the Congo Continues to be Compounded by Attacks by Armed Groups against Civilians, while in Cambodia, the Monopolisation of Power by the Ruling Elite and Constraints Imposed Undermine the Quest for Democracy, 29 March 2022, https://www.ohchr.org/en/press-releases/2022/03/human-rights-council-democratic-republic-congo- continues-be-compounded

75 US Department of the Treasury, “Treasury Sanctions Alain Goetz and a Network of Companies Involved in the Illicit Gold Trade,” 17 March 2022, https://home.treasury.gov/news/press-releases/jy0664 76 The Brussels Times, “‘Violence and impunity’: MSF close some projects in Democratic Republic of Congo,” 22 March 2022, https://www.brusselstimes.com/212052/violence-and-impunity-msf-close-some- projects-in-democratic-republic-of-congo

77 East African Community, The Democratic Republic of the Congo joins EAC as its 7th Member, 29 March 2022, https://www.eac.int/press-releases/2402-the-democratic-republic-of-the-congo-joins-eac-as- its-7th-member

78 BBC; “DR Congo joins East Africa trade bloc: Who gains?” 29 March 2022, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-60901159

 

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