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Democratic Republic of the Congo – Update June 2022

From Atrocities Watch Monitor N° 5, June 2022
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Fighting continues in eastern Congo. Although ACLED reports fewer incidents and fatalities over the last four weeks than average over the past year,[1] new patterns of violence  – including the resurgence of M23 rebels and increasing tensions with Rwanda raise serious concerns about the potential for escalation.

Military offensives against the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) continued during the third week of May.[2] Despite government military action, an ADF attack in the Beni region reportedly killed 24.[3]

At the same time, the March 23 Movement (M23) launched a renewed offensive in North Kivu.[4] The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimated that 61,000 were displaced from Rutshuru and Nyiragongo regions of South Kivu as a result of ongoing fighting between the government and M23 by 27 May.[5]

Meanwhile, relations between the DRC and Rwanda are worsening. The DRC has accused Rwanda of supporting M23 and suspended flights from the country in response. Rwanda, in turn, has accused the DRC of supporting FDLR rebels and reports that two of its soldiers were kidnapped by the group while on patrol.[6] Rwandan President Kagame has suggested that he may send troops into the DRC, even without permission from the Congolese government. He has cited concerns about the activities of the Rwandan rebel FDLR movement. It has been argued, however, that concerns about ongoing Ugandan and Burundian military operations may also be a concern.[7] More recently, Rwandan Foreign Minister Vincent Biruta said, “If attacks continue we will not sit idly by… Rwanda will have the right to respond to protect the security of the country, to protect the security of its citizens and we have the means to do that”.[8] Human Rights Watch has also expressed concern about growing hate speech, particularly against groups associated with other countries.[9]

In the first ten days of May, three attacks occurred in Ituri. On 8 May an attack on an artisanal mining site killed at least 35 in Djugu in Ituri. On 9 May, rebels killed at least 14 people, including children, in an overnight attack on a displaced persons camp in Djugu. CODECO is suspected responsible for both attacks.[10]

On a more positive note, the guilty verdict against two senior police officers in the high profile killing of human rights activist Floribert Chebeya and his driver, Fidele Bazana, in 2010 was upheld by a military high court on 11 May.[11]

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.[12]

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.[13]

The M23 or March 23 Movement are a faction 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.[14]

International response:

MONUSCO condemned the M23 attacks against the UN and FARDC forces that took place on 22 May in Rutshuru, North Kivu.[15] The M23 group accused MONUSCO of working with government forces as well as local militia groups to stage “simultaneous attacks” against them.[16] On 24 May, the UN Security Council issued a press statement which also condemned the attacks.[17]

The Rwandan military accused Congolese forces of injuring civilians in cross-border shelling, they requested the Expanded Joint Verification Mechanism to investigate.[18] AU Chairperson Mack Sall has called for dialogue between Congo and Rwanda to reduce recent heightened tensions.[19]

 

[1] ACLED dashboard, https://acleddata.com/dashboard/#/dashboard

[2] ACLED, Regional overview Africa: 14-20 May 2022, 26 May 2022, https://acleddata.com/2022/05/26/regional-overview-africa-14-20-may-2022/

[3] AlJazeera, “Civilians killed in eastern DR Congo rebel attack,” 29 May 2022, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/5/29/more-than-a-dozen-civilians-killed-in-dr-congo-rebel-attack

[4] ACLED, Regional overview Africa: 14-20 May 2022, 26 May 2022, https://acleddata.com/2022/05/26/regional-overview-africa-14-20-may-2022/

[5] UNOCHA, “Flash Update #6: Humanitarian Situation in Rutshuru and Nyiragongo Territories,” 27 May 2022, https://reliefweb.int/report/democratic-republic-congo/democratic-republic-congo-north-kivu-flash-update-6-humanitarian-situation-rutshuru-territory-27th-may-2022

[6] Al Jazeera, “Rwanda says soldiers kidnapped by rebels in DR Congo,” 28 May 2022, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/5/28/rwanda-says-soldiers-kidnapped-by-rebels-in-dr-congo

[7] Crisis Group, “Easing the Turmoil in the Eastern DR Congo and Great Lakes,” 25 May 2022, https://d2071andvip0wj.cloudfront.net/b181-dr-congo-great-lakes.pdf

[8] Clement Uwiringiyimana, “Rwanda says ‘will not sit idly by’ if attacked in dispute with Congo,” Reuters, 31 May 2022, https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/rwanda-says-will-not-sit-idly-by-if-attacked-dispute-with-congo-2022-05-31/

[9] Human Rights Watch, “Civilians at Risk Amid Resurgence of M23 Rebels,” 1 June 2022, https://www.hrw.org/news/2022/06/01/dr-congo-civilians-risk-amid-resurgence-m23-rebels

[10] Al Jazeera, “DR Congo: Rebels carry out deadly attack on refugee camp in Ituri,” 10 May 2022, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/5/10/at-least-14-killed-in-eastern-dr-congo-refugee-camp-attack

[11] Carine Dikiefu Banona, “A First Step for Justice in DR Congo: Appeal Court Confirms Role of Senior Officials in 2010 Chebeya-Bazana Murders,” 12 May 2022, https://www.hrw.org/news/2022/05/12/first-step-justice-dr-congo

[12] 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

[13] Kivu Security Tracker.

[14] 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

[15] Twitter, Monusco (@MONUSCO), 22 May 2022, https://twitter.com/MONUSCO/status/1528497427153657858?s=20&t=7W0Xand_ztC8EFkZydbTdw

[16] BBC, “UN condemns M23 attacks on its forces in DR Congo,” 23 May 2022, https://www.bbc.com/news/live/world-africa-61170224?ns_mchannel=social&ns_source=twitter&ns_campaign=bbc_live&ns_linkname=628b34affc2fb576dc00bd6b%26UN%20condemns%20M23%20attacks%20on%20its%20forces%20in%20DR%20Congo%262022-05-23T10%3A07%3A41.797Z&ns_fee=0&pinned_post_locator=urn:asset:489dc60e-1077-4867-b7e0-ea56d414ebab&pinned_post_asset_id=628b34affc2fb576dc00bd6b&pinned_post_type=share

[17] Security Council Press Statement on the Situation in Democratic Republic of Congo, 24 May 2022, https://www.un.org/press/en/2022/sc14903.doc.htm

[18] Associated Press, “Rwanda accuses Congolese forces of cross-border shelling,” 24 May 2022, https://apnews.com/article/africa-rwanda-kigali-f15398437a0f83c1939e8208d84179cd

[19] AFP, “AU Chief ‘Gravely Concerned’ by Rwanda/DRCongo Tension,” Barrons, https://www.barrons.com/news/au-chief-gravely-concerned-by-rwanda-dr-congo-tension-01653827407

 

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