Populations at Risk Imminent Risk

Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)

Populations in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo remain at imminent risk of possible mass atrocity crimes perpetrated by armed groups.
BACKGROUND: Pervasive insecurity in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has allowed armed groups to perpetrate mass atrocity crimes against civilians. Armed groups – such as the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) and various Mayi-Mayi militias – have been operating in the DRC for more than 20 years and continue to sporadically attack vulnerable populations in a region that is home to 1.5 million IDPs.

Despite offensives conducted by the government's armed forces (FARDC) with assistance from the UN's stabilization mission in the DRC (MONUSCO) and its force intervention brigade, violence committed by the more than 30 armed groups operating in the DRC continues throughout the eastern regions of the country. Populations in Maniema, Katanga and North Kivu have been particularly affected by recent fighting between various Mayi-Mayi groups and the FARDC.

The FARDC launched offensive operations against the FDLR in February 2015. Although the FARDC has reportedly liberated localities previously occupied by the group, the FDLR continues to threaten civilians. Mayi-Mayi militias, particularly the Raia Mutomboki, have also clashed with the FDLR as the group flees from the FARDC. On 26 January, following a nearly year-long suspension of joint operations, MONUSCO and the FARDC agreed to resume cooperative action against the FDLR.

On 6 January 14 civilians, including family members of local traditional chiefs, were killed by suspected FDLR in the village of Miriki. Related inter-communal clashes have also sparked reciprocal violence between armed groups affiliated with the FLDR, and those affiliated with ethnic Nandes in Lubero and Walikale, North Kivu. According to OCHA, 35,000 IDPS have been forced to flee camps in North Kivu since 28 March as a result of FARDC clashes with the FDLR and local militias.

Elsewhere in North Kivu the ADF and other armed groups has been regularly attacking villages near Beni, massacring civilians and perpetrating possible crimes against humanity. Despite MONUSCO and FARDC offensives against them, the ADF is suspected of killing more than 500 people since October 2014 and attacked MONUSCO helicopters and convoys.

ANALYSIS: While military measures are taken against the FDLR, ADF and other armed groups, civilians remain at risk of reprisal violence. The FARDC and MONUSCO have both failed to respond to early warnings of attacks, particularly around Beni where the ADF remains active. The FARDC has also been implicated in attacks on civilians, including widespread sexual violence, and has often failed to hold its members accountable for human rights violations.

The weakness of government structures undermines attempts to prevent atrocities. This is particularly evident in the eastern DRC, where the government has previously lost control of areas to various rebel groups. While the government has undertaken important reforms, impunity for crimes committed against civilians remains rampant.

The UN Security Council (UNSC) has raised "deep concerns about the risk of instability, insecurity, the potential for violence, human rights violations and abuses and violations of international humanitarian law" ahead pf the next presidential elections. President Joseph Kabila's term is constitutionally-mandated to end in November 2016, but the government has indicated it lacks the capacity to hold elections on that schedule.

Despite the government and MONUSCO encouraging militias to participate in Disarmament, Demobilization, Repatriation, Reintegration and Resettlement (DDRRR) programs prior to launching offensives against them, rebel groups continue to perpetrate abuses against populations in eastern DRC. Competition for control of minerals, as well as underlying conflict between communities that consider themselves indigenous and those perceived as outsiders, has enabled the proliferation of armed groups, which will continue to emerge and threaten populations even after the eradication of the ADF and FDLR if these issues are not resolved.

The government of the DRC has struggled to uphold its Responsibility to Protect and its own forces have been complicit in some previous mass atrocity crimes. The DRC needs ongoing international support to prevent recurring violence.

INTERNATIONAL RESPONSE: While military measures are taken against the FDLR, ADF and other armed groups, civilians remain at risk of reprisal violence. The FARDC and MONUSCO have both failed to respond to early warnings of attacks, particularly around Beni where the ADF remains active. The FARDC has also been implicated in attacks on civilians, including widespread sexual violence, and has often failed to hold its members accountable for human rights violations.

The weakness of government structures undermines attempts to prevent atrocities. This is particularly evident in the eastern DRC, where the government has previously lost control of areas to various rebel groups. While the government has undertaken important reforms, impunity for crimes committed against civilians remains rampant.

The UN Security Council (UNSC) has raised "deep concerns about the risk of instability, insecurity, the potential for violence, human rights violations and abuses and violations of international humanitarian law" ahead pf the next presidential elections. President Joseph Kabila's term is constitutionally-mandated to end in November 2016, but the government has indicated it lacks the capacity to hold elections on that schedule.

Despite the government and MONUSCO encouraging militias to participate in Disarmament, Demobilization, Repatriation, Reintegration and Resettlement (DDRRR) programs prior to launching offensives against them, rebel groups continue to perpetrate abuses against populations in eastern DRC. Competition for control of minerals, as well as underlying conflict between communities that consider themselves indigenous and those perceived as outsiders, has enabled the proliferation of armed groups, which will continue to emerge and threaten populations even after the eradication of the ADF and FDLR if these issues are not resolved.

The government of the DRC has struggled to uphold its Responsibility to Protect and its own forces have been complicit in some previous mass atrocity crimes. The DRC needs ongoing international support to prevent recurring violence.

NECESSARY ACTION: The DRC government and MONUSCO must ensure that the protection of civilians remains their primary priority as they address the ongoing threat posed by armed groups. The FARDC and MONUSCO need to increase their capacity to respond to early warning of attacks by armed groups and inter-communal violence.

MONUSCO should also support the government in facilitating local peacebuilding initiatives and encourage civil society to help facilitate DDRRR. The government, with MONUSCO's support, should enhance security and protection measures, particularly in eastern DRC, in advance of the 2016 general elections.

The FARDC must not permit individuals who have previously committed atrocities to join its forces and should train all recruits in the protection of civilians, respect for human rights and IHL. The government should adopt legislation establishing specialized mixed chambers in the national judicial system and remove all FARDC members accused of serious human rights violations from leadership positions.

Together with the UN Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region, the AU, International Conference for the Great Lakes Region and Southern African Development Community should ensure that all signatories to the PSC Framework continue to fulfill their commitments.


Last Updated: 15 April 2016