Democratic Republic of the Congo: A Mapping of Non-International Armed Conflicts in Kivu, Kasai and Ituri

Map of the RULAC online portal with the pop-up window of the non-international armed conflicts in DRC. Map of the RULAC online portal with the pop-up window of the non-international armed conflicts in DRC.

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has been affected by several armed conflicts in recent decades. Political tensions, the proliferation of armed groups and the involvement of foreign countries have contributed to the deterioration of the situation and have prevented the possibility of reaching a peaceful settlement of these conflicts. The regions that have been most affected are Kivu, Kasai, and Ituri, although violence is widespread and affects the whole country.

In this context, and according to international humanitarian law criteria, the Congolese armed forces (FARDC) are engaged, with the support of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO), in several non-international armed conflicts (NIACs) in Kivu, Kasai and Ituri.

Our Rule of Law in Armed Conflict Online Portal (RULAC) provides a detailed analysis and legal classification of these conflicts, including information about parties.

Kivu: Two NIACs with at least the Allied Democratic Forces and Mai-Mai Yakutumba

At least 100 armed groups are active in Kivu, in particular, the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) and the Mai-Mai Yakutumba.

‘In light of their degree of organization and the intensity of violence between the FARDC and these two armed groups, we concluded that at the moment the DRC Government is involved in at least two NIACs in Kivu, one with ADF and the other with Mai-Mai Yakutumba’ explains Dr Chiara Redaelli, Research Fellow at the Geneva Academy.

‘As for the other armed groups, we cannot conclude with certainty that they are party to NIACs against the FARDC due to the paucity of specific and reliable information regarding armed confrontations and their organization.

ADF was founded in Uganda in 1989 and is based in the mountains between Uganda and the DRC. It operates mainly in the Kivu region, specifically around the town of Beni, where it has been conducting attacks against both the state armed forces and the civilian population‘ stresses Dr Redaelli.

Mai-Mai Yakutumba was founded in 2007 with the primary objective to protect the Bembe community from other communities based in the region. Observers estimate that the militia is composed of a few hundred members, whose vast majority belongs to the Bembe community, based in the Fizi territory in South Kivu.

Non International Armed Conflicts in DRC Kivu

Kasai: A NIAC with Kamuina Nsapu

The Kamuina Nsapu armed group has been engaged since 2016 in armed confrontations against the government, triggering a conflict that is having a dramatic impact on the civilian population.

Violence between the rebel group and the government escalated between 2016 and the beginning of 2018. However, armed confrontations were more sporadic in the following months.

‘Although the intensity of violence between the government and the armed group has decreased, this does not imply that the conflict is over and that IHL ceases to be applicable. Indeed, a non-international armed conflict continues until a peaceful settlement is achieved Yakutumba’ underlines Dr Chiara Redaelli.

‘Accordingly, IHL continues to be applicable regardless of the oscillating intensity of violence, thus even when the intensity requirement is not met for a certain amount of time’ she adds.

Ituri: A NIAC with the Front for Patriotic Resistance

The Front for Patriotic Resistance in Ituri (FRPI), founded in 2002, is the main armed group active in the Ituri province. Its members are Ngiti, one of the ethnic groups in Ituri, and are estimated to number roughly 1,000.

The group was initially led by Germain Katanga, who was brought to before the International Criminal Court in 2006, where he was convicted of war crimes and crimes against humanity in 2014.

In 2018, FRPI engaged regularly in armed confrontations against the FARDC. In spite of the deployment of 1,300 additional FARDC and police personnel by the DRC government in April 2018, the FRPI continued to attack governmental forces, which responded with Operation Hero, a counter-offensive that took place on 22–25 May and resulted in the death of seven members of the opposition group.

Although the armed violence between state forces and the non-state actor has decreased in intensity, the conflict is not over.

Non International Armed Conflicts in DRC Armed Groups

MONUSCO: A Party to These Conflicts

Since its establishment by the UN Security Council in July 2010, the peacekeeping operation has been supporting the government in its efforts to tackle the myriad armed groups operating in DRC.

‘In light of MONUSCO’s involvement in the various NIACs and the number and nature of armed confrontations between the peacekeeping operation and armed groups, we concluded that MONUSCO is a party to these conflicts’ underlines Dr Redaelli.

‘As MONUSCO is intervening with the consent of the DRC government, this involvement does not affect the classification of the conflicts, which remain non-international in character’ she adds.

Non International Armed Conflicts in DRC MONUSCO

About RULAC

The RULAC database is unique in the world in that it legally classifies situations of armed violence that amount to an armed conflict – international or non-international – under international humanitarian law (IHL).

‘This is crucial because IHL applies only in armed conflicts. Before humanitarian players, civil servants or academics can invoke IHL or analyze whether IHL was violated, they must know whether it applies. Outside armed conflicts, only international human rights law applies’ underlines Marco Sassòli, Director of the Geneva Academy.

Collaboration with the University of Essex

RULAC is supported by a law clinic at the Human Rights Centre at the University of Essex. In accordance with the RULAC methodology, a team of Essex postgraduate students drafted the conflict entry on the NIACs in DRC, which was then revised and complemented by the Geneva Academy.

MORE ON THIS THEMATIC AREA

Central African Republic, Bangui, Bangui. Seleka fighters patrol the streets. News

Central African Republic: Renewed Clashes and Increased Involvement of the UN Peacekeeping Mission

25 January 2019

This War Report article provides detailed information about the history of the ongoing conflict in the Central African Republic, parties to the conflict, key developments in 2018 and war crimes allegations since July 2002.

Read more

Democratic Republic ofn the Congo,  North Kivu province, Kitchanga downtown. The insanitary conditions next to the market worsens the situation of the residents affected by the recent violence. News

Democratic Republic of the Congo: Devastating Conflict in the Eastern Regions and Political Violence in Kinshasa

22 January 2019

Our new War Report article Democratic Republic of the Congo: Conflict in the Eastern Regions provides background information on the current violence in the county, recent developments and the main parties to the conflict in North and South Kivu, Ituri and Northern Katanga.

Read more

Safe and rescue operation of a boat in the Mediterranean Sea. IHL Talks

Search and Rescue Obligations in the Mediterranean Sea

26 February 2019, 13:00-14:30

This IHL Talk will discuss the legal framework and the main critical questions related to search and rescue in the Mediterranean Sea, using concrete cases and examples to illustrate current issues and challenges.

Read more

Ntaganda case: Closing statements.  The closing statements in the case of The Prosecutor v. Bosco Ntaganda at the International Criminal Court (ICC) started on 28 August 2018 before Trial Chamber VI at the seat of the Court in The Hague (Netherlands). Short Course

The Challenges of International Criminal Justice

4-19 April 2019

This short course will focus on five particular categories of challenges of international criminal justice: legal or normative, investigative and evidential, political, the defence, and the legacy.

Read more

Mali, view of a Mosque from the Niger river Short Course

Introduction to the Islamic Law of Armed Conflict

28 February - 11 April 2019

This short course introduces participants to the Islamic law of armed conflict and how it relates to the current conflicts in Muslim contexts. It examines the rules regulating the use of force during both international and non-international armed conflicts under classical Islamic law.

Read more

Peru, Ayacucho, Forensic Institut. With the help of the prosecutor's office staff, families try to identify the clothes of their missing relatives. Project

Standards of Proof in Fact Finding

Completed in January 2013

Several ad hoc fact-finding and inquiry commissions have been established to assess some of the most serious situations of human rights and humanitarian law violations across the world. With such mechanisms gaining influence, the question arises of whether a minimum formal standard of proof (or degree of certainty) exists or is required when such bodies adjudicate on such serious matters.

Read more

doption of the Arms Trade Treaty by the UN General Assembly, 2 April 2013 Project

The Arms Trade Treaty

Completed in January 2013

The Geneva Academy team followed the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) negotiations and provided key information on the negotiations, notably via a daily blog.

Read more