Both local and foreign-influenced conflicts continued in mineral-rich parts of the East, particularly in North Kivu and South Kivu, Katanga, and the Bas Uele, Haut Uele, and Ituri districts of Orientale Province. Conflict continued between government and M23 forces in Rutshuru and Nyiragongo territories in North Kivu. An SSF focus on North Kivu created a security vacuum in areas from which FARDC elements had withdrawn. The M23 continued to receive external support from Rwanda.
Foreign RMGs--including Forces Democratiques de Liberation du Rwanda (FDLR), Allied Democratic Forces/National Army for the Liberation of Uganda (ADF/NALU), and the LRA; indigenous RMGs that were supported by foreign governments, such as the M23; and some Mai-Mai (local militia) groups--increasingly formed loose coalitions during the year and continued to battle government forces and each other, and to attack civilian populations. Alliances frequently changed among local militias in apparent attempts to profit from a dynamic situation. Many Mai-Mai groups took advantage of the security vacuum resulting from the SSF focus on the M23. The fighting in the East exacerbated an already severe humanitarian crisis by impeding humanitarian aid and development assistance in some areas and increasing the total number of displaced persons in the country to more than 2.7 million by October.
There were credible reports the following armed groups perpetrated serious human rights abuses in the country during the year: APCLS; ADF/NALU; Bakata Katanga; Coalition of Ituri Armed Groups; FDLR; Forces Nationales de Liberation; Forces de la Defense Congolaise; Forces de Resistance Patriotique d’Ituri; LRA; M23; Nyatura; Patriotes Resistants Congolaise; Raia Mutomboki; and the following Mai-Mai groups: Cheka, Gedeon, Kifuafua, Morgan/Simba/Lumumba/Manu/Luc, Pareco, Shetani, and Yakutumba.
While the number of LRA incidents decreased, the LRA continued to commit serious abuses. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported that as of October, there were 112 LRA attacks, 26 related deaths, and 81 abductions.
MONUSCO continued to assist the government in seeking to establish and maintain peace and security, particularly in the East. In March the UN Security Council extended MONUSCO’s mandate for 12 months and created an intervention brigade to neutralize armed groups. At year’s end MONUSCO was comprised of approximately 19,000 peacekeepers, military observers, and police.
Killings: According to reports by UN agencies and NGOs, the SSF summarily executed or otherwise killed civilians. The UNGOE reported fighting between the FARDC and the APCLS in February and March in Kitchanga resulted in at least 90 deaths. According to the UNGOE, FARDC Colonel Mudahunga issued orders to attack civilians in Kitchanga, targeting ethnic Hundes in particular.
The United Nations reported that from August to September, FARDC forces summarily executed at least 19 civilians, raped at least five women, and pillaged the Ituri district of Orientale Province. Evidence suggested civilians were targeted for their perceived collaboration with RMGs.
Human Rights Watch reported M23 rebels summarily executed at least 44 persons and raped at least 61 women and girls between March and early July.
Abductions: UN agencies and NGOs reported RMGs and some SSF units abducted individuals. Generally, individuals were abducted to serve as porters, guides, or in some other capacity.
For additional information see the Department of State’s annual Trafficking in Persons Report at 2009-2017.state.gov/j/tip/.
Physical Abuse, Punishment, and Torture: UN agencies and NGOs also reported the SSF arrested, illegally detained, raped, and tortured civilians.
Investigation continued into the November 2012 killings, rapes, and pillaging in and around the town of Minova, South Kivu. The United Nations reported at least 126 women and girls were raped in the incident. Eleven individuals were arrested, including two for rape. In November the Military Operational Court in North Kivu began the trial of 39 FARDC officers, including four lieutenant colonels, on charges of rape, pillage, and murder in Minova and its environs. The trial continued at year’s end.
RMGs committed abuses in rural areas of North Kivu, South Kivu, Katanga, and Orientale – killing, raping, and torturing civilians. Increasingly during the year, RMGs forcibly recruited individuals, including children, to serve as porters, guides, and combatants. In certain areas in the East, RMGs looted, extorted, and illegally taxed and detained civilians, often for ransom. For example, the United Nations reported Mai-Mai Simba/Lumumba, led by Paul Sadala (aka Morgan), abducted 31 women and girls in Mambasa Territory, Orientale Province, and raped them during a three-week period in February. No progress was made in the investigation into the June 2012 attack on the Okapi Wildlife Reserve in Mambasa Territory. In this attack Sadala and the Mai-Mai Simba/Lumumba reportedly killed at least six civilians and six wardens, raped at least 51 women and girls, and abducted more than 100 individuals, who were forced to be porters or in the case of 22 women, sex slaves. Despite an arrest warrant, Sadala remained at large at year’s end.
During the year men, women, and minors were raped as part of the violence among RMGs and between them and the FARDC. Statistics for rape, especially rape of males, were difficult to compile.
Child Soldiers: The recruitment and use of children in North Kivu, South Kivu, Katanga, and Orientale provinces by RMGs and the FARDC continued, particularly within poorly integrated elements or among FARDC units outside of central government control. The government took steps to reduce and limit the use of child soldiers, including by partial implementation of the UN-backed Action Plan to end the recruitment and use of child soldiers, by starting awareness campaigns for FARDC personnel, and by working with partner organizations to develop training programs to prevent child recruitment. In addition FARDC commanders increased efforts to remove child soldiers. In multiple instances incoming FARDC commanders requested assistance from MONUSCO, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), or other humanitarian organizations and transferred children to their care.
See also the Department of State’s annual Trafficking in Persons Report at 2009-2017.state.gov/j/tip/.
Other Conflict-related Abuses: Fighting between the FARDC and RMGs continued to displace populations and limit humanitarian access, particularly in Rutshuru and Nyiragongo territories in North Kivu. According to OCHA, as of October there were 177 security incidents involving humanitarian agency personnel.
In North Kivu and South Kivu, RMGs and elements of the FARDC continued to illegally exploit and trade natural resources for revenue and power. Clandestine trade in minerals and other natural resources facilitated the purchase of weapons and reduced government revenues. The natural resources most exploited were the minerals cassiterite (tin ore), coltan (tantalum ore), wolframite (tungsten ore), and gold, followed by timber, charcoal, and fish. According to the media and civil society, the LRA trafficked in elephant ivory from Garamba National Park to finance its operations, likely by smuggling ivory through the Central African Republic and South Sudan to China.
The illegal trade in minerals was both a symptom and cause of the conflict in the Kivu provinces. Despite enhanced government regulation of the mining and trade of cassiterite and coltan, however, little legal exportation from North Kivu and South Kivu took place during the year. RMGs continued to control and threaten remote mining areas in North Kivu and South Kivu. The M23 and other armed groups imposed illegal taxation on trade in parts of North Kivu.
The law prohibits the FARDC and RMGs from engaging in the mineral trade, but the government did not effectively enforce the law. Criminal involvement by FARDC units and RMGs included protection rackets (such as protection fees paid by mining pit managers to avoid theft or to facilitate smuggling), indirect commercial control (including the use of illegal “tax” revenues to buy and sell minerals near mining sites), and direct coercive control (including theft). In addition FARDC units and RMGs routinely extorted illegal taxes from civilians and at times forced civilians to work for them or relinquish their mineral production.
The UNGOE again reported several RMGs, Raia Mutomboki in particular, profited from illegal trade and exploitation in the mineral sector. The UNGOE also reported smuggling of minerals continued within the East of the country and from there to Rwanda, Uganda, and Burundi. Some SSF units reportedly profited from the trade in gold and were complicit in smuggling minerals.