Both local and foreign-influenced conflicts continued in mineral-rich parts of the East, particularly in the provinces of North Kivu, South Kivu, Katanga, and in the Bas Uele, Haut Uele, and Ituri districts of Orientale province. Foreign RMGs, such as the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), Allied Democratic Forces/National Army for the Liberation of Uganda (ADF/NALU), National Forces of Liberation (FNL), and the LRA, as well as indigenous RMGs such as different Mai Mai (local militia) groups, continued to battle government forces and each other and to attack civilian populations. Unlike in previous years, there were no credible reports of foreign government support for the RMGs. By impeding humanitarian aid and development assistance in some areas, the fighting in the East exacerbated an already severe humanitarian crisis.
The government took military action against several major RMGs. In concert with MONUSCO forces, the government defeated the M23, which surrendered in November 2013. During the year the government launched a military campaign against the ADF, the APCLS, and a number of Mai Mai groups. Also in May and June, 184 members of the FDLR voluntarily disarmed.
Despite progress there were credible reports the SSF and the RMGs perpetrated serious human rights abuses. These RMGs included the APCLS; ADF/NALU; Bakata Katanga; Coalition of Ituri Armed Groups; the FDLR; the FNL; Forces of the Congolese Defense; Forces of the Patriotic Resistance of Ituri; the LRA; Nyatura; Congolese Resistance Patriots; Raia Mutomboki; and the following Mai-Mai groups: Cheka, Gedeon, Kifuafua, Morgan/Simba/Lumumba/Manu/Luc, Pareco, Shetani, and Yakutumba.
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 renewed the intervention brigade to neutralize armed groups. At year’s end MONUSCO consisted of approximately 19,000 peacekeepers, military observers, and police.
Killings: According to reports by UN agencies and NGOs, the SSF and the RMGs summarily executed or otherwise killed civilians. For example, throughout the month of October, the ADF and possibly other RMGs attacked a number of villages around the Beni area in North Kivu province and allegedly killed more than 80 persons. ADF members allegedly killed at least 30 victims--including women and children--with machetes, decapitating some victims and cutting the throats of others.
The UN Group of Experts (UNGOE) reported that on April 14, FARDC shot and killed Paul Sadala (alias Morgan), who had led the RMG Mai Mai Morgan, when he allegedly tried to escape while negotiating his surrender. Sadala was wanted for his involvement with human rights violations Mai Mai Morgan had allegedly committed, including murders, sexual slavery, and child recruitment.
Abductions: UN agencies and NGOs reported that the RMGs and some SSF units abducted individuals. Generally, the RMGs abducted individuals to serve as porters, guides, or in some other capacity. For example, on January 6, LRA combatants reportedly abducted seven men after having attacked and looted their homes. They forced the victims to carry the looted goods seven miles north before they released them.
Physical Abuse, Punishment, and Torture: UN agencies and NGOs reported the SSF arrested, illegally detained, raped, and tortured civilians.
The RMGs committed abuses in rural areas of North Kivu, South Kivu, Katanga, and Orientale, including killing, raping, and torturing civilians. Increasingly during the year, the RMGs forcibly recruited individuals, including children, to serve as porters, guides, and combatants. In certain areas in the East, the RMGs looted, extorted, and illegally taxed and detained civilians, often for ransom.
For example, on June 20, Mai Mai Lumumba combatants reportedly mutilated three civilians in Lubero territory by cutting off their ears and cutting one victim’s face with a machete.
Both male and female RMG members raped men, women, and minors as part of the violence among and between them and the FARDC. Statistics for rape, especially rape of males, were not available.
In July the UNGOE reported the ADF was using unsophisticated, improvised explosive devices that had resulted in FARDC casualties.
Child Soldiers: By September the United Nations documented that armed groups had newly recruited and used 50 children (41 boys, nine girls). In nearly half of these reported instances, armed groups reportedly used children as combatants; children also served as porters, cooks, informants, and other support roles. Most of the girls faced sexual violence and exploitation. The RMGs continued to recruit and use children in North Kivu, South Kivu, Katanga, and Orientale provinces, particularly within poorly integrated or controlled units. The government took steps to reduce and limit the use of child soldiers, including by implementing the UN-backed action plan to end the recruitment and use of child soldiers and by working with partner organizations to develop training programs to prevent child recruitment. Additionally, FARDC commanders increased efforts to demobilize child soldiers of surrendering RMGs. In multiple instances FARDC commanders and liaisons requested assistance from MONUSCO, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), or other humanitarian organizations and transferred children to their care. By November the United Nations reported there were no documented cases of child soldier recruitment by the FARDC.
See also the Department of State’s annual Trafficking in Persons Report at 2009-2017.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.
Other Conflict-related Abuses: Fighting between the FARDC and the RMGs continued to displace populations and limit humanitarian access, particularly in Rutshuru and Nyiragongo territories in North Kivu province. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, as of July humanitarian agency personnel were involved in 85 security incidents. The United Nations reported that on October 27, unknown armed combatants attacked a vehicle belonging to Mercy Corps, an international NGO, in Masisi territory in North Kivu province. The assailants left the Mercy Corps staff unharmed but stole electronics and cash and damaged the vehicle’s radio, preventing the staff from promptly contacting authorities.
In North Kivu and South Kivu provinces, the RMGs and FARDC soldiers continued illegally to 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 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 the Republic of South Sudan to China.
The illegal trade in minerals was both a symptom and cause of the conflict in North Kivu and South Kivu provinces. With some enhanced government regulation of the mining and trade of cassiterite and coltan, a small but increasing amount of legal exportation from both provinces took place during the year. The RMGs continued to control and threaten remote mining areas in North Kivu and South Kivu provinces.
The law prohibits the FARDC and the 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 mining pit managers forced to pay protection fees 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). 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.