Both local and foreign-influenced conflicts continued in parts of the East, particularly in the provinces of North Kivu, South Kivu, Katanga, and Orientale. Foreign RMGs, such as the FDLR, Allied Democratic Forces/National Army for the Liberation of Uganda (ADF/NALU), National Forces of Liberation (FNL), and Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), as well as indigenous RMGs such as different Mai Mai (local militia) groups, continued to battle government forces and one another 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.
There were credible reports the SSF and RMGs perpetrated serious human rights abuses. These RMGs included the Alliance of Patriots for a Free and Sovereign Congo (APCLS); the ADF/NALU; Bakata Katanga; the 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.
The government took military action against several major RMGs. Operational cooperation between MONUSCO and the government ceased when the UN Joint Human Rights Office (UNJHRO) discovered two generals appointed in January to lead counter-FDLR efforts had records of violating human rights. Disagreement between the two sides on the appropriate troop-level reductions stalled subsequent efforts to restart cooperation. The FARDC initiated unilateral operations against the FDLR and the ADF, with initial gains in terrain but at a high cost in FARDC lives. In May and June, the FARDC reinitiated operational cooperation with MONUSCO against the Front for Patriotic Resistance in Ituri (FRPI) and the ADF, but limited their requests to ad hoc assistance instead of a coordinated campaign.
There was widespread killing, rape, and displacement of civilians by ethnic militia in northern Katanga in clashes between ethnic Luba and ethnic Batwa communities. The conflict erupted in mid-2013 but gained greater attention during the year as the numbers of IDPs and killings grew. In August, 10 Batwa and 27 Lubas were charged with crimes against humanity and crimes of genocide.
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 17,000 peacekeepers, military observers, and police.
Killings: According to reports by UN agencies and NGOs, the SSF and RMGs summarily executed or otherwise killed 807 civilians from January to October. On May 13, alleged ADF combatants killed 23 persons with machetes and axes in several small villages north of the town of Beni. As of November, the UN estimated that ADF attacks had killed more than 600 persons in the Beni area since the attacks escalated in October 2014.
Abductions: UN agencies and NGOs reported RMGs abducted individuals, generally to serve as porters or guides, or to demand ransom. For example, on August 2, FDLR combatants abducted six imams and their driver, who were visiting from Tanzania, and demanded a $20,000 ransom. They released the victims on August 31 after the ransom was paid.
Physical Abuse, Punishment, and Torture: UN agencies and NGOs reported that the SSF arrested, illegally detained, raped, and tortured civilians. The UN reported that, on September 20-22, FARDC soldiers raped 14 women and illegally detained other community members in South Kivu during an operation to track the leader of an RMG. The government opened an investigation but it had not arrested any suspects by year’s end.
RMGs committed abuses in rural areas of North Kivu, South Kivu, Katanga, and Orientale, including killing, raping, and torturing civilians. In August a group of FDLR combatants in the Nyiragongo territory of North Kivu tortured three civilians, including a 17-year-old youth who later reportedly died because of the injuries sustained. In certain areas in the East, RMGs looted, extorted, and illegally taxed and detained civilians, often for ransom.
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, including rape of males, were not available.
The ADF continued using improvised explosive devices that resulted in FARDC casualties.
Child Soldiers: From January through September, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reported that 2,852 children separated from RMGs; UNICEF assisted the children through a number of NGOs. These children were separated from the FDLR (742), Nyatura/PARECO (489), M23 (328), FRPI (237), Rayia Mutomboki (218), APCLS (109), Union of Congolese Patriots for Peace (94), Nduma Defense Coalition/Cheka (93), Bakata Katanga (74), (62), ADF (25), other Mai Mai groups (231), and other armed groups (146). Eighty percent of those cases occurred in North Kivu. The RMGs had used at least 1,090 children as combatants. Of the 395 girls, 183 were victims of sexual violence.
Children continued to be arrested and detained for their association with armed groups. The UN secured the release of 121 children (110 boys, 11 girls) from FARDC, police, and military prosecutor detention centers. The SSF had reportedly subjected 40 percent of the children to mistreatment during detention.
As of June armed groups abducted 108 children (65 boys, 43 girls), 55 percent of whom were below the age of 15, mostly in Orientale (59) and North Kivu (30). The main perpetrators were the LRA (34), ADF (20), Mai Mai Simba (18), Rayia Mutomboki (17), and other armed groups (19). The armed groups used at least 11 abductees as combatants and subjected 22 girls to sexual slavery.
President Kabila appointed a presidential advisor on sexual violence and child recruitment in July 2014. She raised awareness of the problems of sexual violence throughout the country and encouraged efforts to remove child soldiers from the SSF.
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 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 September 30, humanitarian agency personnel were involved in 144 security incidents impacting NGOs in North and South Kivu (99 incidents in North Kivu and 45 in South Kivu). This total included all incidents affecting national and international NGOs (humanitarian and postconflict/development combined), as well as the ICRC, but it excluded all the incidents against UN organizations or other international organizations (such as donors, etc.) On November 1, an RMG abducted 14 relief workers for the Rural Development Center, a partner of the UN World Food Program. The RMG immediately released unharmed two individuals and the others on November 2.
RMGs and the SSF destroyed and looted towns and homes as a tactic in conflicts. For example, FARDC Sokola II forces targeted and emptied some of the Hutu IDP camps in North Kivu and burned several villages in an effort to disperse the local civilian Hutu populations during their counter-FDLR operations. The FARDC alleged these communities held many FDLR “reservists” and dependents and it took the actions to reduce the ability of the Hutu communities to provide support for the FDLR. The FDLR also reportedly burned the towns of Bulehusa and Lusamambo during their retreat.
In North Kivu, South Kivu, Oriental, and Katanga provinces, RMGs and FARDC soldiers continued to illegally tax, 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 gold, cassiterite (tin ore), coltan (tantalum ore), and wolframite (tungsten ore) but also included wildlife products, 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 CAR, South Sudan, and the disputed Kafia Kingi region controlled by Sudan to link with illicit trading networks transferring these goods to China. The final report of the UN Group of Experts (UNGOE) in November 2014 indicated FARDC elements, local poachers, and armed groups remained involved in the illegal exploitation of and trade in wildlife products, including ivory.
The illegal trade in minerals was both a symptom and cause of weak governance. It financed the SSF and RMGs, and sometimes generated public revenue for traditional authorities and local and provincial governments. With enhanced government regulation motivated by global advocacy efforts as well as donor support, the mining and trade of cassiterite, coltan, and wolframite resulted in a small but increasing amount of legal conflict-free exportation from North and South Kivu, Katanga, and Maniema Provinces. The SSF and RMGs continued to control, tax, and threaten remote mining areas in North Kivu, South Kivu, Orientale, and Katanga provinces, with much less influence in Maniema Province.
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 forcing mining pit managers to pay protection fees to avoid theft or to facilitate smuggling), indirect commercial control (including the use of illegal “tax” revenues to generate revenue for criminal SSF and RMG activity), and direct coercive control (including theft). There were unsubstantiated reports that government officials were involved in illegal gold mining practices.
The UNGOE reported several RMGs, Raia Mutomboki in particular, profited from illegal trade and exploitation in the mineral sector (see section 7.b.). The UNGOE also reported smuggling of minerals continued in the East and from there to Rwanda, Uganda, and Burundi.