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

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

Posted on: 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. The article also provides information about ongoing investigations and prosecutions by the International Criminal Court (ICC) regarding alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Written by Giulia Marcucci, currently enrolled in our LLM in International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights, it will form part, along with other analysis of conflict situations, of the War Report 2018 which will be published in the first quarter of 2019.

More than 120 Armed Groups Operating in Eastern DRC

The article provides information about the most prominent armed groups involved in the conflict that takes place in the eastern regions of DRC – North and South Kivu, Ituri and Northern Katanga.

‘Armed groups have been proliferating in DRC, with for instance more than 120 armed groups operating in North and South Kivu provinces alone. However, most of them do not meet the level of organization required for the application of international humanitarian law of non-international armed conflicts ’ explains Dr Annyssa Bellal, Strategic Adviser on International Humanitarian Law at the Geneva Academy and Editor of the War Report.

‘The article therefore focuses on the main ones, including the Ugandan Allied Democratic Forces-Nalu, the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, the National Council for Renewal and Democracy, Nduma Defense of Congo and the National Peoples’ Coalition for the Sovereignty of Congo, and provides information about recent developments in eastern DRC’ she adds.

The United Nations Organization and Stabilization Mission in DRC: Active Involvement in the Conflict

The United Nations Organization and Stabilization Mission in DRC (MONUSCO) is operating in DRC since July 2010 notably to protect civilians, humanitarian personnel and human rights defenders under imminent threat of physical violence and to support the DRC government in its stabilization and peace consolidation efforts.

From March 2013, a specialized Force Intervention Brigade (FIB) operates under the direct command of the MONUSCO Force Commander with the mandate of neutralizing armed groups and reducing their threat to state authority and civilian security. As such, the FIB has provided military support to the DRC armed forces against offensives conducted by several armed groups.

‘This active involvement in combat activity makes MONUSCO a party to the conflict’ underlies Dr Bellal. ‘It also represents a radical change in United Nations peace efforts with a shift away from traditional peacekeeping towards active peace enforcement and beyond’ she adds.

Political Violence in Kinshasa

In the context of political violence in Kinshasa related to presidential elections, security forces have been repeatedly accused of using unnecessary and excessive force against civilians.

Extreme Violence of the Conflict Reflected in Investigations and Prosecutions Related to War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity

As the DRC Government ratified the Rome Statute in April 2002 and referred the situation in its territory to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in April 2004, the article reviews the main allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in DRC by the various parties to the conflict.

The ICC investigations have focussed on alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity, including enlisting and conscripting child soldiers under the age of 15, murder, attacking civilians, rape, sexual slavery, mutilation and forcible transfer of populations.

As a result of these investigations, six cases were opened against leaders of several armed groups operating in eastern DRC and led to the conviction of Thomas Lubanga and Germain Katanga.

‘ICC’s investigations and cases show the extreme violence of the conflicts that are taking place in North and South Kivu, Ituri and Northern Katanga’ underlines Dr Bellal.

‘In May 2018, the ICC Prosecutor visited DRC to begin an investigation into possible crimes against humanity allegedly committed during the country’s ongoing political and  ethnic violence. However, in September 2018, the DRC government threatened to withdraw from the ICC’ she adds.