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.

5 February 2019

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

Fighters in Syria News

Experts Discuss Legal and Security Challenges Related to the Detention of ISIS Members in North-East Syria and their Judgment under International and National Law

28 May 2019

Experts discussed the detention and judgment of ISIS members, including foreign fighters and their families, in North-East Syria.

Read more

Professor Gloria Gaggioli during an IHL class of our LLM in International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights News

Gloria Gaggioli Appointed SNF Professor at the University of Geneva

15 March 2018

Gloria Gaggioli has been appointed Swiss National Fund (SNF) Professor at the Law Faculty of the University of Geneva where she will lead a four-year research project on ‘Preventing and Combating Terrorism and Violent Extremism: Towards an Empirico-Legal Approach’.

Read more

Sculpture realized to illustrate thre UDHR Event

Book Launch: Modes of Liability in International Criminal Law

29 October 2019, 18:30-20:00

On the occasion of the launch of Modes of Liability in International Criminal Law, based on research undertaken at the Geneva Academy, panelists will discuss questions related to criminal responsibility for international crimes.

Read more

Ukraine, damaged bicycle and car in front of a destroyed building Short Course

Protection of Persons and Property in International Armed Conflict

15 November - 13 December 2019

This short course examines the conduct of hostilities in situations of international armed conflict, also known as the Law of The Hague.

Read more

Al Mahdi case: ICC Trial Chamber VIII issues reparations order, 17 August 2017 Short Course

International Criminal Law: General Principles and International Crimes

14-29 November 2019

This short course reviews the origins of international criminal law, its relationship with the international legal order including the UN Security Council and its coexistence with national justice institutions. The scope of international crimes – genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and the crime of aggression – is considered alongside initiatives to expand or add to these categories.

Read more

Libya, Misrata, Tripoli Street. Combattants carefully move into a building. Project

Armed Non-State Actors and the Protection of Civilians

Completed in March 2010

This research project looked at the reactions to norms of more than 30 armed groups worldwide.

Read more

South Sudan, Warrab. An ICRC information session on the Law of Armed Conflict with soldiers from Warrab State. Project

Armed Non-State Actors and the Human Rights Council

Completed in January 2015

Launched in 2016, this project aimed to identify whether, to what extent and under what circumstances armed non-state actors incur obligations under international humanitarian law (IHL) and international human rights (HR) law.

Read more