Final report of the Group of Experts on the Democratic Republic of the Congo (S/2024/432) [EN/AR/RU/ZH] - Democratic Republic of the Congo (2024)

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Summary

The security and humanitarian situation in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, which remained affected by intense violence, continued to deteriorate. Regional tensions negatively affected the conflict and fighting in the three eastern provinces. In the western Democratic Republic of the Congo, the conflict in MaiNdombe simmered on.

In North Kivu, the sanctioned armed group the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) intensified attacks against urban centres in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and continued to be active in Uganda. ADF committed the highest number of killings, mainly of civilians. The armed group established strong networks in prisons, particularly in Kinshasa where ADF detainees were active in recruiting and mobilizing combatants and collaborators.

The official use of Wazalendo armed groups by the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to fight the Mouvement du 23 mars (M23) resulted in armed groups across the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo calling themselves Wazalendo to legitimize their existence and criminal activities.

The rapidly escalating M23 crisis carried the risk of triggering a wider regional conflict. Heavy fighting continued between M23, alongside the Rwanda Defence Force (RDF), and the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC) together with the Wazalendo coalition of local armed groups, the sanctioned Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda (FDLR) and Burundi National Defence Force troops. Private military companies and troops of the Southern African Development Community, which were deployed in December 2023, provided operational and military support to FARDC.

RDF military interventions and operations in Rutshuru, Masisi and Nyiragongo territories extended beyond mere support for M23 operations to direct and decisive involvement, allowing RDF and M23 to achieve military dominance in Petit Nord and rapid territorial expansion to the shores of Lake Edward. The deployment of advanced military technology and equipment bolstered joint M23-RDF operations, altering conflict dynamics, including by grounding all FARDC military air assets. A newly created politico-military movement, the Alliance Fleuve Congo (AFC), failed to coalesce the majority of political and armed actors against the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The Government continued to use Wazalendo groups and FDLR as proxies in the fight against M23 and RDF. The instructions of the FARDC chief of staff to end collaboration with FDLR were not heeded. Although FDLR came under pressure, it remained an important actor in the conflict.

The engagement of the Burundi National Defence Force in operations against M23 and RDF exacerbated the tensions between Rwanda and Burundi.

The protracted armed violence worsened the already dire humanitarian crisis. By March 2024, Petit Nord accounted for nearly 1.7 million internally displaced persons. An additional half a million internally displaced persons spilled over into neighbouring South Kivu. Goma faced escalating criminality and civil unrest due primarily to the proliferation of Wazalendo combatants and undisciplined FARDC elements, who enjoyed general impunity for their acts. Combat proximity and frequent artillery fire in urban areas and near sites for internally displaced persons caused heavy civilian casualties.

All armed actors recruited and used children in hostilities on an unprecedented scale. M23 and RDF continued to punish civilians perceived as having collaborated with enemy armed groups, particularly among the Hutu population perceived as associated with FDLR or Nyatura, in the form of executions, torture, destruction of villages, pillaging or arbitrary detentions. Wazalendo groups thrived on a violent war economy in their areas of influence, looting, extorting, kidnapping and murdering civilians.

Most armed actors active in Petit Nord benefited from illegal logging and/or taxation of the transport of wooden planks in the areas that they control. This source of income is part of bigger revenue generation opportunities stemming from the ongoing crisis in Petit Nord.

In Rubaya, mineral production under the control of the Coalition des patriotes résistants congolais-Force de frappe (PARECO-FF) and mineral trade under the control of PARECO-FF, Wazalendo and M23 continued unabated, rendering the minerals ineligible for trade. There also existed a serious risk of supply chain contamination.

In Ituri, the two main armed groups, Zaïre and Coopérative pour le développement du Congo/Union des révolutionnaires pour la défense du peuple congolais (CODECO/URDPC), resumed their armed confrontations and rivalry, including over lucrative gold mining sites. Zaïre’s brief pledge to engage in the peace process proved disingenuous, as illustrated by the group bolstering its mobilization and launching offensives. CODECO/URDPC also frequently clashed with FARDC, targeted United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo peacekeepers and carried out indiscriminate and deadly attacks on civilians, including kidnappings and executions. FARDC and Republican Guard elements were involved in gold mining activities. FARDC financial resources and soldiers were diverted from the fight against armed groups to the protection of private interests in the mining sector.

In South Kivu, the M23-related crisis continued to have an impact on armed group dynamics. Exacerbated tensions between Burundi and Rwanda led both countries to resume their contacts and collaboration with foreign armed groups based in South Kivu. Rwanda notably renewed support for the Résistance pour un État de droit au Burundi (RED Tabara), and Burundi resumed collaboration with the Conseil national pour le renouveau et la démocratie-Forces de libération nationale (CNRDFLN). Links between local armed groups, M23, AFC and Rwanda created further tensions between armed groups in South Kivu. The Banyamulenge mutual society “Shikama” in Uvira financed Twirwaneho in the Hauts Plateaux of Fizi territory. Armed group leaders in South Kivu, including the sanctioned individual William Yakutumba, personally enriched themselves by imposing illegal taxes on miners and their production.

In the mining sector, the development of the Wazalendo phenomenon posed serious threats to the implementation of due diligence. Economic actors trusted armed groups for their security. Primera Gold’s exports have fallen sharply since the Group of Experts issued its midterm report.

Primera Gold was weakened by differences with its partners in the United Arab Emirates. The company became less competitive in comparison with prices offered in some other countries in the region. As a result, gold continued to be smuggled, notably to Rwanda and Uganda.

The conflict in Mai-Ndombe simmered on, with the Mobondo militia continuing to occupy several Teke groupements in Kwamouth territory. Mobondo continued to attack civilians and engaged in violent clashes with FARDC and the Republican Guard, acquiring significant firepower through successful attacks on military positions. In mid-March 2024, the President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Félix-Antoine Tshisekedi, spearheaded peace negotiations involving Teke and Yaka customary chiefs and Mobondo militia members, resulting in a ceasefire agreement. However, the viability of the peace process was called into question when Mobondo militias killed several civilians the day after the agreement was signed. Several Teke chiefs contested the peace initiative as not being sufficiently inclusive or fair

Final report of the Group of Experts on the Democratic Republic of the Congo (S/2024/432) [EN/AR/RU/ZH] - Democratic Republic of the Congo (2024)

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