Both local and foreign-influenced conflicts continued in parts of the east, particularly in the provinces of North Kivu, South Kivu, Tanganyika, Ituri, Haut-Uele, and Bas-Uele. 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 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.
There were credible reports the government provided support to at least two local militias fighting the FDLR. 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 that SSF and RMGs perpetrated serious human rights abuses. These RMGs included the Alliance of Patriots for a Free and Sovereign Congo (APCLS), the ADF, Bakata Katanga, the FDLR, FNL, Forces of the Patriotic Resistance of Ituri (FRPI), the LRA, various Nyatura factions, Raia Mutomboki, and the following Mai-Mai groups: Mazembe, Charles Shetani, Yakutumba, and several others.
The government took military action against several major RMGs. Operational cooperation between MONUSCO and the government resumed after a one-year hiatus after UNJHRO discovered two generals appointed in January 2015 to lead counter-FDLR efforts had records of violating human rights. Disagreements between the two sides on the appropriate troop-level reductions stalled efforts to restart cooperation during 2015. The two forces were able to strengthen their cooperation against the FDLR, ADF, FRPI, and FNL during 2016.
There was widespread killing, rape, and displacement of civilians by ethnic militia in Tanganyika Province in clashes between ethnic Luba and ethnic Batwa communities. The conflict erupted in mid-2013 and continued intermittently through the year. In August 2015, 10 Batwa and 27 Lubas were charged with crimes against humanity and crimes of genocide. Their trial was underway at year’s end.
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 17,500 peacekeepers, military observers, and police.
Killings: According to reports by UN agencies and NGOs, the SSF and RMGs summarily executed or otherwise killed 315 civilians from January to June. On August 13, alleged ADF combatants killed 50 persons with machetes and axes near the town of Beni.
Abductions: UN agencies and NGOs reported RMGs abducted individuals, generally to serve as porters or guides, or to demand ransom. In August the NGO Caritas accused the FDLR of kidnapping three of its Congolese workers in an area approximately 75 miles northwest of Goma. The three were released a few days later.
Physical Abuse, Punishment, and Torture: UN agencies and NGOs reported the SSF arrested, illegally detained, raped, and tortured civilians. The United Nations reported that on July 3-4, FARDC soldiers raped 10 women who had been gathering firewood in Virunga National Park. The PNC opened an investigation into the case.
RMGs committed abuses in rural areas of North Kivu, South Kivu, Katanga, and Orientale, including killing, raping, and torturing civilians. Many of the victims of the August 13 massacre by suspected ADF members outside Beni town were bound and possibly tortured before they were killed. In certain areas in the east, RMGs looted, extorted, illegally taxed, and kidnapped 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 crude improvised explosive devices that resulted in FARDC casualties. For example, on November 8, one of the devices exploded in Goma, killing a child and injuring 32 UN peacekeepers. No one claimed responsibility for the attack, and the perpetrators remained unknown at year’s end.
Child Soldiers: From January through November, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reported 1,196 children were separated from RMGs; UNICEF assisted the children through a number of NGOs. These children were separated from the FDLR (379), Nyatura (201), FRPI (105), other Mai-Mai groups (77), Raia Mutomboki (72), FPD/Shetani (67), UPDI/Mai-Mai Mazembe(56), FDLR/RUD (50), NDC/Renove/Guidon (33), UPCP (31), APCLS (24), ADF (17), NDC/Cheka (18), GA Burundais (14), Mai-Mai Yira (13), LRA (11), Mai-Mai Kata Katanga, (eight) Mai-Mai Simba (seven), MAC (four), Mai-Mai Kifuafua (three), FARDC (two), FRF (two), FPP (one), and M23 (one). Most of the children were separated in North Kivu (81 percent), followed by Ituri (9 percent), South Kivu (8 percent) and Haut Ulele (2 percent). Twelve children were separated from FARDC during the year. Eleven of these children had been recruited in previous years, and one was recruited during the year.
Of the 3,338 children associated with armed forces and groups assisted by UNICEF via partners during the year, the majority--886--declared they were used as combatants; 744 were used for domestic work; 200 to fetch water, wood, and food; 391 as escorts; 147 to bear “fetishes” or transport weapons; and 148 as wives and/or for sexual exploitation. Other forms of use included working as spies, bodyguards, recruiters, camp guards, animal guards, or healers.
The SSF continued to arrest and detain children for their association with armed groups. The United Nations secured the release of nearly 200 children, mostly boys, from FARDC, police, and military prosecutor detention centers.
The president appointed an advisor on sexual violence and child recruitment in 2014. She raised awareness of the problems of sexual violence throughout the country and encouraged efforts to remove child soldiers from the SSF and provide services to victims. The government cooperated with international organizations to eliminate recruitment and remove children from SSF and RMGs.
See also the Department of State’s annual Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.
Other Conflict-related Abuse: Fighting between the FARDC and RMGs continued to displace populations and limit humanitarian access, particularly in Rutshuru, Walikale, Lubero, Beni, and Nyiragongo territories in North Kivu Province. During the year, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, humanitarian agency personnel were involved in 152 security incidents in North and South Kivu. This total included all incidents affecting national and international NGOs (humanitarian and postconflict/development combined), as well as the ICRC, but excluded all incidents against UN organizations or other international organizations (such as donors). There was a 22 percent reduction in incidents during the year, but the number of humanitarian workers killed in such incidents increased from one to four.
RMGs and 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 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 Hutu communities to provide support for the FDLR.
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 networks transferring these goods to China. The final report of the UN Group of Experts (UNGOE) in May 2015 indicated FARDC elements, local poachers, and armed groups were involved in the illegal exploitation of and trade in wildlife products, including ivory.
The illegal trade in minerals was both symptom and cause of weak governance. It financed the SSF and RMGs and sometimes generated revenue for traditional authorities and local and provincial governments. With enhanced government regulation encouraged by global advocacy efforts and donor support, the mining of cassiterite, coltan, and wolframite resulted in a small but increasing amount of legal conflict-free export from North and South Kivu, Katanga, and Maniema provinces. The SSF and RMGs continued to control, extort, and threaten remote mining areas in North Kivu, South Kivu, Orientale, and Katanga provinces but had much less influence in Maniema Province.
The law prohibits the FARDC and RMGs from engaging in mineral trade, but the government did not effectively enforce the law. Criminal involvement by FARDC units and RMGs included protection rackets, extortion, and theft. There were unsubstantiated reports government officials were involved in illegal gold mining.
The UNGOE reported several RMGs and elements of the FARDC profited from illegal trade and exploitation in the minerals sector (see section 7.b.). The UNGOE also reported that smuggling of minerals continued in the east and from there to Rwanda, Uganda, and Burundi.