a. Arbitrary Deprivation of Life and Other Unlawful or Politically Motivated Killings
There were numerous reports the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings.
The state security forces (SSF) committed arbitrary or unlawful killings in operations against IAGs in the east and in the Kasai region (see section 1.g.). According to the UN Joint Office of Human Rights (UNJHRO), security forces were responsible for at least 276 extrajudicial killings across the country as of July 31. Many of these extrajudicial killings occurred in the Kivus, where the SSF fought the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) and other militias. IAGs were responsible for at least 505 summary executions by the end of July.
On January 10, security forces used lethal and disproportionate force to disrupt post electoral demonstrations. According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), at least 10 civilians were killed across the country during the day of political gatherings. In the city of Kikwit, in Kwilu Province, the PNC killed five persons, including two adolescent boys and a man who were bystanders on their way to the hospital to donate blood. During demonstrations in Kikwit, at least 22 protesters were wounded by gunfire. In Kisangani, Tshopo Province, PNC agents killed a nine-year-old boy while dispersing unarmed demonstrators. The same day, in Goma, North Kivu Province, police killed an 18-year-old man while dispersing demonstrators.
On February 24, the FARDC executed 19 unarmed members of the Kamwina Nsapu militia. The 19 men were among 300 militia members who surrendered to the FARDC in February. A trial of the alleged perpetrators began in July at a military court in Kananga, the capital of Kasai Central Province.
IAGs committed arbitrary and unlawful killings throughout the year (see section 1.g.). IAGs recruited and used children as soldiers and human shields and targeted the SSF, members of the government, and others.
Although the military justice system convicted some SSF agents of human rights abuses, impunity remained a serious problem. The government maintained joint human rights committees with the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) and used available international resources, such as the UN-implemented technical and logistical support program for military prosecutors as well as mobile hearings supported by international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). Military courts convicted some SSF agents of human rights violations. The United Nations reported the government convicted at least 32 FARDC soldiers and 102 PNC officers for crimes constituting human rights violations during the first half of the year. In the previous year, the government convicted 120 FARDC soldiers and 66 PNC officers for similar violations.
On February 26, in response to police firing on university protesters in January, a Lubumbashi court sentenced the deputy provisional police commissioner to one year in prison. The court sentenced the four police officers who fired at the students to 20 years’ imprisonment. A fifth police officer who fled and failed to appear in court was sentenced to death in absentia. The court also ordered the government to pay the families of those killed 83.2 million Congolese francs ($50,000) each and 66.6 million Congolese francs ($40,000) to the families of those injured.
The United Nations also reported that on May 3, 18 alleged Kamwina Nsapu militia members were sentenced to 20 years in prison for terrorism and participation in an insurrectional movement. Four other defendants in the case were acquitted due to insufficient evidence. The court ordered the payment of 33.8 million Congolese francs ($20,000) to each of the victims represented in the case.
There were reports of disappearances attributable to the SSF during the year. Authorities often refused to acknowledge the detention of suspects and in several cases detained suspects in unofficial facilities, including on military bases and in detention facilities operated by the ANR. The whereabouts of some civil society activists and civilians arrested by the SSF remained unknown for long periods. On March 26, following a presidential directive to close secret ANR detention facilities, the national council tasked with oversight of the Saint Sylvester political accord of 2016 (which set a path for presidential elections to be held) announced all such centers had been shuttered. Independent monitors were unable to confirm that action, however, due to the large number of detention places without judicial supervision.
The United Nations reported that on January 7, in Bakuba, Kasai Province, an adolescent boy was arrested and detained in a prison cell by FARDC soldiers on the pretext that he participated in the Kamwina Nsapu insurgency movement. On January 12, his relatives visited the prison cell but did not find the boy. The FARDC said they transferred the suspect to a military prosecutor but that he did not arrive. The United Nations reported other sources claimed the child was killed.
IAGs kidnapped numerous persons, generally for forced labor, military service, or sexual slavery. Many of these victims disappeared (see section 1.g.).
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
The law criminalizes torture, but there were credible reports the SSF continued to torture civilians, particularly detainees and prisoners. In September the British NGO Freedom from Torture reported on 16 cases of torture between 2013 and 2018, all linked to antigovernment or human rights activism under the Kabila regime. Throughout the year activists circulated videos of police beating unarmed and nonviolent protesters.
The UNJHRO reported that on June 3, in Ndunda, South Kivu Province, a 15-year-old boy was tortured by FARDC soldiers after neighbors accused him of theft. The victim was interrogated and beaten with sticks to compel him to confess. He was eventually released due to the deterioration of his health and was taken to a medical facility by his family for treatment.
According to the United Nations, on May 22, in Kabeya, Maniema Province, FARDC soldiers arbitrarily arrested three men for the rape of a woman. The soldiers had gone to the village to make an arrest but had been unable to find the intended suspect. The three detainees were transferred to an ANR prison for three days, where they were beaten and later released after paying a fine.
Government agents raped and sexually abused women and girls during arrest and detention, as well as during the course of military action. IAGs frequently used rape as a weapon of war (see section 1.g.).
As of August 19, the United Nations reported it had received four allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse against military, police, and civilian personnel deployed with MONUSCO. Of these cases, two involved the alleged rape of a child, and two involved allegations of solicitation of transactional sex with an adult. As of that date, all investigations were pending.
Prison and Detention Center Conditions
Conditions in most prisons throughout the country were harsh and life threatening due to food shortages, gross overcrowding, and inadequate sanitary conditions and medical care. Even harsher conditions prevailed in small detention centers run by the ANR, RG, or other security forces, which often detained prisoners for lengthy pretrial periods without providing them access to family or legal counsel.
Physical Conditions: Serious threats to life and health were widespread and included violence (particularly rape); food shortages; and inadequate potable water, sanitation, ventilation, temperature control, lighting, and medical care. Poor ventilation subjected detainees to extreme heat. Central prison facilities were severely overcrowded, with an estimated occupancy rate of 200 percent of capacity. For example, Makala Central Prison in Kinshasa, which was constructed in 1958 to house 1,500 prisoners, held as many as 8,200 inmates simultaneously during the year. In August the National Human Rights Council (CNDH) published findings from visits to prisons in each of the country’s 26 provinces in 2018. The CNDH found that all but four prisons were grossly overcrowded and most buildings being used for detention were originally built for other purposes. For example, in Kamina, Upper Lomami Province, 244 prisoners were being held in a former train station. In Isiro, Upper Uele Province, 96 men were detained in a beer warehouse. In Bunia, Ituri Province, 1,144 prisoners were held in a former pigsty.
Authorities generally confined men and women in separate areas but often held juveniles with adults. Women were sometimes imprisoned with their children. Authorities rarely separated pretrial detainees from convicted prisoners.
Because inmates had inadequate supplies of food and little access to water, many relied exclusively on relatives, NGOs, and church groups to bring them sustenance. The United Nations reported that through June 30, 106 individuals had died in detention during the year, a 12 percent decrease, compared with 120 deaths recorded in the same period in 2018. These resulted from malnutrition, poor sanitation conditions, and lack of access to proper medical care. In April, BBC Afrique reported 40 inmates of the Mbanza Ngungu Prison in Kongo Central Province had died in the preceding 18 months due to lack of health care and poor hygiene conditions. Inmates said they were fed only one small meal of cassava flour per day. Local officials were quoted as saying they needed help from the national government to buy enough food for the prison.
Most prisons were understaffed, undersupplied, and poorly maintained, leading to corruption and poor control of the prison population, as well as prison escapes. The United Nations reported at least 1,045 individuals escaped detention centers as of June 30, a significant increase from the 801 escapees in all of 2018.
On May 9, as many as nine prisoners escaped from Kananga Prison, in Kasai Central Province. Local media reported prisoners had taken control of the prison in the days leading up to the escape. On July 16, at least 53 detainees escaped from Kamitunga Central Prison in South Kivu. Local media quoted the mayor of Kamitunga saying the prison guards were not on duty when the detainees escaped.
Authorities often arbitrarily beat or tortured detainees. On April 25, Marie-Ange Mushobekwa, the acting minister of human rights, told the UN Human Rights Council that “it is especially in prisons that torture is practiced.”
On February 2, a woman detained in Kolongo Central Prison in Tanganyika Province was admitted to the hospital after receiving 100 lashes. Radio Okapi reported the incident and quoted a local civil society coordinator as saying, “The buttocks of the victim are destroyed.”
IAGs detained civilians, often for ransom. Survivors reported to MONUSCO they were often subjected to forced labor (see section 1.g.).
Administration: Authorities denied access to visitors for some inmates and often did not permit inmates to contact or submit complaints to judicial authorities. Directors and staff generally ran prisons for profit, selling sleeping arrangements to the highest bidders and requiring payment for family visits.
Independent Monitoring: The government regularly allowed the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), MONUSCO, and NGOs access to official detention facilities maintained by the Ministry of Justice, but it consistently denied access to facilities run by the RG, ANR, and the military and police intelligence services. The ICRC visited an unknown number of prisoners.
d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention
The law prohibits arbitrary arrest or detention, but the SSF routinely arrested or detained persons arbitrarily (see section 1.e.). IAGs also abducted and detained persons arbitrarily (see section 1.g.).
Arrest Procedures and Treatment of Detainees
By law arrests for offenses punishable by more than six months’ imprisonment require warrants. Detainees must appear before a magistrate within 48 hours. Authorities must inform those arrested of their rights and the reason(s) for their arrest, and they may not arrest a family member in lieu of the suspected individual. Authorities must allow arrested individuals to contact their families and consult with attorneys. Security officials, however, routinely violated all of these requirements.
While the law provides for a bail system, it generally did not function. Detainees who were unable to pay for a lawyer were rarely able to access legal counsel. Authorities often held suspects incommunicado, including in unofficial detention centers run by the ANR, military intelligence, and the RG, and refused to acknowledge these detentions.
Prison officials often held individuals longer than their sentences due to disorganization, inadequate records, judicial inefficiency, or corruption. Prisoners unable to pay their fines often remained indefinitely in prison (see section 1.e.). Some suspects were held incommunicado.
Arbitrary Arrest: Security personnel arrested and detained civil society activists, journalists, and opposition party members and sometimes denied them due process (see sections 1.a., 2.a., and 5). Throughout the year security forces regularly held protesters and civil society activists incommunicado and without charge for extended periods. The United Nations reported the SSF arbitrarily arrested at least 1,650 persons across the country as of July 31. Human rights defenders continued to be subject to arbitrary arrest and detention without a fair public trial.
The United Nations reported that on January 5 in Goma, North Kivu Province, 79 persons, including seven women and 15 children, were arbitrarily arrested by PNC officers as they celebrated in the streets following rumors that Martin Fayulu had won the presidential election. On January 14, all were released after being charged with disturbing public order, destruction, and rebellion.
According to the UNJHRO, on April 22, the ANR arrested and detained four human rights defenders in the Kongo Central town of Pema for “causing public disorder” after they denounced police extortion of local residents. The UNJHRO also reported that on June 13, a magistrate ordered two human rights defenders arrested in the Kasai Central town of Demba after they prevented an angry mob from chasing a man accused of witchcraft.
Police sometimes arbitrarily arrested and detained persons without filing charges to extort money from family members or because administrative systems were not well established.
Pretrial Detention: Prolonged pretrial detention, ranging from months to years, remained a problem. A local NGO, the Congolese Association for Access to Justice, estimated the number of pretrial detentions in the country had doubled and at least three quarters to four-fifths of the prison population was in pretrial detention. Judicial inefficiency, administrative obstacles, corruption, financial constraints, and staff shortages also caused trial delays.
Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: Detainees are entitled to challenge in court the legal basis or arbitrary nature of their detention; however, few were able to obtain prompt release and compensation.
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
Although the law provides for an independent judiciary, the judiciary was corrupt and subject to influence and intimidation. Officials and other influential individuals often subjected judges to coercion.
For example, on June 17, five adolescents–all sons of prominent businessmen and politicians in Kinshasa–were acquitted of all charges despite admitting in court to gang-raping a 13-year-old girl. The boys, ages 14 to 17, were legally culpable by law. A sixth boy was sentenced to prison but was released after three weeks. Following his release, the boy posted on social media that as the son of a prominent politician, he would never go to prison. Local politicians and civil society organizations claimed the families systematically intimidated the victim’s family and used money and political influence to sway the trial.
A shortage of prosecutors and judges hindered the government’s ability to provide expeditious trials, and judges occasionally refused transfers to remote areas where shortages were most acute because the government could not support them there. Authorities routinely did not respect court orders. Disciplinary boards created under the High Council of Magistrates continued to rule on numerous cases of corruption and malpractice each month. Many of these rulings included the firing, suspension, or fining of judges and magistrates.
Military magistrates are responsible for the investigation and prosecution of all crimes allegedly committed by SSF members, whether or not committed in the line of duty. Civilians may be tried in military tribunals if charged with offenses involving firearms. The military justice system often succumbed to political and command interference, and security arrangements for magistrates in areas affected by conflict were inadequate. Justice mechanisms were particularly ineffective for addressing misconduct by mid- and high-ranking officials due to a requirement the judge of a military court must outrank the defendant.
The constitution provides for a presumption of innocence, but this was not always observed. Authorities are required to inform defendants promptly and in detail of the charges against them, with free interpretation as necessary, but this did not always occur. The public may attend trials at the discretion of the presiding judge. Defendants have the right to a trial within 15 days of being charged, but judges may extend this period to a maximum of 45 days. Authorities only occasionally abided by this requirement. The government is not required to provide counsel in most cases, with the exception of murder trials. While the government regularly provided free legal counsel to indigent defendants in cases of capital punishment, lawyers often did not have adequate access to their clients. Defendants have the right to be present and to have a defense attorney represent them. Authorities occasionally disregarded these rights. Authorities generally allowed adequate time to prepare a defense, although there were few resources available. Defendants have the right to confront witnesses against them and to present evidence and witnesses in their own defense, but witnesses often were reluctant to testify due to fear of retaliation. Defendants are not compelled to testify or confess guilt. Defendants have the right to appeal, except in cases involving national security, armed robbery, and smuggling, which the Court of State Security usually adjudicates.
Political Prisoners and Detainees
As of June 30, the United Nations reported there were persons held in detention for their political opinions or legitimate citizens’ activities. These prisoners were all arrested before the beginning of the year.
On August 7, the Congolese Association for Access to Justice reported there were no reports of new political prisoners since President Tshisekedi took office on January 24.
While the government permitted international human rights and humanitarian organizations and MONUSCO access to some of these prisoners, authorities always denied access to detention facilities run by the RG, military intelligence, and the ANR (see section 1.c.).
Amnesty: An estimated 110 political prisoners were released following the issuance of four presidential orders in March. A number of high-profile prisoners were released following these orders, including opposition politicians Jean-Claude Myuambo Kyassa, Gerard Mulumba, and Franck Diongo. According to the United Nations, several political prisoners remained incarcerated as of June 30. Local civil society groups claimed the 28 individuals imprisoned for the assassination of former president Laurent-Desire Kabila were political prisoners.
Civil Judicial Procedures and Remedies
Individuals may seek civil remedies for human rights violations within the civil court system. Most individuals, however, preferred to seek redress in the criminal courts.
f. Arbitrary or Unlawful Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence
Although the law prohibits arbitrary interference with privacy, family, home, or correspondence, the SSF routinely ignored these provisions. The SSF harassed and robbed civilians, entered and searched homes and vehicles without warrants, and looted homes, businesses, and schools. Family members were often punished for offenses allegedly committed by their relatives. The United Nations reported that as of July 31, the SSF had committed 357 violations of the right to property.
g. Abuses in Internal Conflict
Conflicts continued in some of the eastern provinces, particularly North Kivu, South Kivu, Tanganyika, Ituri, Upper Uele, Lower Uele, and provinces in the Kasai region (Kasai Central, Kasai, Kasai Oriental, Sankuru, and Lomami Provinces). IAGs such as the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), ADF, National Council for the Renewal of Democracy , National Forces of Liberation, and Lord’s Resistance Army, as well as indigenous IAGs such as the Nduma Defense of Congo-Renewal (NDC-R), Kamuina Nsapu, Bana Mura, and various Mai Mai (local militia) groups continued to perpetrate violence against civilians. Many of the IAGs originated in foreign countries or were predominantly composed of noncitizens. In June the UN Group of Experts (UNGOE) reported ISIS had claimed an attack by the ADF on Congolese territory in April.
Conflict among armed groups caused significant population displacement and led to many human rights violations. In North Kivu, the NDC-R, Mai Mai Mazembe, ADF, FDLR as well as a host of smaller armed groups fought among themselves and caused significant population displacements as they fought over territory. There were reports some elements within the FARDC collaborated with the NDC-R.
In August, HRW and the Congo Research Group released a report on the past two years of conflict in North and South Kivu Provinces. The report described the eastern part of the country as one of the most violent places in the world, and it identified 1,897 civilian deaths as a result of fighting in the region between June 2017 and June 26, 2019. During the same period, 3,316 persons were abducted or kidnapped. The report identified Beni Territory, North Kivu Province, as the epicenter of violence in the east, driven largely by the presence of the ADF, which was responsible for at least 272 civilian deaths during the same period. The report’s authors indicated, however, that many of the 223 victims of unattributed attacks were likely the result of the ADF as well. The FARDC and MONUSCO peacekeepers also suffered losses in the area. A total of 723 FARDC soldiers were killed in North and South Kivu during the two-year period, and 28 MONUSCO peacekeepers were killed in Beni Territory alone since 2015.
There were credible reports that the IAGs and SSF perpetrated serious human rights violations and abuses during internal conflicts.
MONUSCO reported that on May 1, in Nyamagana, North Kivu, FARDC soldiers killed four men and one woman in retaliation against the civilian population after a failed military operation against the armed group Nyatura Collective of Movements for Change.
Armed groups also perpetrated serious human rights violations and abuses.
The UNJHRO reported that on January 12, six persons were shot and killed by NDC-R combatants. The NDC-R allegedly told villagers they had voted wrong in the presidential election and told them to return to Rwanda. According to the United Nations, the NDC-R group summarily executed at least 85 persons as of July 31. The UNGOE reported in June the FARDC was actively collaborating with the NDC-R in the Masisi Territory of North Kivu. According to the UNGOE, the FARDC tolerated the free movement of NDC-R elements and the use of FARDC uniforms by NDC-R fighters. There were no reports of FARDC operations against the NDC-R as of June 6.
Through July attacks attributed to the ADF killed more than 109 civilians. From July 18 to July 28, a series of ADF attacks in North Kivu resulted in at least 29 deaths. The group targeted civilians working in their fields, hacking them to death with machetes.
In Ituri Province a series of attacks in June by unidentified local militias against villages resulted in an estimated 160 deaths and caused widespread displacement since the local population feared a return of intercommunity fighting reminiscent of the 2001-03 Ituri War. Approximately 350,000 persons were displaced by the June violence, including an estimated 8,650 refugees who fled to Uganda.
The trial of Nduma Defense of Congo (NDC) founder Ntabo Ntaberi Sheka for war crimes, mass rape, recruitment of child soldiers, murder, and multiple other crimes continued during the year. Sheka surrendered to MONUSCO in 2017, and his trial started in November 2018, completing its 42nd session in June. The trial was expected to continue throughout the year with more than 100 witnesses yet to testify. While NGO representatives commended the high quality of evidence presented at the trial, they also raised concerns over its slow pace, witness intimidation, and the lack of appeals process under the law for war crimes trials.
The government took military action against several major IAGs. On September 17, during an operation in Rutshuru Territory in North Kivu Province, security forces killed FDLR leader Sylvestre Mudacumura, an alleged war criminal for whom the International Criminal Court (ICC) had issued an arrest warrant in 2012.
Operational cooperation between MONUSCO and the government continued in the east but not in the Kasai region, where FARDC troops were accused of serious human rights abuses that a UN report stated could amount to crimes against humanity. The MONUSCO Force Intervention Brigade supported FARDC troops who were under attack by the ADF on January 8 near a MONUSCO base in Mavivi, North Kivu. During the attack ADF assailants killed 10 civilians and abducted one other.
On March 29, the UN Security Council extended MONUSCO’s mandate until December 20 and renewed the Force Intervention Brigade to neutralize armed groups. The mandate welcomed the actions taken by President Tshisekedi to end restrictions on political space and stressed the need for the government to end impunity for human rights violations by the SSF. The mandate also called for an eventual drawdown of UN presence and requested an official exit strategy by October 20. As of August, MONUSCO consisted of approximately 16,760 peacekeepers, military observers, and police.
Killings: The UNJHRO reported that on average, three civilians were killed every day in conflict-affected areas.
As of July 31, the United Nations reported IAGs summarily executed 505 civilians, including 129 women. The ADF was responsible for at least 109 killings in North Kivu, largely during ambushes and attacks against villages targeting civilians. Mai Mai groups summarily executed 50 civilians in conflict-affected provinces, and the FDLR summarily executed at least 76 civilians, including 26 women and two children. MONUSCO reported that on March 2, combatants of the FDLR abducted a man from his private residence in Goma, North Kivu Province. While leaving the area, the combatants fired on a group of persons at a nearby pharmacy, killing three persons and wounding two others. The perpetrators also shot and killed a streetside vendor and a motorcyclist. Later that day, the FDLR combatants abducted a civilian in Nyiragongo Territory. Both civilians were taken to an FDLR safe haven in Virunga National Park and released the following day after paying a ransom.
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights reported that between June 10 and June 13, individuals from the Lendu ethnic group in Ituri Province killed at least 117 members of the Hema and Alur communities and dumped their bodies in mass graves. A UN fact-finding mission confirmed that several massacres had taken place in Djugu and Mahagi territories. The report suggested that additional political and economic motives beyond community membership underlay the assaults.
Abductions: UN agencies and NGOs reported IAGs abducted individuals, generally to serve as porters or guides or to demand ransom for them. As of July 31, the United Nations reported IAGs abducted 46 children. The ADF was the greatest perpetrator of child abductions. The group routinely abducted men, women, and children in North Kivu, and the UNGOE reported abductions were one of the group’s main means of recruitment and that the ADF regularly engaged in forced marriage. On June 3, in Beni, North Kivu Province, at least 10 persons, including two children, were abducted by the ADF. Eight men and four women were also shot and killed by ADF combatants during the attack when they attempted to escape.
MONUSCO reported that from March 1 to May 1 in Rutshuru Territory, North Kivu Province, at least 11 persons were shot and killed, and 22 others were abducted by armed men in military uniforms. Families of the abducted individuals paid more than nine million Congolese francs ($5,300) in ransom payments. MONUSCO also documented that on May 4, 25 women were abducted in their fields by FDLR combatants in Rutshuru. While 24 of these women were released, one of them was kept captive allegedly because she came from a wealthy family, and the perpetrators demanded a ransom.
As of August 28, Invisible Children’s Crisis Tracker documented 23 killings and 180 abductions, including the abduction of 22 children, in Upper Uele and Lower Uele Provinces. The Lord’s Resistance Army was responsible for 157 of the abductions.
Physical Abuse, Punishment, and Torture: UN agencies and NGOs reported that through June 30, the SSF arrested, illegally detained, raped, and tortured at least 814 civilians, including 170 women and 33 children, in conflict-affected areas. During this period the FARDC forced 46 civilians, including one woman and one child, into labor. The government disputed these numbers.
MONUSCO reported that on February 21, in Makungu, South Kivu Province, a 62-year-old woman was raped and then killed by strangulation by soldiers of the 221st FARDC battalion. The victim was alone in her home when four alleged perpetrators broke into the house while two others remained outside. Two alleged perpetrators subdued the victim while two others raped her. The victim was strangled when she shouted to alert the neighbors.
Child Soldiers: According to the United Nations, at least 1,139 children were released from IAGs during the one-year period ending July 31. The majority came from the Kamwina Nsapu militia, which surrendered en masse after President Tshisekedi’s inauguration in January. The UNJHRO reported 46 children were abducted by IAGs during this same period, although it was unclear if they were used as child soldiers. There were no incidents of the FARDC using children.
The UNGOE reported that as of June 6, the Mai-Mai group Patriotic Union for Liberation of Congo (UPLC) continued to forcibly recruit children from nearby villages. Before combat operations, the UPLC allegedly forced child recruits to administer ritual potions to the combatants. The potion was believed to render combatants invincible, and the child recruits had to carry buckets of the potion during UPLC operations.
The government continued to work with MONUSCO to end the use of child soldiers by IAGs. On July 29, the UPLC signed a unilateral declaration committing to end and prevent child recruitment. MONUSCO certified the release of 53 children from the group. As of August 19, 24 groups had pledged not to recruit or use children.
The ADF continued to kidnap children and use them as combatants.
Also see the Department of State’s annual Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.
Other Conflict-related Abuse: Fighting between the FARDC and IAGs as well as among IAGs continued to displace populations and limit humanitarian access, particularly in Ituri Province; Rutshuru, Masisi, Walikale, Lubero, Beni, and Nyiragongo territories in North Kivu Province; South Kivu Province; Maniema Province; and Tanganyika Province.
In North Kivu, South Kivu, East Kasai, and Upper Katanga Provinces, both IAGs and elements of the FARDC 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.
The illegal trade in minerals was both a symptom and a cause of weak governance. It illegally financed IAGs and individual elements of the SSF 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, Upper Katanga, and Maniema Provinces. Both elements of the SSF and certain IAGs continued to control, extort, and threaten remote mining areas in North Kivu, South Kivu, Ituri, Maniema, the Kasai region, and Haut Katanga Provinces.
The law prohibits the FARDC from engaging in mineral trade, but the government did not effectively enforce the law. Criminal involvement by some FARDC units and IAGs included protection rackets, extortion, and theft. The International Peace Information Service (IPIS), a Belgian research group, reported that in the trading hub of Itebero, North Kivu Province, traders paid $10 per ton of coltan to the president of the local trading association, who distributed this money to the FARDC, ANR, and Directorate General for Migration. Individual FARDC commanders also sometimes appointed civilians with no overt military connection to covertly manage their interests at mining sites.
The UNGOE reported several IAGs and elements of the FARDC profited from illegal trade and exploitation in the minerals sector (see section 4). The UNGOE reported a large part of the gold that was allegedly sourced from Rwanda and Uganda was obtained fraudulently in neighboring countries, including the Democratic Republic of the Congo. For example, it documented that 660 pounds of undeclared gold transited each month from Bukavu to Rwanda and Burundi. The group also documented a smuggling operation of illegally sourced gold that was ultimately sold in Uganda and the United Arab Emirates.
Health centers and Ebola health-care responders in the Butembo region of North Kivu were repeatedly targeted by armed assailants, including local Mai-Mai militias. Local populations were often subject to conspiracy theories and misinformation from militias claiming that health workers were actually there to spread the Ebola virus. Through July the World Health Organization reported nearly 200 attacks on health centers and Ebola responders in North Kivu and Ituri. On April 19, a doctor working for the organization was killed at Butembo University Hospital.