a. Arbitrary Deprivation of Life and Other Unlawful or Politically Motivated Killings
There were numerous reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings. Military courts had primary responsibility for investigating whether security force killings were justified and for pursuing prosecutions. Although the military justice system convicted some members of state security forces (SSF) responsible for human rights abuses, impunity remained a serious problem. The government maintained joint human rights committees with the UN 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). The UN Joint Human Rights Office (UNJHRO) reported that from January to June, 1,156 men, 268 women, and 129 children were victims of extrajudicial executions, the majority occurring in conflict-affected provinces and perpetrated by armed groups.
The SSF were accused of, tried for, and convicted of arbitrary or unlawful killings throughout the first half of the year, mostly in conflict-affected provinces such as Maniema, South Kivu, Ituri, Tanganyika, and North Kivu, and in operations against armed groups. Some arbitrary killings in North Kivu and Ituri Provinces under the state of siege appeared designed to suppress freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. For example, in January, a Congolese National Police (PNC) officer shot and killed Mumbere Ushindi, a civil society activist age 22 with the organization Fight for Change (LUCHA), in Beni, North Kivu Province while attempting to break up a protest against the state of siege. A day prior to the protest, Beni police commander Colonel Jean-Sebastien Kahuma advised protesters to stay home, saying, “We don’t need human rights defenders, I am the president of human rights.” As of November, there had been no prosecutions in the case of Ushindi’s killing.
Marginalized racial and ethnic communities were both perpetrators and victims of arbitrary and unlawful killings. Ongoing conflict with armed groups, tensions concerning land rights, and migration exacerbated long-standing divisions regarding ethnicity (see section 6, Systematic Racial or Ethnic Violence and Discrimination). There were reports that the SSF perpetrated, threatened, and condoned violence against marginalized ethnic communities.
In April the NGO Minority Rights Group (MRG) issued a report alleging that in July 2021, eco-guards working as part of a joint operation with the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC) killed two Indigenous Batwa while attempting to oust them from villages that lied within the borders of Kahuzi-Biega National Park (KBNP). The report also claimed that eco-guards had attacked Batwa villages in KBNP over a period of many months, burning homes, raping women, and executing civilians. In April the Congolese National Institute for Environmental Conservation (ICCN), which oversees the eco-guards, set up an inquiry commission to investigate the claims in the MRG report. In a May report responding to the MRG allegations, the ICCN conceded that eco-guards were present and conducted operations to expel civilians from illegally occupied protected land in the locations and on the dates in question in the MRG report. The ICCN report denied all allegations of arbitrary killings and argued that the eco-guards did not engage in systematic attacks against civilians. As of November, MONUSCO was working with a senior military prosecutor to investigate the claims.
In June credible reports of Rwandan support to the March 23 Movement (M23) rebel group contributed to violence and discrimination against Rwandaphones and those with a perceived sympathy for Rwanda or M23 (see section 6, Systematic Racial or Ethnic Violence and Discrimination). Rwandaphone populations (both Kinyarwanda and Kirundi speakers) were also accused of perpetrating violence against other ethnic communities. In June local media reported that a mob brutalized, lynched, and burned a Rwandaphone man in Kalima, Maniema Province due to his Banyamulenge (Congolese Tutsi) ethnicity following a march to show support for the FARDC. As of September, provincial authorities had not shared the findings of their investigation into the killing.
The UNJHRO continued to document appointments to command positions, including for military operations, of FARDC and PNC officers against whom there were serious allegations that they bore responsibility – direct or command responsibility – for human rights abuses.
On May 11, the High Military Court in Kinshasa upheld the guilty verdicts of PNC Senior Commissioner Christian Kenga and Deputy Commissioner Jacques Mugabo in the trial of the 2010 killing of Floribert Chebeya, the prominent executive director of the human rights NGO Voice of the Voiceless (VSV), and disappearance of his driver and VSV member Fidele Bazana in Kinshasa. The court commuted Kenga Kenga’s sentence from death to life imprisonment and sentenced Mugabo to 12 years in prison. The court acquitted police officer Paul Mwilambwe. PNC Inspector General John Numbi, who was implicated in the killings and reportedly fled the country in 2021, remained at large at year’s end.
Armed groups committed arbitrary and unlawful killings throughout the year (see section 1.g.).
There were reports of disappearances attributable to the SSF during the year. Authorities often refused to acknowledge the detention of suspects and sometimes detained suspects in unofficial facilities, including on military bases and in detention facilities operated by the National Intelligence Agency (ANR). The whereabouts of some civil society activists and civilians arrested by the SSF remained unknown for long periods. Despite the president’s promise to grant the United Nations access to all detention facilities, some ANR prisons remained hidden and impossible for independent observers to access.
Armed groups abducted 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, and Other Related Abuses
The law criminalizes torture, but there were credible reports the SSF continued to abuse civilians, particularly detainees and prisoners. There were also credible reports that SSF subjected individuals, including minority groups and journalists, to cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment and rape and sexual violence. For example, the NGO Observatory for the Freedom of the Press in Africa reported that on May 19, ANR agents stripped and beat three journalists (Cedar Sabiti Amuri, Junior Batu Ngole, and Samuel Matela) with batons at the ANR headquarters in Boende, Tshuapa Province, after accusing them of contempt of the ANR for a broadcast the day prior in which the journalists criticized ANR agents’ alleged surveillance of students at exam centers. The agents allegedly deprived the journalists of food for the rest of the day and night, and then presented them to the Boende High Court the following day, where a judge ordered their unconditional release.
Security forces abused children who lived or worked on the streets (see section 6, Children, Displaced Children).
Impunity among the SSF for mistreatment was a problem, although the government continued to make limited progress in holding security forces accountable for human rights abuses. The UNJHRO reported that during the first half of the year, 12 PNC officers, 41 FARDC soldiers, and 102 members of armed groups were convicted of acts constituting human rights abuses, reflecting efforts by judicial authorities to combat impunity.
During the year the government acted to increase respect for human rights by the security forces. The PNC has a special Child Protection and Sexual Violence Prevention Squadron, and much police training addressed sexual and gender-based violence, such as mining police training in North and South Kivu and community policing programs in Haut-Katanga and Eastern Kasai Provinces. The UNJHRO supported capacity-building sessions on international human rights law, international humanitarian law, and the prevention of conflict-related sexual violence for FARDC and PNC officials. The UNJHRO also contributed to FARDC and PNC training activities as part of a campaign for child protection in armed conflict and the fight against sexual and gender-based violence.
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. Harsher conditions prevailed in small detention centers run by the ANR, Republican Guard, or other security forces, which often detained prisoners for lengthy pretrial periods without providing them access to family or legal counsel.
Abusive 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. Most prisons were understaffed, undersupplied, and poorly maintained, leading to corruption and poor control of the prison population, as well as prison escapes. The UNJHRO reported that detention center conditions deteriorated during the year, particularly those in western provinces, where increases in the prison population and a lack of upkeep contributed to the decay. The UNJHRO recorded a total of 133 deaths in detention through June, mostly due to malnutrition, poor hygiene, lack of access to medical care, and mistreatment.
Central prison facilities were severely overcrowded, with an estimated occupancy rate of 200 percent of capacity; some prisons operated with an estimated occupancy rate more than 500 percent. For example, Makala Central Prison in Kinshasa, constructed in 1958 to hold 1,500 prisoners, held as many as 9,652 inmates simultaneously during the year. In some cases, prison authorities released detainees being held on minor charges, such as fraud, to decongest the prisons.
Authorities rarely separated pretrial detainees from convicted prisoners. Authorities generally confined men and women in separate areas but often held juveniles with adults, especially women with girls. Women were sometimes imprisoned with their children. International observers noted that children who had been survivors of sexual violence and were often separated from their families in the eastern conflict zones were sometimes detained with adults.
Local media reported that the Ministry of Justice, which oversees prisons, often had insufficient funds to pay for food or medical care for inmates, who instead relied on relatives, NGOs, and church groups to provide them sustenance. Because funds often did not reach prisons in the provinces in a timely manner, there were gaps in food distribution. In February, civil society organizations in North Kivu called for an investigation by the General Inspectorate of Finance (IGF) into the Ministry of Justice’s management of funds allocated for prisons.
Generally medical doctors at the prisons did not receive salaries, leading them to work elsewhere to make money. Prisons rarely had budgets for in-house pharmacies, and while prisoners sometimes obtained medication such as pain relievers, prescription medication was generally unavailable, meaning prisoners had to rely on their families. Prisoners who were sick and needed to be transferred required the signatures of all designated officials for the transfer. Sick prisoners were sometimes held in small isolation cells for long periods without an opportunity for movement, exercise, or use of showers or sanitary facilities.
Guards, psychologists, and cooks also generally did not receive salaries, which led to a variety of buying and selling arrangements. Human rights observers reported that the salaries went to those who were retired and no longer working in the prisons. In the provinces there were reports of extortion, where families had to provide guards with food to visit detained family members. Directors and staff generally operated prisons for profit, selling sleeping arrangements to the highest bidders and requiring payment for family visits.
Violence continued to be a problem in certain prisons. According to human rights observers, prisoners themselves were sometimes given the responsibility to maintain order and mistreated others. In January, the court in Lubumbashi found 10 male inmates in Kasapa Central Prison guilty of rape, arson, and attempted escape during the 2020 prison riot that led to mass violence. The defendants were sentenced to 15 years of additional prison time and ordered to pay 800,000 Congolese francs ($400) each to the 20 women survivors of sexual assault who took part in the trial. During the riot, prisoners chased out the guards, set fire to the buildings, and attacked and raped approximately 37 women over the course of three days before some semblance of order was restored. Many of these women never received adequate medical or psychological care. A prominent human rights observer noted in 2021 that rape of new male prisoners was considered initiation in one prison.
Administration: Authorities denied access to visitors for some inmates and often did not permit inmates to contact or submit complaints to judicial authorities. Authorities rarely conducted investigations into credible allegations of mistreatment. The UNJHRO pointed to the lack of experience of authorities in recently created provinces as a threat to human rights in the provinces.
Independent Monitoring: The government regularly allowed the International Committee of the Red Cross, MONUSCO, and NGOs access to official detention facilities maintained by the Ministry of Justice, but it sometimes denied access to facilities run by the Republican Guard, ANR, and military intelligence services.
d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention
The law prohibits arbitrary arrest or detention and provides for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of their arrest or detention in court. The government generally did not observe these requirements (see section 1.e.).
Arrest Procedures and Treatment of Detainees
By law arrests for offenses punishable if convicted 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 reasons 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 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 Republican Guard, 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.).
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). Security forces regularly held protesters and civil society activists incommunicado and without charge for extended periods. Police sometimes arbitrarily arrested and detained persons without filing charges to extort money from family members or because administrative systems were not well established. Persons without national identification cards were sometimes arbitrarily arrested by the SSF.
On February 5, ANR agents arrested former National Security Advisor Francois Beya without formal charges while investigating alleged efforts to undermine national security. On June 3, after four months in pretrial detention at Makala Central Prison in Kinshasa, Beya was formally charged with conspiracy and offenses against the head of state. On August 16, the High Military Court granted Beya provisional release due to health reasons.
Pretrial Detention: Prolonged pretrial detention, ranging from months to years, remained a problem. Those who should go before the magistrate were often detained locally in a clandestine holding facility and kept there for many months, leaving their families to presume they were dead. The Ministry of Human Rights, the NGO World Prison Brief, and local human rights monitors estimated that between 70 and 80 percent of the prison population was in pretrial detention. Judicial inefficiency, administrative obstacles, corruption, and staff shortages also caused trial delays. In many cases, the length of pretrial detention equaled or exceeded the maximum sentence for the alleged crime.
The state of siege hindered prison administration in the affected eastern provinces and resulted in long pretrial detention periods. Military courts and tribunals struggled to handle criminal cases transferred from civilian courts. Consequently, the processing of cases lagged, and dozens of individuals remained in pretrial detention, without having their cases heard. Severe prison overcrowding quickly followed, which in turn led to extremely poor conditions and malnutrition in the prisons.
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
Although the law provides for an independent judiciary, the judiciary was corrupt and subject to influence and intimidation. Government officials and other influential individuals often subjected judges, prosecutors, or defense attorneys to coercion.
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 sufficiently support judges in these areas. The Ministry of Human Rights reported in 2021 that 90 percent of cases lacked magistrates. Authorities routinely did not respect court orders. Disciplinary boards created under the High Council of Magistrates continued to rule on cases of corruption and malpractice. 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 committed in the line of duty or not. 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 conflict areas 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 have either the same or a higher rank than the defendant.
The constitution provides for the right to a fair and public trial, an independent judiciary, and a presumption of innocence on the part of an accused person, but these rights were 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. 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, except in murder trials. The government did not regularly provide free legal counsel to indigent defendants in capital cases, although lawyers often represented indigent defendants free of charge with the financial support of foreign governments and organizations. 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 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
There were reports of political prisoners or detainees during the year, consisting primarily of individuals arrested under defamation laws for criticizing the actions of government officials. In late July and early August, several opposition party members and supporters were arrested in Kinshasa on separate charges of defamation, public insult, and spreading false rumors. For example, on August 9, the former head of the president’s political party, Union for Democracy and Social Progress, Jean-Marc Kabund, was arrested on the charges of contempt of the head of state, defamation, and spreading false rumors for statements he made during a July 18 press conference in which he called President Tshisekedi “irresponsible” and “a public danger” and accused government officials of lying, manipulation, embezzlement of public funds, and corruption. As of November, Kabund remained at Makala Central Prison, despite an August 12 Court of Cassation ruling that Kabund be remanded to house arrest. Kabund’s trial opened on September 5 in the Court of Cassation and remained pending. Officials, particularly in the provinces under the state of siege, commonly used the charges of contempt, defamation, spreading false rumors, and public insult against persons critical of the government. At least five provincial and national politicians were arrested in North Kivu and Ituri for criticizing the state of siege in the two provinces. In November 2021, ANR agents arrested Luc Malembe, spokesperson for the opposition party Engagement for Citizenship and Development (ECIDe), on charges of spreading false rumors after he posted to social media a publication criticizing the state of siege. After seven months in detention, a civil court judge acquitted Malembe of the charges.
Political prisoners generally faced similar prison conditions as the rest of the general population. While the government permitted international human rights and humanitarian organizations and MONUSCO access to some prisoners, authorities denied access to detention facilities run by the Republican Guard, military intelligence, and the ANR (see section 1.c.).
Amnesty: On June 18, President Tshisekedi granted presidential amnesty to Jacky Ndala, a member of the opposition party Ensemble pour la Republique. Ndala had been sentenced in July 2021 to two years in prison on charges of incitement to civil disobedience for allegedly encouraging Ensemble party members to protest a draft law barring citizens with one non-Congolese parent from presidential office.
Civil Judicial Procedures and Remedies
Individuals may seek civil remedies for human rights abuses within the civil court system. Most individuals, however, preferred to seek redress in the criminal courts. The government at times failed to comply with court decisions pertaining to human rights. Individuals and organizations may appeal adverse domestic decisions domestically or to regional human rights bodies.
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.
g. Conflict-related Abuses
There were credible reports that armed groups and the SSF perpetrated serious human rights abuses during internal conflicts. In the first half of the year, the UNJHRO documented a total of 2,960 human rights abuses in conflict-affected provinces, including North Kivu (1,871), followed by Ituri (485), and to a lesser extent South Kivu, Tanganyika, and Maniema. Conflict-affected provinces accounted for more than 90 percent of all abuses throughout the country. Local NGOs reported that SSF committed abuses under the cover of the state of siege in North Kivu and Ituri Provinces. Armed groups committed approximately 69 percent of documented cases in conflict-affected provinces in the first half of the year according to UNJHRO. Combatants abducted victims for ransom, for forced labor, and in retaliation for suspected collaboration. UNJHRO reported that armed groups used extrajudicial killings as a tactic to force populations to abandon their property, crops, or areas vital for agriculture and mining.
The UN Group of Experts reported in June that members of the Imbonerakure and the Burundian military, Burundi National Defense Force, conducted incursions into South Kivu Province beginning in December 2021, assisted by Congolese armed groups acting as scouts or joining operations against the Burundian armed group Résistance pour un État de Droit (RED-Tabara). The Burundi Human Rights Initiative and local media reported that members of the Imbonerakure, the Burundi National Defense Force, or local allied Congolese armed groups engaged in abuses against Congolese civilians between December 2021 and July including extrajudicial killings, looting, extortion, and forced labor.
The SSF continued fighting armed groups in the east of the country, and conflict among armed groups resulted in significant population displacement and human rights abuses, especially in Ituri and North Kivu Provinces. Among the 15 major armed groups in the country, Nyatura, ISIS-Democratic Republic of the Congo (ISIS-DRC, locally known as the Allied Democratic Forces), and the Cooperative for the Development of the Congo (CODECO) perpetrated the most abuses according to a UNJHRO report covering the first half of the year. A UN Group of Experts report released in June noted that rising tensions since October 2021 between the armed groups CODECO and Zaire contributed to numerous crimes against civilians, particularly in Djugu Territory. Operations by M23, Nyatura, Nduma Defense of Congo-Renewal, the Alliance of Patriots for a Free and Sovereign Congo, the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), and ISIS-DRC caused significant population displacement in North Kivu Province, which experienced 63 percent of all human rights abuses in conflict-affected provinces. CODECO attacks in Ituri also resulted in significant population displacement, particularly in Djugu Territory. In South Kivu Province, there continued to be reports of cycles of retaliatory clashes between armed groups and attacks against civilians in the Hauts-Plateaux of Mwenga, Uvira, and Fizi Territories.
There were credible reports that elements within the FARDC collaborated with some armed groups. For example, on March 29, five FARDC officers, including one lieutenant colonel, were arrested and charged with arms trafficking for allegedly selling guns and ammunition to the armed group CODECO. The officers were presented before the military governor of Ituri; the case remained pending as of August. Additionally in July, the Rwandan government cited an unpublished UN Group of Experts document alleging that the FARDC engaged in fighting against M23 alongside the FDLR and that some FARDC members provided the FDLR with weapons, ammunition, and uniforms.
The government took steps to neutralize armed groups and fight impunity. Operational cooperation between MONUSCO and the government continued in the east. The MONUSCO Force Intervention Brigade supported FARDC troops in North Kivu and southern Ituri Provinces. MONUSCO forces deployed and conducted patrols to protect internally displaced persons (IDPs) from armed group attacks in North Kivu, South Kivu, and Ituri Provinces. The FARDC continued joint operations with Ugandan military forces, the Uganda Peoples’ Defense Force, under Operation Shujaa.
Killings: The UNJHRO reported that 1,505 civilians were killed in conflict-affected provinces in the first six months of the year, of which 123 were children. The armed groups Nyatura, ISIS-DRC, Mai Mai armed groups, and CODECO committed most of these killings and mutilations, while FARDC soldiers and PNC agents contributed to the abuses.
Peacekeepers were also responsible for deliberate killings of civilians and the indiscriminate use of force. On July 31, Tanzanian MONUSCO forces opened fire on civilians at a border crossing with Uganda near Kasindi, North Kivu Province, killing two persons and injuring 15 others. The suspected perpetrators were arrested and removed from their positions with MONUSCO. The troop contributing country in question has responsibility for judicial proceedings, and a joint Democratic Republic of the Congo-MONUSCO investigation into the incident remained pending as of the end of August.
Abductions: UN agencies and NGOs reported armed groups abducted individuals to perform forced labor or guide them, or to ransom them. Armed groups also utilized abductions as reprisal for a victims’ alleged collaboration with the security and defense forces or rival groups, or because of their refusal to pay illegal taxes or to participate in so-called community work. The UNJHRO reported that from January through June, a total of 297 children were abducted from the provinces of North Kivu, Ituri, Tanganyika, South Kivu, and Maniema. Mai Mai armed groups, ISIS-DRC, CODECO, and Nyatura were responsible for most abductions.
Physical Abuse, Punishment, and Torture: Gender-based violence was often used as a tactic of war, and the FARDC, PNC, ANR, armed groups, and civilians perpetrated widespread sexual violence. From January through June, the UNJHRO documented 239 cases of conflict-related sexual violence affecting women and children. Nearly 18 percent of these violent crimes were attributable to state agents, notably FARDC soldiers and PNC agents. UNJHRO found that FARDC soldiers perpetrated sexual violence against 54 survivors (30 women and 24 children) from January through June. Most of the sexual violence attributable to state agents was committed in North and South Kivu Provinces. Physical mistreatment of civilians, prisoners, and injured or sick persons by the government and armed groups was also common.
According to the UN Conduct in UN Field Missions online portal, there were seven allegations of sexual abuse or exploitation committed by MONUSCO personnel during the year. There were also during the year seven UN investigations into allegations of sexual abuse or exploitation. Armed groups also perpetrated numerous incidents of physical abuse and sexual violence.
According to the Conduct in UN Field Missions online portal, there were three open allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse by the country’s peacekeepers deployed to UN peacekeeping missions. Of the 32 allegations against the country’s military personnel deployed to peacekeeping missions from 2015 to the present, the United Nations repatriated six perpetrators, all of whom received prison time upon return to the country. The United Nations and the local government were conducting 20 investigations into allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse perpetrated by non-Congolese MONUSCO forces deployed to the country that remained pending as of August.
In January, the FARDC and PNC disseminated action plans to combat conflict-related sexual violence. As part of the implementation of these action plans, the FARDC and PNC held monthly meetings with UNJHRO beginning in May. The FARDC and PNC collaborated with UNJHRO on training activities as part of a campaign on child protection in armed conflict and gender-based violence in North Kivu. In February, as part of the Joint Technical Working Group, UNJHRO conducted training sessions in Bunia (Ituri) for FARDC and PNC commanders on the mechanisms for prevention and protection of civilians from gender-based violence and the commitments contained in the FARDC and PNC action plans.
Child Soldiers: The U.S. government has determined that the SSF and armed groups in the country had or used child soldiers throughout 2021. The country was also included on the 2022 Child Soldiers Prevention Act list because the FARDC recruited or used child soldiers. Please see the Department of State’s annual Trafficking in Persons Report.
Other Conflict-related Abuse: Armed groups deliberately targeted health-care facilities and medical personnel and intentionally deprived civilian populations of food, water, and humanitarian aid. For example, in July, ISIS-DRC claimed responsibility for an attack on a hospital in Lume, North Kivu Province, which left 13 persons dead, including infants and patients.
Fighting between the FARDC and armed groups as well as among armed groups continued to displace populations and limit humanitarian access, particularly in Ituri, North Kivu, South Kivu, Maniema, and Tanganyika Provinces. The government took steps to assist displaced persons, including by coordinating with humanitarian organizations, UNHCR and MONUSCO on IDP protection and humanitarian assistance.
In North Kivu, South Kivu, Ituri, Kasai-Oriental, and Haut-Katanga Provinces, armed groups 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. Gold, cassiterite (tin ore), coltan (tantalum ore), and wolframite (tungsten ore) were the most exploited minerals, but wildlife products, timber, charcoal, and fish were also sought after.
The illegal trade in minerals financed armed groups and individual elements of the SSF. Both elements of the SSF and certain armed groups continued to control, extort, and threaten remote mining areas in North Kivu, South Kivu, Ituri, Maniema, and Haut Katanga Provinces and the Kasai region (see also section 4).