Main takeaways of the new Group of Experts report

This year’s final report of the UN group of expert monitoring the Democratic Republic of the Congo has just been released As in previous years, it contains a lot of important and relevant information on current developments in the country. In terms of armed groups, FDLR and ADF are under increased scrutiny like in previous years, but the report also offers interesting research on some smaller, local actors incl. Mayi Mayi Charles (AFARPM), the nebulous relationship of NDC’s Guidon wing and UPDI in southern Lubero – an area under growing distress again in the past few days – as well as updates on the LRA and smaller armed groups in Rutshuru and Masisi. Given the continuation of instability in neighbouring Burundi, the group also investigated Burundian actors operating on Congolese territory. Besides a further spotlight on gold networks, the report also features research into the kidnappings in North Kivu the violence around Beni. Here is to a shorthand for a selection of the report’s main findings:

  1. Notwithstanding its recent split – not covered by the reporting period – the FDLR has been further losing strength, with their size ranging roughly around an estimated 1500 elements. The ongoing Sukola II operations of the Congolese army have not only dislodged the militia from its former strongholds (around Ihula), it might also have coincided with Gen. Mudacumura’s loss of commanding power within the organisation. The report also indicates dynamics of recruitment and a potentially more aggressive stance of the group, the more it is under threat. The case study on Buleusa in particularly enlightening given the insights it offers on FDLR’s economic functioning.
  2. With Burundi’s political crisis intensifying throughout the last 12 months, DRC’s Uvira and Fizi territories have again become a more frequently used rear-base for armed Burundian opposition groups. The group mentions two examples: The FNL is a longstanding Burundian militia which has been having at least one faction operating from/in eastern DRC for the past couple of years. The report focuses on the Nzabampema wing of FNL. The second one is a new movement known under different names (RED-Tabara, FRONABU-Tabara) which appears to be linked to the MSD political party. Other groups, incl. the FOREBU rebellion, do not seem to operate on DRC soil. In terms of logistics, the group traces back recruitment and supply lines including Burundi, DRC, and Rwanda, however without establishing any links with the respective governments.
  3. As recent reports have been suggesting, the UN experts also find a very diversified topography of violence around the different massacres in Beni territory. While some of them appear to be carried out by one of the currently five main ADF successor/splinter groups (Mwalika, Baluku, Feez, Abialose, and Matata), the group has found other actors are complicit in some of the attacks. The group zooms in on the Mwalika faction – a group that not classically originates from ADF-NALU but finds it roots in the ex-APC. Following the group, it also seems that ADF-Mwalika entertained the most evident contact to army elements.
  4. In terms of Congolese armed groups, the group concludes that NDC-Renové has been a key actor in the latest months of anti-FDLR operations, eventually moving to southern Lubero where partially merged with the UPDI, a local militia allegedly involved in the tit-for-tat killings in and around Miriki early 2016. According to the group, NDC-R managed to kill Musare, the leader of FDLR’s biggest splinter faction called RUD. The report also mentions some of the political Hutu-Nande tensions personified by (community) leaders. Another focus lies on the successor to the notorious Mayi Mayi Shetani (FPD), the Mayi Mayi Charles (AFARPM) operate as a rather decentralised movement at the southern shores of Lake Edward. The group provides a good case study of how this cluster of small militias sustains itself with fishery, taxation and other activities. Finally, the group studies Rutshuru-based mobilisation under the label of FPP, considering the outfit a merger of foreign combatants (mostly RUD and Soki) and Congolese ones.
  5. In terms of minerals, the Group casts a more worried look at the long-term viability of 3T traceability and certification, given various threats undermining its current credibility. However, a much more detailed focus goes to gold where the groups finds that classic exportation routes (via Burundi and Uganda – depending on the geographic source of the gold) maintain their role. The group also finds involvement of various regular and irregular security forces engaging along the supply chain.
  6. Finally, it is noteworthy that the group estimates a big part of the arms and ammunition circulating across armed groups and other networks in the region being usual types and patterns.
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