Armed group biographies

The following is a list of short biographies of over hundred different armed groups active in North and South Kivu by late 2017


Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda (FDLR)-FOCA

The FDLR was created in 2000 when ALiR I and II––the rebellions that emerged out of troops belonging to the defeated, pre-genocide Rwandan army and various affiliated militia––merged. The impetus for the merger was to cast aside their association with the genocide, in which some of its leaders had been implicated. The FDLR is the political wing of the organization; the armed wing is called Forces combattantes Abacunguzi (FOCA). Reaching the peak of its military and economic strength in the early 2000s, the FDLR began to suffer defections, with RUD-Urunana and FDLR-Soki splitting off. This was followed by a series of anti-FDLR military operations conducted by the Congolese army, called Umoja Wetu and Amani Leo, although these were often hampered by FDLR-FARDC collusion.

While the core leadership around the group’s military commander Lieutenant-General Sylvestre Mudacumura – sought on an arrest warrant by the International Criminal Court since 2012 for alleged war crimes committed in eastern Congo – and the group’s political leader Major-General Victor Byiringiro remains intact, the FDLR lost many of its senior commanders through a series of surrenders, captures and killings. In 2016, the FDLR’s most important internal split led to the creation of another breakaway faction, the CNRD-Ubwiyunge. Since then, the FDLR’s activities have largely been limited to western Rutshuru and northern Masisi territories. While the FDLR was estimated to have around 6,500 fighters in 2008, the group’s strength in late 2017 is estimated to be between 500 and 1,000 fighters. The group has also lost control over most of the territory and mining areas it previously controlled. A shortage of ammunition seriously constrains the FDLR’s operational capacity as of late 2017.


Ralliement pour l’unité et la démocratie (RUD)-Urunana

The RUD-Urunana is a splinter faction of the FDLR-FOCA that emerged in 2007 following a leadership quarrel, allegedly over the remuneration of certain units. With a few hundred combatants, Jean-Damascène Ndibabaje, a.k.a. Musare, defected to create the RUD-Urunana, which has since been active in the northern parts of Bwisha and Bwito chefferies in Rutshuru territory.

While the military influence of RUD has gradually declined in recent years, the group has allegedly collaborated with different armed groups including FDLR-FOCA as well as Congolese Hutu militias, including several operating under the Nyatura umbrella, during joint military operations and attacks on civilians. In February 2016, its leader Musare was killed in mysterious circumstances. Local sources allege that his murder was linked to the growing rift between Hutu- and Nande-based armed groups. The group still exists but its strength is marginal compared to the large areas in which it operates.


Conseil national pour le renouveau et la démocratie (CNRD)-Ubwiyunge

Led by Colonel Wilson Irategeka, the CNRD broke off from the FDLR in May 2016 after a long-standing disagreement over political questions, such as the fate of Rwandan refugees in eastern Congo. The CNRD took over all of the FDLR’s South Kivu units. In North Kivu, most of the troops remained with the FDLR, although some went to the CNRD. FOCA and CNRD units have regularly clashed since the CNRD was formed.

The CNRD initially struck up a more moderate stance than the FDLR, supporting negotiations with the Rwandan government and demanding the immediate repatriation of Rwandan refugees. This initially appeared to play in its favor, with various Nyatura groups and the FARDC supporting the CNRD against the FDLR. However, more than a year into its existence, the tide has turned, and support to the CNRD appears to have waned. Congolese authorities arrested several of the CNRD’s senior officers, and the group has also suffered a significant loss of territory it controls in North Kivu. In late 2017, the CNRD is estimated to have around 500 fighters based in South Kivu between the Itombwe mountains and the area around Kilembwe in western Fizi territory and in North Kivu to the north of Mweso village.


Kambale (ex-Soki, defunct)

In 2006, an FDLR officer called Sangano Mushuke, a.k.a. Soki, split off to form his own, small group in northern Rutshuru. The group never controlled much territory and was known for local banditry. In 2013, M23 fighters killed its leader, and the group was taken over by a leader known as Kambale. As of mid-2017 it was unclear whether the group still existed.


Forces populaires burundaises (FPB, ex-Forces républicaines du Burundi)

Created in 2016 as FOREBU (Forces républicaines du Burundi), the FPB currently represents the most serious attempt of armed opposition to the Burundian government of President Pierre Nkurunziza. Congo’s small eastern neighbour has descended into political crisis since April 2015, when Nkurunziza announced his bid for a disputed third term, despite the two-term limit set forth in the 2000 Arusha Accords. Senior members of the Conseil national pour la défense de la démocratie-Forces de défense de la démocratie (CNDD-FDD) ruling party defected and, along with opposition members and dissidents from the security forces, launched an armed insurgency with bases in South Kivu. This included FOREBU, which emerged around a group of disgruntled army officers and former allies of Nkurunziza. Its current bases in eastern Congo are in the Moyens Plateaux of Uvira and Fizi territories, and the group also operates clandestinely inside Burundi.

In August 2017, the group underwent a name and leadership change after a struggle within FOREBU. General Jérémie Ntiranyibagira is now the leader of FPB, but it is not clear whether he commands all former FOREBU troops in eastern Congo given that some troops loyal to Colonel Edouard Nshimirimana are reportedly operating independently. In October 2017, both Ntiranyibagira and Nshimirimana were allegedly detained by Burundian security services in Tanzania.


Résistance pour un État de droit (RED)-Tabara

Also known as FRONABU-Tabara, this was the first Burundian group to set up a rear base in eastern Congo following the re-election of Burundian President Nkurunziza in 2015. Originating from the militant wing of Alexis Sinduhije’s Mouvement pour la solidarité et la démocratie (MSD) opposition party, RED-Tabara recruits benefitted from military training in Rwanda before crossing into the Ruzizi Plain.

Increased international scrutiny over their recruitment and training in Rwanda, as well as their involvement in conflicts in the Ruzizi plain, weakened the RED-Tabara. Nonetheless, its presence prompted the Burundian army to support local Congolese militias against them in the Ruzizi plain. While relations between RED and the FPB were initially strained, they have recently improved.


Nduma Defence of Congo (NDC)

Created by Sheka Ntabo Ntaberi, a former mineral trader in Walikale territory, Nduma Defence of Congo was one of the main Mai-Mai groups to emerge from the Nyanga community in recent years. Though its stated objectives include demands for greater development and better working conditions for artisanal miners, Sheka’s group has become notorious for serious human rights violations. It was initially based around the mining area of Bisie in central Walikale territory, but quickly gravitated eastward, establishing its stronghold near Pinga, bordering Masisi territory.

In 2015, Sheka’s second-in-command Guidon Shimiray, a former FARDC officer, defected with most of the group’s combatants, citing disagreements with his former superior as the main reason for the split. Since then, Sheka’s faction has lost influence and military power. The NDC’s decline was aggravated by clashes with Guidon’s group, eventually leading to Sheka’s surrender to MONUSCO in mid-2017. It is not clear whether his group still exists.


Nduma Defence of Congo-Rénové (NDC-R)

The NDC-R was created by Guidon Shimiray Mwissa in 2015. After consolidating power around Sheka’s former strongholds in northeastern Walikale territory, Guidon’s faction began attacking the FDLR and managed to gain control over numerous mining sites. In coalition with various Nande and Kobo militias under the umbrella term Mai-Mai Mazembe, including the now defunct Union des patriotes pour la défense des innocents (UPDI), Guidon pushed the FDLR out of most of northeastern Walikale.

Most of these alliances fizzled out by mid-2017, leading to regular skirmishes between Guidon’s troops and various Mazembe factions southwestern Lubero territory. Since 2016, Guidon has expanded his zone of influence into southern Lubero where his group became involved in the lucrative gold trade in areas previously controlled by FDLR and Lafontaine’s Union des patriotes congolais pour la paix (UPCP). The NDC-R is known for its extortive taxation practices and extensive recruitment of children, and the group has repeatedly been accused of receiving FARDC support in its military campaigns.


Nyatura groups

Numerous Nyatura factions are currently active in Masisi and western Rutshuru territories. While the term Nyatura (‘those who hit hard’ in Kinyarwanda) emerged in association with armed mobilization in the Congolese Hutu community around 2011, Nyatura groups have their roots in the armed mobilization of the early 1990s, including the Mutuelle agricole des Virunga (MAGRIVI) combatants, the Mongols and later the Hutu branch of Patriotes résistants congolais (PARECO). Most Nyatura groups claim to protect the Congolese Hutu population from other Mai Mai groups or attacks by the Congolese army.

While many Nyatura groups operate independently, some have entered into coalitions brokered by politicians or the FDLR or negotiated locally. In late 2017, around 15 different Nyatura factions are active. Some Nyatura groups are also part of broader, though ill-defined, coalitions including the Alliance des Patriotes pour la restauration de la démocratie au Congo (APRDC) led by a lawyer named Benjamin Ndikuyeze and the Coalition des mouvements pour le changement (CMC) led by Jean-Claude Habyarimana, alias Jules Mulumba. Both umbrella movements are suspected to have emerged under influence of FDLR leaders.


a) Nyatura John Love

This Nyatura faction was created in 2016 by Muhawenimana Bunombe, a.k.a. John Love. John Love is a Congolese school teacher from the Hutu community who used to run a small computer shop in Nyanzale, western Rutshuru territory. He joined the FDLR and repaired the group’s computers while undergoing military training. With the blessing of senior FDLR commanders, he later created his own militia which operates around Muriki in Rutshuru territory with around 100 combatants. John Love’s group cooperates with Dominique Ndaruhutse’s Nyatura-FPC and is part of the CMC coalition. In 2016 and 2017, it engaged in serious fighting against the NDC-R and different Mazembe factions in northern Bwito chefferie, Rutshuru territory, often with tacit FDLR support.

b) Nyatura Domi/Nyatura-FPC

The Nyatura Domi faction, also known as the Nyatura-Forces de patriotes congolais (Nyatura-FPC), is led by Dominique Ndaruhutse, a.k.a. Domi. It emerged between 2013 and 2014 because of tensions between Nyatura factions led by Muchoma and Bapfakururimi, both of whom later demobilized. Like John Love, Domi’s group is also part of the CMC coalition which appears to be part of the FDLR’s strategy to partner with local armed groups. Domi’s zone of influence lies in the Bukombo groupement in southern Bwito chefferie of Rutshuru territory, butting up against John Love’s territory to the north. He commands around 150 troops.

c) Nyatura Benjamin/Nyatura-APRDC

Based in northern Masisi, this Nyatura group is led by Benjamin Ndikuyeze and appears to be part of the CMC coalition.

d) Nyatura Niyonzimana/Nyatura-FDP

Known as Forces de défense du peuple (FPD), the group is led by Jean Niyonzimana and operates mainly to the north of Nyamulagira volcano in Rutshuru territory. Like the Domi and John Love factions, it forms part of the CMC coalition.

e) Nyatura Kasongo/Nyatura-FDDH or Groupe de Sécurité

Kasongo Kalamo is the leader of one of the oldest Nyatura groups, which he established around 2011. Initially known as Forces de défense pour les droits de l’homme (FDDH), his group later changed its name to Groupe de sécurité and integrated other Nyatura factions, including the groups formerly led by Ngwiti (based near Busumba) and Noheri (based near Mweso). Kasongo’s stronghold extends across the southern side of the Kitchanga-Mweso-Kashuga road in Masisi’s Bashali-Mokoto chefferie. While Kasongo’s troop strength varies, he rarely commands more than 250 combatants. Since 2011, Kasongo has brokered volatile alliances with numerous actors, including other Nyatura factions, the FARDC, APCLS, FDLR and CNRD. By early 2017, however, his group was acting mostly alone, fighting CNRD without necessarily allying with FDLR.

f) Nyatura Jean-Marie

This small group is located around Mpati and Busihe in northern Masisi territory. The group’s leader, known as Jean-Marie, has allegedly adhered to the CMC coalition.

g) Nyatura Kavumbi

Nyatura Kavumbi is based around the village of Kahira in central Masisi territory. It recently joined the Groupe de sécurité led by Kasongo Kalamo.

h) Nyatura Kigingi/Nyatura MRCCV or FPUCC

The Nyatura Mouvement des residents congolais pour un changement vital (MRCCV) or Force populaire pour l’unité des communautes congolaises (FPUCC), whose leader is known as Kigingi, is one of the first Nyatura groups to emerge around 2011. The group is based in Katoyi secteur in southwestern Masisi territory.

i) Nyatura Bavakure/Nyatura-JED

This group is led by Faustin Bavakure and is based near Luke in southern Masisi territory. His group is also known as Nyatura-Justice et égalité pour la démocratie (JED).

j) Nyatura Delta

The commander of this group, Delta Gashamare, was a member of the Patriotes résistants congolais (PARECO) armed group before creating a Nyatura group in 2012 in the area south of the Masisi-Nyabiondo road, around the villages of Luke, Katoyi, and Kazinga in Masisi territory.

k) Nyatura Gatuza

This group is based around Katsiru/Mweso and defected from Domi to allegedly join the CNRD.

l) Nyatura Nzayi

Led by Nzayi Kanyange, this group is located near Katsiru, in central Masisi territory, and is part of the CMC coalition.

m) Nyatura Mahanga

Based around the mining town of Rubaya, this group is led by a FARDC defector known as Rafiki Mahanga who used to be a former combatant with PARECO.

n) Nyatura Kalume

This group was founded by Matias Kalume Kage in the Kalehe highlands around Lumbishi. Kalume was a PARECO commander until 2009, when he was integrated into the FARDC. He became an operational commander in Uvira and was then sent to an army camp when the “regimentation” process began in 2011. Failing to obtain a good position, he defected to his home town and began mobilizing within the local Hutu community, taking advantage of local customary and communal conflicts.

o) Nyatura Bizagwira

Based in the Kalehe highlands, South Kivu, this group is led by a former PARECO commander known as Bizagwira Muhindi.


Alliance des patriotes pour un Congo libre et souverain (APCLS)

Created in 2010 out of one of the three components of the Patriotes résistants congolais (PARECO), the APCLS has emerged as one of the main Mai-Mai groups operating in eastern Congo. Under the command of self-proclaimed general Janvier Karairi, the APCLS maintains strongholds in northwestern Masisi territory, projecting its influence toward Kitchanga and Masisi town. Claiming to defend the interests of the Hunde population, the APCLS has engaged in a wide range of (often short-lived) alliances and confrontations with other armed actors in the area. NDC-Sheka and M23 are the APCLS’ principal enemies while relations with the FARDC and various Nyatura groups have been unstable. The APCLS has maintained cordial relations with the FDLR over many years. The group has demonstrated significant resilience, even if its sphere of influence as well as its troop numbers have fluctuated considerably.


Mai-Mai Charles/AFARPM and Mai Mai Jackson

Charles Bokande emerged as an important armed actor in northern Rutshuru territory in 2014, drawing support and recruits from the Nande community. A former combatant of Mai-Mai Jackson and later of Mai-Mai Shetani-FPC of Kakule Muhima, Charles managed to develop an efficient extortion racket along the southern shore of Lake Edward, taxing the lucrative fishing camps. His influence extends to the village of Nyamilima and the Ishasha border post with Uganda. Under Charles, the group is also known as Alliance des forces armées de résistants patriotes Mai-Mai (AFARPM). While Charles claims to protect Rutshuru’s Nande population from Rwandophone armed groups, the FARDC, and rangers from Virunga National Park, the group has also frequently engaged in kidnapping and illegal cross-border trade.

Jackson Muhukambuto has led a group of Mai-Mai in northern Rutshuru territory, along the southern shores of Lake Edward, for around a decade. It recruits from the local Nande community and taxes the local fish, charcoal and marijuana trade. In early 2017, this group joined forces with Mai-Mai Charles only to fall out again in late 2017.


Mai-Mai Kifuafua

The Mai-Mai Kifuafua is one of the longest-standing Congolese armed groups. Set up in 2002 by self-proclaimed general Delphin Mbaenda, this group has roots in the various armed movements of the Tembo community from the 1990s. His older brother, Damiano Mbaenda, was one of the first Tembo armed group commanders, probably beginning his career around 1993.

Delphin Mbaenda inherited his brother’s armed group, which had traditionally been based in southern Masisi and Walikale between the villages of Hombo, Busurungi, and Remeka. Despite numerous internal disputes––which produced factions led by leaders known as Shalio, Maachano and Limenzi/Baeni––and subsequent reunifications, Delphin Mbaenda has managed to keep his group together thanks to an efficient taxation system and a reluctance to fight stronger actors, such as the FARDC, FDLR or CNDP.


a) Mai-Mai Kifuafua Mbaenda

By 2017, Delphin Mbaenda’s Kifuafua together with its satellite factions and allies controlled large swathes of territory in the Waloa-Loanda and Ufamando groupements in southern Walikale and Masisi territories. The group is estimated to have around 300 fighters. Its units are relatively disciplined and collaborate with customary authorities and state police in their area of influence.

b) Mai-Mai Kifuafua Maachano

Maachano’s Mai-Mai Kifuafua faction broke away from Delphin Mbaenda’s group. It is based in southern Masisi territory in the Ufamando groupement. Like the other Kifuafua groups, it recruits mostly from the Tembo community. Other commanders in this group are known as Bahati and Likuda.

c) Mai-Mai Kifuafua Baeni-Limenzi

Limenzi, also known as Katabilalo (the breaker of bridges), was one of Delphin Mbaenda’s main commanders until he broke off to form his own group in collaboration with Baeni. Tensions have been reported among the commanders in this new group, which is based in Ufamando groupement in southern Masisi territory.

d) Mai-Mai Kifuafua Shalio

This group is based in the Waloa-Loanda groupement and is led by Shabani Shalio. It is the most recent breakaway faction of Delphin Mbaenda’s group and operates in a similar territory, leading to occasional clashes with the much stronger faction under Mbaenda’s command.


Mai-Mai Kilalo/ULPC

Spearheaded by veteran rebels Katembo Kilalo and Mambari Bini Pélé (alias Saperita), the Union des patriotes pour la libération du Congo (ULPC) is the latest reincarnation of armed mobilization around Butembo, where Mai-Mai movements date back to the early 1990s. Kilalo, the nominal head of the group, is a former combatant and healer in Lafontaine and Paul Sadala’s armed groups, while Saperita has been a member of local militia groups as well as a FARDC officer. Since its creation in 2016, the group has forged short-lived coalitions with Mai-Mai Mazembe factions in Lubero territory and allegedly defends the Nande community against attacks by the ADF further north.

In 2017, these groups reportedly participated in the attacks around Beni town, probably together with other Mai-Mai groups. A group called the Mouvement national des révolutionnaires (MNR) claimed responsibility for attacks around Beni town in mid-2017 but this name appears to have been propagated only on social media and is not recognized by either the ULPC or other Nande Mai-Mai groups. In December 2016, ULPC combatants also attacked MONUSCO in Butembo and killed a peacekeeper.


FDC-Guides & Guides-MAC

The name of this group stems from the role its fighters played as trackers for Rwandan and Congolese troops in their 2011 offensive against the FDLR. The movement soon transformed into an armed group of its own, taking up the name Forces de défense du Congo (FDC) led by Butu Luanda, Charles Mbura, and another commander known as Madragul. They operated with relatively few combatants from the Tembo and Hunde communities and were initially based along the border between Masisi and Walikale territories.

Around 2013, some of the Guides fighters split from the FDC in order to form the Mouvement acquis au changement (Guides-MAC) under the leadership of Mbura, allegedly after a row over Luanda’s cooperation with Bosco Ntaganda’s M23 faction. Both Mbura and Luanda’s factions remain operational today, engaging in mineral exploitation near Mahanga in Masisi territory.


Mai-Mai Mazembe

Named after the country’s most popular football club from Lubumbashi, Mai-Mai Mazembe is a heavily fragmented self-defense militia group that emerged between mid-2015 and early 2016 in response to long-standing FDLR abuses against the Nande and Kobo communities of southern Lubero and Walikale territories. Several Nande and Kobo militias emerged (including Union des patriotes pour la defense des innocents, UPDI) which began attacking Hutu civilians and combatants, often with the support of the NDC-R.

While the UPDI had already integrated into NDC-R by 2016, many Mai-Mai Mazembe factions remain autonomous in late 2017. There is no clear coordination between the groups; some occasionally fight with each other but overall the movement has become increasingly antagonistic toward NDC-R. Currently, Mazembe factions control much of southern Lubero with key factions led by Albert Kasheke, Kitete Bushu, a commander known as Kabido, and another commander known as Safari, a former UPCP-Lafontaine commander.


Mai-Mai Corps du Christ

The Corps du Christ armed group was created in 2016 amidst a new wave of armed mobilization around Butembo town in response to massacres in Beni territory. Claiming the name of a long-standing Christian sect based around Mont Carmel, this Mai-Mai group formed under the leadership of David Maranatha, a former member of this hitherto peaceful Christian sect. On October 15, 2016, his group marched into Butembo, where it demanded vehicles to take them to Beni to defend the population against massacres in that area. The group attracted considerable attention among several Mai-Mai commanders who then joined the movement, including Baraka Lolwako Mumbere, the teenage son of historical Mai-Mai leader Lolwako Pokopoko. The Corps du Christ clashed on several occasions with the FARDC, including in Butembo in December 2016.

In January 2017, Kakolele Bwambale––a former leader of Mbusa Nyamwisi’s RCD-K/ML and army commander under UN sanctions––declared himself the leader of the group on Voice of America. By mid-2017, the Corps du Christ had been pushed back to remote areas in Bashu and Rwenzori chefferies. It is unclear to what extent the group is still operational, although some militias and armed groups around Beni, including Mai-Mai Nzirunga and Kilalo, claim to be allies.


Former March 23 movement (ex-M23)

Emanating from a long tradition of Rwandan backed rebellions in eastern Congo, including the RCD-Goma and the CNDP, the M23 emerged in early 2012 under the leadership of Sultani Makenga and Bosco Ntaganda. Most of its leaders came from the Congolese Tutsi community. While it quickly acquired a significant fighting force, leading to its historic occupation of Goma in November 2012, the M23 was riven by internal fissures from the beginning and never managed to develop the strength of Laurent Nkunda’s CNDP.

Following regional diplomacy and significant international pressure, the M23 left Goma after around two weeks and participated in peace talks in Kampala with the Congolese government. It split into two factions in February 2013, led respectively by Bosco Ntaganda and Sultani Makenga. With Ntanganda’s group fleeing to Rwanda in March 2013, Makenga’s bloc faced increasing pressure by FARDC’s commando battalions and an aggressive UN force intervention brigade, eventually leading to its demise in November 2013. In early 2017, parts of the former M23 attempted a short-lived revival in Rutshuru territory. There were continued reports of ex-M23 activity in Rutshuru and Masisi territory.


Ex-M23 Busumba group

In Busumba, Masisi Territory, stronghold of the former CNDP supporter Erasto Ntibaturana, a local militia allegedly harbors a small number of former M23 combatants and officers, including Justin Gacheri, Pepe Erasto and Samuel Nsabimana. While it has been reported to entertain cordial relations to some nearby Nyatura groups, however, the Busumba ex-M23 do not appear to be very active in 2017.


Mai-Mai Kirikicho

Led by Kirikicho Mirimba Mwanamayi, this is one of the oldest armed groups in the Kivus. Involved in armed group activity since 1992, Kirikicho’s current group is based in the hills surrounding Ziralo in Kalehe territory. This area has long been the arena for communal tensions between the Tembo and Hutu communities. The Mai-Mai Kirikicho recruit primarily from the Tembo community, which it claims to be defending against Hutu militia and alleged Rwandan invasions, including by Rwandophone officers of the FARDC.

Over the past five years, Kirikicho’s movement has often described itself as Raia Mutomboki as it has adopted similar magical rituals to inoculate its fighters against bullets. It has engaged in fluctuating alliances with other Raia Mutomboki factions and the Mai-Mai Kifuafua. The group’s former second-in-command known as Musole has broken away to form a Raia Mutomboki faction near Ziralo.


Mai-Mai Nyakiliba (N’Kirhiba)

Founded by self-styled general and former primary school teacher Daniel Matebura to fight the Rassemblement congolais pour la démocratie (RCD)-Goma rebellion in 1998, Mai-Mai Nyakiliba operates in the Luindi chiefdom in Mwenga territory and is rooted in the Nyindu community. The group is best known for an ambush against RCD troops in Kasika, which in turn sparked the August 1998 Kasika massacre perpetrated by RCD forces, killing hundreds, including the then-customary chief François Mubeza.

The RCD replaced Mubeza with Nyumba Mubeza in contravention to the chiefdom’s lineage rules. However, Mai-Mai N’Kirhiba claims that another member of the family, known as Sholo, was in line to succeed Mubeza. Matebura has also demanded that he be named a general in the FARDC.


Allied Democratic Forces (ADF)

The ADF are an armed group that originally emerged in opposition to the Ugandan government before transforming into an Islamist, Congo-based movement after the merger of the National Army for the Liberation of Uganda (NALU) and ADF under the leadership of Jamil Mukulu. Over the past 15 years, its main military camps have been in the Rwenzori mountains and in the Semuliki Valley in Beni territory. The ADF is a highly secretive organization that follows a strict code of internal discipline. It has strong historical ties to other armed groups in the area, including those led by former members of Mbusa Nyamwisi’s Rassemblement congolais pour la démocratie––Kisangani/Mouvement de libération (RCD-K/ML) and local customary chiefs, including those of the Vuba and Pakombe communities.

In 2014, the FARDC launched the Sukola I operation against the ADF, leading to the destruction of many of its camps and the deaths of hundreds of its combatants and dependents. In 2015, its leader Jamil Mukulu was arrested in Tanzania and extradited to Uganda, leaving the group under the command of Seka Musa Baluku. While the group has not suffered substantial splits, its units operate largely independently across different areas. The group has been involved in many of the massacres around Beni since late 2013, often in collaboration with local armed groups and members of the FARDC. Their current strength is unclear, as they have increased recruitment in Uganda while losing troops in clashes and through arrests by Congolese security forces.



FNL troops used to be the armed branch of the Front national de libération (FNL) that emerged out of parts of the former Burundian Parti pour la libération du peuple hutu (PALIPEHUTU). While it is no longer allied with Agathon Rwasa’s FNL party in Burundi, this group represented the main armed opposition against the current Burundian government until 2016. That status is now in question due to the emergence of new Burundian opposition groups, Nzabampema’s unclear relationship with the Burundian army, and the breakaway of Shuti Baryanka (who was later killed and replaced by Nibizi) from Nzabampema.

a) FNL-Nzabampema

This is the main faction, led by former Burundian army officer and self-proclaimed general Aloys Nzabampema. It operates mostly out of the Ruzizi plain and the Moyens Plateaux of Uvira territory, with occasional incursions into Burundi. Nzabampema has been regularly accused of child recruitment and his group is a major player in terms of cattle theft in the Ruzizi plain.

b) FNL-Nibizi

Led by Shuti Baryanka, this small faction broke away from Nzabampema. Following his death, a certain Nibizi reportedly took command of this group that is based in the Moyens Plateaux of Uvira territory.



Ngumino (portmanteaux of guma ino, ‘stay here’ in Kinyamulenge) is an umbrella term for the most recent wave of Banyamulenge armed mobilization in the Hauts Plateaux of Uvira and Fizi territories. While it builds upon previous Banyamulenge armed groups, including the ex-FRF and a group led by Colonel Tawimbi, only a few Banyamulenge leaders are playing an important role in late 2017. Over the past two years, the group has mostly been fighting against various Mai-Mai groups in the hills of northern Fizi, often over cattle herding. The Ngumino entertain ambivalent relations with the FARDC and Burundian armed opposition groups that have set up bases in South Kivu. Currently, they are led by Semahurungure and Nyamusharaba Shaka.



Another Banyamulenge militia, more decentralized than the Ngumino, are the Twiganeho. They are a decentralized Banyamulenge self-defence movement that has appeared recently in the Haut Plateaux of Fizi territory. It mostly operates around Bijombo and maintain ties with the more organised Ngumino.


Mai-Mai Simba

Mai-Mai Simba has been an umbrella term for nationalist armed groups since independence in 1960. Various armed groups, linked by little more than the vague reminiscence of the Mulelist Mai-Mai ideology that challenged the central government in the 1960s claim this denomination today.

By 2017, at least three geographically discernible groups used the ‘Simba’ label: One in Bafwasende territory, in Tshopo province, led by Paul Sadala (aka ‘Morgan’)’s successor known as Manu; and two in Walikale territory, North Kivu province, led by General Mando Mazeri (the so-called Forces Divines Simba) and Luc Yabili. While Morgan’s group has become infamous for poaching and the killing of okapis, Mando is one of the few active militia leaders in Congo with direct connections to the Simba mobilization in the 1960s. None of these groups are very significant today, in terms of troop strength or the threats they pose to the FARDC.


Coalition nationale du peuple pour la souveraineté du Congo (CNPSC)

The emergence of the CNPSC in late 2016 marked Yakutumba’s return at the head of a broad, unruly coalition of Mai-Mai recruiting mainly within the Bembe community. The CNPSC began launching a series of attacks near Kabambare, Kilembwe, Misisi, Lulimba and between Baraka and Uvira. Some of CNPSC members have also ambushed mining companies such as Banro and kidnapped foreign mining workers. Retired FARDC general Sikatenda allegedly also supports CNPSC. He was based near Kilembwe until his recent arrest. Moreover, Kalehe Raia Mutomboki factions allegedly joined the CNPSC, including those led by Hamakombo, Shukuru and Butachibera.

There are some reports that the CNPSC is linked to another movement called Alliance pour l’Article 64 (AA64), referring to the clause in the Congolese constitution that gives citizens the right to disrupt any attempt to violate the constitutional order. It is unclear, however, to which extent AA64 is linked to the CNPSC. Currently, CNPSC represents one of the broadest Mai-Mai coalitions in eastern Congo and carried out a serious offensive in Uvira territory in late September 2017. Before taking Uvira town, however, joint FARDC–MONUSCO operations pushed them back into Fizi territory and inflicted considerable losses on the group, including on its navy on Lake Tanganyika.

a) Mai-Mai Yakutumba (PARC-FAAL)

Created by former FARDC officer William Amuri (a.k.a. Yakutumba) in 2006, the group has developed into one of the most brutal Congolese armed groups in South Kivu. Capitalizing upon local grievances, in particular within the Bembe community, Yakutumba created this group in 2007 under the official name Parti d’action pour la reconstruction du Congo– Forces armées alleluia (PARC-FAAL). Yakutumba has been skillful in coopting numerous smaller Mai-Mai groups in Fizi territory into coalitions under his de facto leadership, including the Bwasakala and Bavon Mai-Mai groups. The group also maintains support networks in Tanzania and has been known for piracy and smuggling on Lake Tanganyika.

In late 2016, it revived the Coalition nationale du peuple pour la souveraineté du Congo (CNPSC) alliance, an earlier coalition project designed in 2013 but which had not previously materialized. Then in the first half of 2017, Mai-Mai Yakutumba and its allies successfully launched a series of attacks against the FARDC, leading to a significant expansion of their influence in Fizi, extending their reach to the gold hub Misisi and to major towns such as Fizi center and Baraka.

b) Mai-Mai Réunion

This is a small Mai-Mai group that recruits from the Bembe community and led by Colonel Réunion wa Rusasa, a former commander in Mayele’s and Bwasakala’s militia. It is active in the Moyen Plateau overlooking Lusambo and Swima. It is known for frequent ambushes on the road between Baraka and Uvira and joined the CNPSC.

c) Mai-Mai Ebuela

This is a small Mai-Mai group that recruits from the Bembe community. Its commander, Ebu Ela Kitungano, is a former Yakutumba commander who struck out on his own after falling out with Yakutumba. Recently, however, he joined the CNPSC coalition, led by Yakutumba. Recently it has engaged in cooperation with another local Mai-Mai outfit led by Ngalyabatu but it is unclear whether this collaboration persists.

d) Mai-Mai Echilo

This is small Mai-Mai group that recruits from the Bembe community and is based in the Moyen Plateau overlooking the lakeside village of Mboko. In 2017 is has been part of the CNPSC coalition. Like Réunion, Echilo used to be part of the Mai-Mai Bwasakala.

e) Mai-Mai Mulumba

This is a Mai-Mai group based in western Fizi territory that recruits mostly from the Bembe community. It is part of the CNPSC coalition and led by Mulumba, a long-time ally of Yakutumba.

f) Mai-Mai Réné

This is a small Mai-Mai group located in the Moyen Plateau overlooking Mboko. It is a member of the CNPSC coalition.

g) Mai-Mai Aigle (with Shetani and Omar)

Aigle is a former FARDC officer who deserted from the army to launch a Mai-Mai group on the border between Fizi territory and Tanganyika province. His group, co-led by commanders Shetani and Omar, is part of the CNPSC coalition.

h) Mai-Mai Malaika-She Assani (a.k.a. Raia Mutomboki Malaika)

This is a relatively new armed group based in southern Shabunda and northern Fizi territories, and spilling over into Maniema province. It is led by She Assani and reportedly reached out to former Raia Mutomboki leaders, including Jean Musumbu. Locally, it is sometimes referred to as Raia Mutomboki Malaika.

i) Mai-Mai Kiwis Kalume

Kalume, also known as Kiwis, led a Mai-Mai group in Kasongo territory of Maniema province during the Second Congo War (1998-2003). This group, also known as Kaka Sawa, disappeared at the end of the war and has only recently reappeared, led again by Kiwis. It is part of the CNPSC coalition.

j) Mai-Mai Mupekenya

This small Mai-Mai group occupies a small area in the Itombwe plateau in Mwenga territory. Most recently, it was believed to operated jointly with another local militia commander called Ngarukiye.


Raia Mutomboki

The origins of Raia Mutomboki mobilization lie in communal self-defense groups led by Jean Musumbu, a local leader from southern Shabunda territory who mobilized against the FDLR around 2005 and 2006. After some early successes, the movement became dormant and only re-emerged five years later during the FARDC’s regimentation process, which created a security void that allowed the FDLR to gain control of much of Shabunda territory. The Raia Mutomboki re-emerged in northern Shabunda, using a new dawa (magical potions and fetishes) to inoculate its fighters against bullets. The movement spread quickly to other areas threatened by the FDLR, including Walungu, Kalehe, and Walikale territories. Beyond attacking FDLR troops (and later, Rwandophone FARDC units), the Raia Mutomboki have also killed hundreds of FDLR dependents and Rwandan Hutu refugees.

As the threat of the FDLR declined, the Raia Mutomboki’s rhetoric centered increasingly on the abuses of the FARDC while the groups became more involved in illegal taxation and racketeering. Most of the groups have a common belief system, centered on their use of dawa and an ethic of communal self-defense, but for the most part they do not have a common command structure and fighting among groups is frequent.


a) Raia Mutomboki FPP (Shabunda factions)

In 2011, leaders close to Musumbu (including those known as Sisawa, Charlequin, and Makombo) and a new branch under Eyadema Mugugu emerged in northern and eastern Shabunda territory. Over time, the original leaders of Raia Mutomboki have lost influence with other groups emerging following losses inflicted by the FARDC. In late 2017, a new coalition called Raia Mutomboki Forces populaires de paix (FPP) emerged, led by FARDC defector Donat Omari Kengwa and Ngandu Lundimu. It has its roots in the second wave of Raia Mutomboki mobilisation of 2011 and has been based in the mining areas near Nzovu, Shabunda territory. Unlike other, non-Rega factions, the role of the kimbilikiti spirit and concomitant initiation rites remain a relevant anchor point for these Raia Mutomboki and their allies.

In recent statements, Donat claimed to represent the original Raia Mutomboki doctrine of communal self-defense and rejected the practice of ambushing civilians as done by other factions. Within the FPP, Donat is reportedly attempting to unify all Shabunda-based Raia Mutomboki.

i. Raia Mutomboki Donat/Ngandu

This group was created in 2012 in northeast Shabunda territory, on the edge of the Kahuzi Biega national park. Its initiators were two FARDC defected from the Rega community, Major Donat Kengwa Omari and Major Ngandu Lundimu. Initially, it formed part of the coalition led by Daniel Meshe and Albert Kahasha. The group has been relatively cohesive when compared with other Raia Mutomboki groups.

ii. Raia Mutomboki Mabala

This Raia Mutomboki faction is located in northeast Shabunda and created around 2012 by Mabala Mese. Initially, it formed part of the coalition led by Daniel Meshe and Albert Kahasha. It is part of the FPP.

iii. Raia Mutomboki Kazimoto

This Raia Mutomboki faction was originally created by Eyadema Mugugu in 2011, the first such group in northern Shabunda. After Eyadema’s arrest in 2012, the group was taken over by Juriste Kikuni who surrendered to the FARDC in 2015. Since this, this group began using the name Takulengwe has been led by a certain Kazimoto and has declined in importance, also due to internal splits such as those creating the factions led by Kikwama and Kabazimia. Recently, it was reported to have joined the new FPP coalition.

iv. Raia Mutomboki Kabazimia

This is small Raia Mutomboki faction located in northern Shabunda. It used to be part of the former Raia Mutomboki Takulengwe, who succeeded Eyadema and Juriste Kikuni, respectively.  Recently, it was reported to have joined the new FPP coalition of Raia Mutomboki groups.

v. Raia Mutomboki Kikwama

This Raia Mutomboki group is based near the mining area of Mulungu, in eastern Shabunda territory, but does not appear to be very active. It used to be part of the Raia Mutomboki Takulengwe, who succeeded Eyadema and Juriste Kikuni, respectively. Recently, it was reported to have joined the new FPP coalition.

vi. Raia Mutomboki Wemba

This Raia Mutomboki faction is based in the Kahuzi Biega national park to the north of Isezya in northeast Shabunda territory. Recently, it was reported to have joined the new FPP coalition.

vii. Raia Mutomboki Kimba

This Raia Mutomboki faction is part of the FPP coalition in northeast Shabunda. Recently, it was reported to have joined the new FPP coalition.


b) Raia Mutomboki Tembo (Kalehe factions)

Between 2012 and 2013, the Raia Mutomboki label was ‘exported’ to Kalehe territory, where various ex-Mai-Mai leaders and local youth began to form new armed groups, most of them small and with limited overall coordination. In their early stages, these Raia Mutomboki factions, based in the Tembo community, were still linked with key commanders in Shabunda, but they became increasingly more autonomous. Some have engaged in short-lived alliances with Mai-Mai Kifuafua. They mostly deploy to the east and west of the Bunyakiri-Hombo road, into Waloa-Loanda (southeastern Walikale territory) and Remeka (southern Masisi territory). Many of today’s leaders are demobilized combatants from the former Mai-Mai group led by General Padiri Bulenda, who controlled much of Bunyakiri between 1996 and 2003.

i. Raia Mutomboki Hamakombo

Established around 2013, this is one of the best-known Raia Mutomboki groups, led by one of the original commanders of the movement in Bunyakiri, Bwaare Hamakombo. It is based west of Bulambika and Kambali in northern Kalehe territory. Hamakombo currently aims to create a broader coalition with Shukuru and Butachibera and they reportedly sent combatants to support Yakutumba in Fizi territory.

ii. Raia Mutomboki Shukuru

Led by Shukuru Kawaya, this group emerged near the town on Hombo, on the border between North and South Kivu, around 2013. Kawaya is currently trying to forge a coalition with Hamakombo and Butachibera, and they reportedly sent combatants to support Yakutumba’s operations in Fizi territory. Kawaya has a conflictual relationship with Mai-Mai Kifuafua.

iii. Raia Mutomboki Butachibera

This group emerged north of Bunyakiri, on the border between North and South Kivu, around 2014 and its leader is known as Butachibera. Shukuru currently aims to create a broader coalition with Hamakombo and Shukuru, and the three factions reportedly sent combatants to support Yakutumba in Fizi territory.

iv. Raia Mutomboki Musole

This group has been based near Ziralo, Kalehe territory, since 2014 and its leader is known as Musole, a former second-in-command of the Mai-Mai Kirikicho. It mainly operates south of Ziralo.

v. Raia Mutomboki Imani Bitaa

This group has been based near Cifunzi in Kalonge chefferie, operating between southern Kalehe territory and western Kabare territory since 2013. Its area of influence is mostly in the Kahuzi-Biega national park.

vi. Raia Mutomboki Mungoro

This group has been based west of the Bunyakiri-Hombo road since around 2013. In recent months, it has clashed several times with the FARDC and reportedly also with other Raia Mutomboki factions operating in Kalehe.

vii. Raia Mutomboki Shabani

Based in eastern Buloho chiefdom, this recently created faction has absorbed combatants from Mweeke, a former Raia Mutomboki commander.

viii. Raia Mutomboki Weteshi Kabanzi

Based in western Buhavu chiefdom, just a few kilometers away from Bunyakiri, this group is led by Weteshi Kabanzi.

ix. Raia Mutomboki Safari

This faction is led by Safari and operates around Kalonge in southern Kalehe territory.

x. Raia Mutomboki Manyiisa

Led by a commander known as Mayiisa, this group has been based south of Ziralo and east of Bunyakiri on the High Plateau of Kalehe since 2016.


c) Raia Mutomboki (Walikale factions)

Another cluster of Raia Mutomboki factions emerged in southwestern Walikale around 2013. Influenced by the Shabunda-based groups led by the late Eyadema Mugugu and Juriste Kikuni, these groups are mostly based in Walikale’s Bakano collectivité, with some of them active in Waloa-Uroba and Waloa-Yungu. After becoming independent from the Shabunda Raia Mutomboki leaders and engaging in various attacks and practices not considered ‘ideologically correct’––such as ambushing humanitarians––some of the older Raia Mutomboki factions began rejecting their use of the Raia Mutomboki label. Raia Mutomboki mobilization in southern Walikale began with a group led by Heritier Elenge Mupenge in 2013. There are currently around eight identifiable factions.

i. Raia Mutomboki Elenge

This is the original Walikale Raia Mutomboki group, which emerged in 2012 or 2013 in southern Walikale. It is led by Heritier Elenge Mupenge and recruits largely within the Rega community.

ii. Raia Mutomboki Mirage

This group is based in southwestern Walikale territory, in the Wasa groupement, and is led by Mirage Bitunya. It recruits largely within the Rega community. It profits from the local gold trade.

iii. Raia Mutomboki Shemakingi

This group is based in the Waloa-Uroba groupement near Ntoto, recruits among the Rega community, and is led by a commander known as Shemakingi.

iv. Raia Mutomboki Shebitembe

This group is based in the Waloa-Uroba groupement near Ntoto, recruits among the Rega community, and is led by a commander known as Shebitembe.

v. Raia Mutomboki Kisekelwa

This group is based in the Bakondjo groupement, bordering Maniema province. It recruits among the Rega community and is led by a commander known as Kisekelwa.

vi. Raia Mutomboki Mamba

This group is based in the Bakondjo groupement, bordering Shabunda territory. It recruits among the Rega community and is led by a commander known as Mamba.

vii. Raia Mutomboki Akilo

Based near Biriko, this group mostly operates between Ufamando and Waloa-Loanda groupements, and is led by a commander known as Akilo

viii. Raia Mutomboki Machite

Led by a commander known as Machite, this group is based in Waloa-Yungu groupement. It recruits among the Rega community.


d) Raia Mutomboki (Walungu/Kabare factions)

Between 2012 and 2013, the Raia Mutomboki label spread from Shabunda and Bunyakiri into Walungu and Kabare territories. In contrast with other Raia Mutomboki groups­­, which mostly recruit among the Tembo and Rega communities with their specific initiation rites and more decentralized customary hierarchy, these groups recruit largely among the Shi community.

i. Raia Mutomboki Maheshe

The group led by a commander known as Maheshe has been based in Mulambula groupement, Walungu territory, on the border with Shabunda, since around 2013. In recent years, this group has become more isolated. In early 2017, the group ambushed park rangers from the Kahuzi-Biega National Park and a French conservationist. Maheshe’s faction has also been accused of being involved illegal mining.

ii. Raia Mutomboki Ndarumanga

This group is based south of Nzibira and Nyalubemba in western Walungu territory and is led by a commander known as Ndarumanga. Like Maheshe’s faction, it has become infamous for frequent ambushes, especially on the road between Nzibira and Nyalubemba.

iii. Raia Mutomboki Chipopa/Bipompa

Led by Bipompa (a.k.a. Chipopa), this group is reportedly based in the highlands sliver of the Kahuzi Biega national park, to the north of Bunyakiri road. It is unclear whether it is still active.

iv. Raia Mutomboki Blaise

One of the few operational Raia Mutomboki factions left in Kabare territory is led by a commander known as Blaise who represented, alongside Gaston (who was later killed), one of the two armed wings involved in the customary succession struggle in Nindja chefferie, involving the two sons of the former chief, Marcel and Freddy. While Blaise supported the former, the faction led by Lukoba (who joined the Raia Mutomboki FPP movement) used to work for Freddy. Its key bases are in Iregabarhonyi groupement.

v. Raia Mutomboki Lukoba

The Raia Mutomboki Lukoba are based around Ciramba village in the Nindja chefferie. Like their rivals, Raia Mutomboki Blaise, they have been involved in a local customary succession conflict. This group recently joined the Raia Mutomboki FPP coalition. Most of the former Raia Mutomboki Nyanderema have joined Lukoba’s faction.


Fuliiro Mai-Mai groups in the Ruzizi Plain and the Moyens Plateaux

The Ruzizi plain has been a place of intense armed mobilization for many years. Customary struggles both within the Fuliiro chiefdom and between the Fuliiro community on one side and the Congolese Rundi and Banyamulenge on the other side have provided fertile ground for recruitment. The tensions have been aggravated by political manipulation by local and national leaders and by the presence of foreign armed groups like the FDLR. As a result, a vicious cycle of mobilization and counter-mobilization has made the Ruzizi plain one of the most conflictual areas in Congo. The leadership of Fuliiro armed groups has changed considerably between 2015 and 2017, as leaders such as Simusizi, Bédé, Pélican or Intervention have been killed by the FARDC or their local rivals.

a) Mai-Mai Karakara

This Mai Mai group, led by a commander known as Karakara, is based largely on both sides of the Kamanyola-Uvira road around Mutarule. Created around 2013, this group used to control the Moyen Plateau south of Lemera before becoming more active in the plain. The 2014 Mutarule massacre – when some 30 civilians were killed – is said to have been a reaction to a cattle raid by Karakara’s troops.

b) Mai-Mai Mwenyemali

Mwenyemali is the leader of an eponymous Mai-Mai group that operates mostly between Mutarule and Lemera. Like Karakara, it is regularly involved in cattle raids. In early 2017, Mwenyemali killed a well-known arms trader working for Burundian security services and emerged as one of the Ruzizi plain’s most powerful Mai-Mai leaders.

c) Mai-Mai Mazimano

Mazimano is a local militia commander who benefitted from the disappearance of other Fuliiro commanders. His group operates around Lemera, roughly in an area previously controlled by Molière Mutulanyi’s recently demobilized local defense forces.

d) Mai-Mai Nyerere

Nyerere’s troops combatants are based in the Moyen Plateau of Runingu, north of Uvira. Together with Karakara and Mwenyemali, this group is considered one of the strongest Mai-Mai groups in Uvira territory. Nyerere has repeatedly been accused of collaborating with the Burundian FNL rebels.

e) Mai-Mai Makanaki

Makanaki reportedly took over the majority of former Mai-Mai Fujo combatants, when their former leader Fujo Zabuloni, the son and successor of late Mai-Mai leader Zabuloni Rubaruba, joined the national army in 2015. His group is based in the hills overlooking Uvira town.

f) Mai-Mai Biloze Bishambuke

Biloze Bishambuke is one of the few Fizi-based Mai-Mai groups that has not allied with Yakutumba’s CNPSC coalition in 2017. Stuck between Burundian armed groups and CNPSC members in Tanganyika sector, it has not been reported to be very active in late 2017.

g) Mai-Mai Délégués (Mabishe, Musema, Masabo, Mafikiri)

This group is a loose Mai-Mai cluster of concocted groups led by Musema, Mabishe, Mafikiri and Masabo. Roving around in the Moyen Plateau of Kabunambo, they emerged out of splintered other Mai-Mai groups.


Local Defense groups in the Ruzizi Plain

In contrast with more organized Mai-Mai groups that operate in the hills overlooking the Ruzizi plain, these groups are typically smaller and less cohesive. Some call themselves Local Defense, while others are more akin to bandits engaging in ambushes and cattle raids. Many of them occasionally also cooperate with the FARDC or the police. In mid-2017, some of those groups acted as Balala Rondo, a term used for neighborhood vigilante groups (for instance, Amuse-Gueule in Sange). More even then Mai-Mai groups usually, local defense outfits constantly transform through leadership changes, splits or local political manipulation.

a) Bigaya group

Based east of the Kamanyola-Uvira road, this group has been forged by Bigaya who used to be a commander in the late Bede Rusagara’s armed group. Like Mbulu, Bigaya’s units are particularly famous for ambushes and cattle theft. Recently, Bigaya has fallen ill and a certain Mahugo allegedly took over his and Mbulu’s militia.

b) Mbulu group

Based east of the Kamanyola-Uvira road, this group has been forged by Mbulu who used to be a commander in the late Bede Rusagara’s armed group. Like Bigaya, Mbulu’s units are particularly famous for ambushes and cattle theft. Recently, a certain Mahugo allegedly took over his and Bigaya’s militia.

c) Ngengwe group

Based around Mulenge, this is a group that came about only in mid-2017. It is led by Ngengwe and reported to frequently collaborate with nearby FARDC units, for which they allegedly act as outposts.

d) Mahinduzi group

Based around Ndolera, the group led by Prosper Mahinduzi has been able to benefit from the void left by the killing of former Local Defense leaders Pélican and Intervention.

e) Kashumba group

Based in the Hauts Plateaux of Uvira, this group, led by Kashumba, is one of the so-called Local Defense groups in the Ruzizi Plain of South Kivu.

f) Zone group

Based around Katonyera, this group, led by a commander called Zone, is one of the so-called Local Defense groups in the Ruzizi Plain.


Mai-Mai Mushombe

Mushombe Muganguzi is a militia commander from Uvira territory who has been active in armed groups going back to the 1990s. He demobilized when his former commander, Rubaruba Zabuloni, integrated into the FARDC at the end of the Second Congo War in 2003. He took up arms again around 2005 to counter the mobilization around the ‘Group of 47’ Banyamulenge leaders and later the FRF. In contrast with other Mai-Mai groups in Uvira territory, Mushombe has always been based in the Hauts Plateaux towards Itombwe Forest and Mwenga territory, close to certain positions of the FDLR (now CNRD), an occasional ally.


Mai-Mai Mahoro

Mahoro is a militia commander whose group is based at the border between Uvira and Mwenga territories. He has been active in armed groups there for decades. After demobilizing when his commander Baudouin Nakabaka integrated into the FARDC at the end of the Second Congo War in 2003, he took up arms again around 2005 to counter the mobilization around the ‘Group of 47’ Banyamulenge leaders and later the FRF. Mahoro is related by marriage to Mushombe, the commander of Mai-Mai Mushombe. He has been in an occasional alliance with local CNRD units. In late 2017, Mahoro was killed in unclear circumstances; it is uncertain how this will affect the group.


Armed groups with strong links to ex-APC

The former armed wing of the Rassemblement congolais pour la démocratie––Kisangani/Mouvement de libération (RCD-K/ML), the Armée du Peuple Congolais (APC), has remained an active, though often secretive player in the security landscape of Beni and Lubero territories since its official dismantling at the end of Second Congo War in 2003. Key commanders, including Bwambale Kakolele, Samuel Birotsho, Kava wa Seli, David Lusenge and Hilaire Kombi, all of whom at one point had integrated into the FARDC, have attempted to maintain networks within the local civilian administration and among armed groups such as the ADF. While this network is very dynamic and difficult to parse out, there were four recognizable, specific militias led by ex-APC commanders in mid-2017: the Mai-Mai Léopards and the groups led by Sibenda and Kithikyolo.


a) Mai-Mai Muthundo-Léopards

Muthundo is a former member of the Mazembe movement who had been arrested and detained at Beni Prison. After he escaped during the Kangbayi prison break in June 2017, he joined Alphonse Nzirunga’s Mai-Mai group and began operating in Kanyihunga. In September 2017, he separated from Nzirunga and began calling his group of around 40 combatants Mai-Mai Léopards, similar to Endaniluhi’s Mai-Mai group based nearby.

b) Mouvement de la Révolution Congolaise-Léopards (Mai-Mai Endaniluhi)

The MRC-L was created in Muhola (30 km west of Butembo) on 20 December 2016 and is led by Kakule Endaniluhi. It claims to be fighting against the Kabila government and Rwandan infiltration in eastern Congo. It has moved from the Muhola Mountain to the Graben since August 2017.

c) Mai-Mai Kithikyolo

Vital Kithikyolo is a former APC officer (1999-2003) who later joint the ADF. After his demobilization from the ADF in 2009, he settled in Kirivatha/Lume in Beni territory where he created a new armed group, in collaboration with the ADF under Hood Lukwago based in the Semuliki valley, near the Beni-Kasindi road. The strength of his group is not known.

d) Mai-Mai Sibenda

Kambale Sibenda is known for having collaborated with ex-APC officers such as Bwambale Kakolele, David Lusenge, and Samuel Birotsho. In 2002 to 2003, he co-created – with Kakolele – the training center of Bundiguya/Watalinga dedicated to the APC’s Unité spéciale pour l’artillerie. Years later, FARDC Major Hilaire Kombi, another former APC officer, defected and created his own armed group around Kikingi, in which Kambale Sibenda was active.

Shortly thereafter, Kambale collaborated again with David Lusenge when the latter defected from the FARDC. Lusenge handed control of the group over to Sibenda, who created his own Mai-Mai group around Kikingi. His group currently operates in Rwenzori sector, where Kakule Mukonzo, another ex-APC, commands the troops. Mai-Mai Sibenda is currently believed to have up to 160 combatants.


Local ‘customary’ militias around Beni

Several local militias, often rooted in communal self-defense and protection of land and customary leadership positions, have emerged in response to the violence that has engulfed Beni since early 2014. While their original motivation was linked to the perceived marginalization of communities such as the Vuba, Pakombe, or Talinga by the Nande community, some of them are now more interested in survival and resource extraction and collude with ex-APC, ADF, and FARDC networks – including in some of the massacres.

a) Pakombe militia/‘Mai-Mai Mayangose’

The Mai-Mai Mayangose was initially led by Mwami Mbonguma Kitobi, the local chef de groupement. Mbonguma was arrested in November 2014 for his involvement in the massacres around Beni. However, the loosely organized group continues to operate in the outskirts of Beni, allegedly participating in massacres beyond the arrest of Kitobi.

b) Vuba militia

When the Ugandan army chased the ADF-NALU into the Bambuba-Kisiki groupement north of Beni around 1996, various family ties developed between the Vuba community and ADF members, eventually leading to the creation of a local militia. Several ADF leaders, such as one commander known as Feeza, are believed to have ties to the Vuba. This local militia is also believed to have been involved in some of the Beni massacres.


Mai-Mai Dario Syaghuswa

Dario Syaghuswa is a previous collaborator of Father Vincent Machozi, a priest and former president of the Kyaghanda Yira, who was killed in Vithungwe in March 2016. This group mobilizes support using local grievances linked to the land conflict between Virunga National Park and surrounding populations.


Mai-Mai Nzirunga

Alphonse Nzirunga was a member of Mai-Mai Lubwe Ruwenzori in 2000 (later known as ‘Kasindiens’), led by his cousin Fabien Mudoghu. More recently, he was one of the founders of Mai-Mai Mazembe. In September 2016, his current movement, Mai-Mai Nzirunga, allied with Mai-Mai Corps du Christ and deployed to Kabasha, before moving to Kalau (east of Beni) and Nzirunga’s native Bashu Chiefdom.

Since June 2017, Mai-Mai Nzirunga is based near Kyavinyonge and has been operating relatively independently from other armed groups, despite earlier collaboration with Mai-Mai Muhima and a Mai-Mai group led by Jackson Muhukambuto. Some of Mai-Mai Nzirunga combatants have recently called themselves Mai-Mai Malaika (‘angel’ in Swahili). They do not, however, appear to be linked to the Mai-Mai Malaika led by She Assani in Fizi and Shabunda territories.


Mai-Mai Lwanga/Mazembe Lwanga

Charles Lwanga is a former Mai-Mai Vurondo (also known as RNL, Résistants nationalistes Lumumbistes) combatant who fought under Lolwako Pokopoko around 2000 to 2003. After his demobilization, he joined the mining police. In January 2017, a few weeks after a Mai-Mai attack against MONUSCO in Butembo, he was arrested and has since been detained in Beni’s Kangbayi prison. After the Kangbayi prison break of June 2017, Lwanga teamed up with Saperita (Mai-Mai ULPC), before creating his own small group in Ruwenzori Sector, not far from Mwalika, in August 2017.


Mai-Mai Kyandenga

Kyandenga used to be a fisherman in Kyavinyonge. In 2002, legend says, he reeled in a package that contained a flower, a diamond, a stick, a dollar bill, a bible and a Koran. This reportedly gave him customary powers and attracted the attention of local armed group commanders and chiefs, including Fabien Mudoghu. Later, his acquaintance with Kilalo Katembo of today’s ULPC helped him become a traditional doctor with the Mai-Mai Simba branch of Paul Sadala (a.k.a. Morgan). In 2011, he joined the FOLC armed group of Kava wa Seli (a former APC officer) in Beni territory.

After Kilalo left Morgan’s group in Ituri province to return to the Butembo area to set up his own Mai-Mai group, Kyandenga joined him and was tasked with developing an ULPC faction near Beni. He collaborated with a priest known as Bernard to recruit local youth west of Mbau. This group of around 300 combatants claims to protect the local population and their land. By 2017 it remains unclear to what extent it is still connected to Kilalo or other Mai-Mai in the area.


Mai-Mai Muhima 

Muhima had the rank of ‘colonel’ in Lolwako Pokopoko’s Mai-Mai Vurondo (also known as RNL). After demobilization efforts in the frame of the Programme Amani in 2009, he took charge of Baraka Lolwako (the son of Lolwako) and his mother. Family members of Lolwako Pokopoko, whose health has been deteriorating recently, are believed to wield the dawa powers of the former Mai-Mai Vurondo. Meanwhile, Muhima himself has most recently been operating around Kyavinyonge, commanding at most 60 combatants.


Mai-Mai Vivuya

The Mai-Mai Vivuya were allegedly created by ex-APC commander John Tshibangu and ex-CNDP colonel Richard Kiyondo Bisamaza in Kampala in July 2017. Its main objective was to attack Beni town. Kakolele and Bisamaza sent Kakule Sikuli Lafontaine, the former leader of PARECO-Lafontaine, and UPCP to recruit and settle in the Semuliki valley (Bashu/Kikingi). Lafontaine allegedly tried to convince other local armed groups to join but the group has not been very visible so far.


Mai-Mai Kombi 

Kambale Kombi is a former member of FOLC and a Mazembe combatant. Under arrest since 2016, he escaped during the Kangbayi prison break in June 2017 and joined former FOLC officer Kyandenga. In August 2017, he decided to settle in the Beni-Mbau sector, where he created his own armed group with around 30 members (locally known as Mai-Mai Kombi but not linked to Hilaire Kombi’s former URDC).



The PAREM, also known as PRM – Patriotes résistants Mai-Mai – is a local Nande group operating in northern Rutshuru, mostly carrying out kidnappings and ambushes. Its name draws from historic, larger Mai-Mai rebellions; however little of this ideology seems to govern the group’s actual behavior.


Mai-Mai Nguru

Nguru is a former member of the Lokwako Pokopoko’s Mai-Mai Vurondo (also known as RNL) in 2000. In 2005, he created an armed group based in Burusi, close to the Kyabirimu Mountain, where he already collaborated with Muhima, another ex-RNL commander. In 2007, he was arrested after attacking Virunga National Park rangers. His current group includes only around 10 to 20 combatants and mainly engages in illegal gold exploitation on the Kyavirimu mountain.


Union des Patriotes Congolais pour la Paix

The UPCP, previously called Mai-Mai Lafontaine, Forces d’autodéfense populaire (FAP), and Coalition des patriotes résistants congolais (PARECO) , has been led since around 2000 by Kakule Sikuli Lafontaine, who has remained its leader and dominant figure until today. The group, whose primary constituency and recruits come from the Nande community, traces its lineage back to 1993, during the dying days of the Mobutu regime, when it emerged as a local defense group in southern Lubero territory. It grew in strength as part of President Laurent-Désire Kabila’s strategy to tie down and harry his Ugandan and Rwandan enemies during the Second Congo War (1998-2003). Since then, however, the group has cut its ties to the government in Kinshasa and at various points in its history has struck up opportunistic alliances with the Rwandan Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda (FDLR) and the M23 rebellion.

In 2016, the group was forced out of its base around Bunyatenge due to the emergence of the Mazembe militia in the area. Lafontaine himself has been reported to be based outside of the country. While some parts of UPCP operate as Mazembe since 2017, a small UCPC group is allegedly still based to the west of Lake Edward, led by Muhambalyaki.


Front de Résistance Patriotique de l’Ituri (FRPI)

The FRPI is based in Ituri province but has links to groups on the border with North Kivu. It is one of eastern Congo’s most long-standing armed groups. Created in 2002 by Germain Katanga, who has been convicted by the International Criminal Court, it claimed to represent Lendu-Ngiti interests against Bosco Ntaganda’s Union des patriotes congolais (UPC). After the end of the so-called Ituri war in 2007, Baudouin Adirodhu and Justin Banaloki (alias Cobra Matata) became leaders of the group. Over the years, the group has repeatedly considered integration into the FARDC while continuing to operate autonomously and engaging in regular clashes with the FARDC and MONUSCO.

The FRPI is seriously weakened today. However, under the leadership of ‘Colonel’ Mbadhu who took over from Banaloki after his arrest in early 2015, the FRPI continues to resist demobilization and has managed to maintain control over various parts of Irumu territory where it is involved in illegal mining and taxation.


Acknowledgements – Thanks to the whole KST team for the enormous help in compiling these biographies.

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