Democratic Republic of the Congo: A Mapping of Non-International Armed Conflicts in Kivu, Kasai and Ituri

Map of the RULAC online portal with the pop-up window of the non-international armed conflicts in DRC. Map of the RULAC online portal with the pop-up window of the non-international armed conflicts in DRC.

5 February 2019

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has been affected by several armed conflicts in recent decades. Political tensions, the proliferation of armed groups and the involvement of foreign countries have contributed to the deterioration of the situation and have prevented the possibility of reaching a peaceful settlement of these conflicts. The regions that have been most affected are Kivu, Kasai, and Ituri, although violence is widespread and affects the whole country.

In this context, and according to international humanitarian law criteria, the Congolese armed forces (FARDC) are engaged, with the support of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO), in several non-international armed conflicts (NIACs) in Kivu, Kasai and Ituri.

Our Rule of Law in Armed Conflict Online Portal (RULAC) provides a detailed analysis and legal classification of these conflicts, including information about parties.

Kivu: Two NIACs with at least the Allied Democratic Forces and Mai-Mai Yakutumba

At least 100 armed groups are active in Kivu, in particular, the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) and the Mai-Mai Yakutumba.

‘In light of their degree of organization and the intensity of violence between the FARDC and these two armed groups, we concluded that at the moment the DRC Government is involved in at least two NIACs in Kivu, one with ADF and the other with Mai-Mai Yakutumba’ explains Dr Chiara Redaelli, Research Fellow at the Geneva Academy.

‘As for the other armed groups, we cannot conclude with certainty that they are party to NIACs against the FARDC due to the paucity of specific and reliable information regarding armed confrontations and their organization.

ADF was founded in Uganda in 1989 and is based in the mountains between Uganda and the DRC. It operates mainly in the Kivu region, specifically around the town of Beni, where it has been conducting attacks against both the state armed forces and the civilian population‘ stresses Dr Redaelli.

Mai-Mai Yakutumba was founded in 2007 with the primary objective to protect the Bembe community from other communities based in the region. Observers estimate that the militia is composed of a few hundred members, whose vast majority belongs to the Bembe community, based in the Fizi territory in South Kivu.

Non International Armed Conflicts in DRC Kivu

Kasai: A NIAC with Kamuina Nsapu

The Kamuina Nsapu armed group has been engaged since 2016 in armed confrontations against the government, triggering a conflict that is having a dramatic impact on the civilian population.

Violence between the rebel group and the government escalated between 2016 and the beginning of 2018. However, armed confrontations were more sporadic in the following months.

‘Although the intensity of violence between the government and the armed group has decreased, this does not imply that the conflict is over and that IHL ceases to be applicable. Indeed, a non-international armed conflict continues until a peaceful settlement is achieved Yakutumba’ underlines Dr Chiara Redaelli.

‘Accordingly, IHL continues to be applicable regardless of the oscillating intensity of violence, thus even when the intensity requirement is not met for a certain amount of time’ she adds.

Ituri: A NIAC with the Front for Patriotic Resistance

The Front for Patriotic Resistance in Ituri (FRPI), founded in 2002, is the main armed group active in the Ituri province. Its members are Ngiti, one of the ethnic groups in Ituri, and are estimated to number roughly 1,000.

The group was initially led by Germain Katanga, who was brought to before the International Criminal Court in 2006, where he was convicted of war crimes and crimes against humanity in 2014.

In 2018, FRPI engaged regularly in armed confrontations against the FARDC. In spite of the deployment of 1,300 additional FARDC and police personnel by the DRC government in April 2018, the FRPI continued to attack governmental forces, which responded with Operation Hero, a counter-offensive that took place on 22–25 May and resulted in the death of seven members of the opposition group.

Although the armed violence between state forces and the non-state actor has decreased in intensity, the conflict is not over.

Non International Armed Conflicts in DRC Armed Groups

MONUSCO: A Party to These Conflicts

Since its establishment by the UN Security Council in July 2010, the peacekeeping operation has been supporting the government in its efforts to tackle the myriad armed groups operating in DRC.

‘In light of MONUSCO’s involvement in the various NIACs and the number and nature of armed confrontations between the peacekeeping operation and armed groups, we concluded that MONUSCO is a party to these conflicts’ underlines Dr Redaelli.

‘As MONUSCO is intervening with the consent of the DRC government, this involvement does not affect the classification of the conflicts, which remain non-international in character’ she adds.

Non International Armed Conflicts in DRC MONUSCO

About RULAC

The RULAC database is unique in the world in that it legally classifies situations of armed violence that amount to an armed conflict – international or non-international – under international humanitarian law (IHL).

‘This is crucial because IHL applies only in armed conflicts. Before humanitarian players, civil servants or academics can invoke IHL or analyze whether IHL was violated, they must know whether it applies. Outside armed conflicts, only international human rights law applies’ underlines Marco Sassòli, Director of the Geneva Academy.

Collaboration with the University of Essex

RULAC is supported by a law clinic at the Human Rights Centre at the University of Essex. In accordance with the RULAC methodology, a team of Essex postgraduate students drafted the conflict entry on the NIACs in DRC, which was then revised and complemented by the Geneva Academy.

MORE ON THIS THEMATIC AREA

Libya, destroyed houses News

Oxford Guide to International Humanitarian Law: Contributions by our Professors and Experts

12 May 2020

Six out of the 18 chapters of the new Oxford Guide to International Humanitarian Law – edited by Ben Saul and Dapo Akande – have been written or co-written by Geneva Academy’s professors or experts.

Read more

Armed Islamist fighters race near the Mauritania-Mali border News

Burkina Faso is the Theater of Several Non-International Armed Conflicts against Jihadist Groups

15 October 2020

Our RULAC online portal provides a detailed analysis of these conflicts, including information about parties, classification and applicable international law.

Read more

Mali,  Gao region, Ansongo cercle, Fafa. ICRC dissemination session about international humanitarian law for the army of Mali. Event

Thinking out of the (Tool)Box: Promoting Implementation of and Respect for International Humanitarian Law

11 November 2020, 18:00-19:30

This online IHL Talk aims at shining light on the various ways of promoting respect for and implementation of international humanitarian law.

Read more

Computer code Event

Launch Event: Joint Initiative on the Digitalization of Conflict

29 October 2020, 10:00-12:00

This panel discussion marks the Launch of our New Research Initiative, carried out jointly by our Swiss IHL Chair Robin Geiß and the ICRC.

Read more

An aerial view of camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs), which have appeared following latest attacks by M23 rebels and other armed groups in the North Kivu region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Short Course

International Refugee Law

30 April - 21 May 2021

This short course, which can be followed in Geneva or online, analyses the main international and regional norms governing the international protection of refugees. It notably examines the sources of international refugee law, including the 1951 Geneva Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, and their interaction with human rights law and international humanitarian law.

Read more

Short Course

The Law of Non-International Armed Conflicts

15 April - 6 May 2021

This short course, which can be followed in Geneva or online, discusses the protection offered by international humanitarian law (IHL) in non-international armed conflicts (NIACs) and addresses some problems and controversies specific to IHL of NIACs, including the difficulty to ensure the respect of IHL by armed non-state actors.

Read more

A session of the UN Human Rights Committtee at Palais Wilson Project

Implementing International Humanitarian Law Through Human Rights Mechanisms

Started in April 2019

Resulting from traditional legal research and informal interviews with experts, the project aims at examining how – if at all possible – IHL could be more systematically, appropriately and correctly dealt with by the human rights mechanisms emanating from the Charter of the United Nations, as well from universal and regional treaties.

Read more

Screenshot of the RULAC webpage Project

Rule of Law in Armed Conflicts (RULAC)

Started in May 2007

The Rule of Law in Armed Conflicts project (RULAC) is a unique online portal that identifies and classifies all situations of armed violence that amount to an armed conflict under international humanitarian law (IHL). It is primarily a legal reference source for a broad audience, including non-specialists, interested in issues surrounding the classification of armed conflicts under IHL.

Read more

Cover page of the Annual Report 2019 Publication

Annual Report 2019

published on May 2020

Read more

Cover of the publication Publication

From Words to Deeds: A Study of Armed Non-State Actors’ Practice and Interpretations of International Humanitarian and Human Rights Norms

published on December 2019

Annyssa Bellal, Pascal Bongard, Ezequiel Heffes

Read more