Democratic Republic of the Congo
Head of state Joseph Kabila
Head of government Augustin Matata Ponyo Mapon
The already precarious security situation in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) deteriorated gravely due to the proliferation of armed groups, including the newly formed March 23 group, easy access to ammunition and weapons and violations by the Congolese armed forces. Both armed groups and government security forces threatened, harassed and arbitrarily arrested human rights defenders, journalists and members of the political opposition.
On 28 April, newly re-elected President Joseph Kabila appointed a new government after months of disputed election results.
The national army, Forces Armées de la République Démocratique du Congo (FARDC), continued a reconfiguration process, which involved, in parts, the integration of armed groups into the army. This restructuring was unco-ordinated and ultimately opened the door for armed groups to take control of areas vacated by FARDC.
In April 2012, FARDC defectors in North and South Kivu formed the March 23 (M23) armed group, following a call to mutiny by General Bosco Ntaganda, who is under indictment by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity and war crimes. The M23 claimed to be fighting for the Congolese government to fully respect the 23 March 2009 peace agreement.
Clashes between FARDC and armed groups heightened insecurity and thousands were forced to flee their homes. Violent clashes between FARDC soldiers and the M23 took place between April and September and again in November when the North Kivu capital Goma fell under M23 control for 11 days. Other armed groups were allegedly also involved and widespread human rights abuses were committed by all parties.
Attacks by armed groups against the civilian population increased.
The peacekeeping force MONUSCO (UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the DRC) took various measures to address security gaps and increased its presence in areas abandoned by the FARDC, but its already overstretched resources greatly limited its ability to provide adequate protection to civilians.
In 2012, the UN Group of Experts on the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Amnesty International and several international NGOs documented Rwandan support to the M23, including by facilitating and supporting recruitment for the M23 in Rwanda and through the supply of weapons and ammunition.
Following the renewed fighting between the M23 and FARDC in November, and the M23’s temporary takeover of Goma, negotiations between countries in the Region started on 9 December under the aegis of the International Conference for the Great Lakes Region.
Abuses by armed groups
The redeployment of FARDC troops to fight the M23 in eastern DRC created security vacuums in other localities. This allowed various armed groups, such as the Raia Mutomboki, Nyatura, Forces Démocratiques de Libération du Rwanda (FDLR), Burundian Forces Nationales de Libération, Mayi Mayi Sheka, and Alliance des Patriotes pour un Congo Libre et Souverain, to commit serious human rights abuses as they expanded their military operations into those areas.
Abuses included unlawful killings, summary executions, forced recruitment of children, rape and sexual violence, large-scale looting and destruction of property and were characterized by extreme violence, sometimes ethnically motivated. The situation was fuelled by easy access to weapons and ammunition.
- On the night of 13 May, in Bunyakiri, Kalehe territory, South Kivu province, at least 20 civilians were unlawfully killed and others wounded in an attack reportedly carried out by the FDLR, which took place a few kilometres from a MONUSCO base.
Other armed groups have continued to be active in the north east, including the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), the Mayi Mayi Lumumba and the Allied Democratic Forces/National Army for the Liberation of Uganda (ADF/NALU).