Final report of the Group of Experts on the Democratic Republic of the Congo (S/2024/432) – Democratic Republic of the Congo

Final report of the Group of Experts on the Democratic Republic of the Congo (S/2024/432) – Democratic Republic of the Congo
Final report of the Group of Experts on the Democratic Republic of the Congo (S/2024/432) – Democratic Republic of the Congo

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Summary

The security and humanitarian situation in eastern DRC, which remained gripped by intense violence, continued to deteriorate. Regional tensions negatively impacted the conflict and clashes in the three eastern provinces. In western DRC, the conflict in Mai-Ndombe continued to simmer.

In North Kivu, the sanctioned armed group Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) intensified its attacks on urban centres in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and remained active in Uganda. The ADF committed the largest number of killings, mainly of civilians. The armed group established strong networks in prisons, especially in Kinshasa, where ADF detainees actively recruited and mobilised fighters and collaborators.

The official use of Wazalendo armed groups by the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to fight the March 23 Movement (M23) legitimized the existence and criminal activities of armed groups across eastern DRC calling themselves Wazalendo.

The rapidly escalating M23 crisis risked triggering a broader regional conflict. Heavy fighting continued between M23, alongside the Rwandan Defence Force (RDF), and the Forces armées de la République démocratique du Congo (FARDC), joined by the Wazalendo coalition of local armed groups, the sanctioned Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda (FDLR) and contingents of the Burundi National Defence Forces. Private military companies and Southern African Development Community contingents, which deployed in December 2023, provided operational and military support to the FARDC.

The FDR’s military interventions and operations in the territories of Rutshuru, Masisi and Nyiragongo expanded beyond mere support for M23 operations to a direct and determined collaboration, which enabled the FDR and M23 to achieve military dominance in Petit Nord and a rapid territorial expansion up to the shores of Lake Edward. The deployment of advanced military technology and equipment boosted joint M23-FDR operations, which altered the dynamics of the conflicts, in particular by grounding all FARDC military air assets. A recently created political-military movement, the Alliance River Congo (AFC), failed to unite the majority of political and armed actors against the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The government continued to use the Wazalendo groups and the FDLR as intermediaries in the fight against the M23 and the FDR. The instructions of the FARDC Chief of Staff to stop collaborating with the FDLR were not followed. Although the FDLR was subjected to pressure, it remained an important player in the conflict.

The involvement of the Burundi National Defence Forces in operations against the M23 and the FDR has exacerbated tensions between Rwanda and Burundi.

Prolonged armed violence worsened the already severe humanitarian crisis. By March 2024, Petit Nord accounted for nearly 1.7 million IDPs. Another half million IDPs moved to neighbouring South Kivu. In Goma, there was increasing crime and civil unrest, mainly due to the proliferation of Wazalendo fighters and undisciplined FARDC elements, who enjoyed general impunity for their actions. The proximity of fighting and frequent artillery fire in urban areas and near IDP sites caused numerous civilian casualties.

All armed actors recruited and used children in hostilities at an unprecedented level. M23 and FDR continued to punish civilians believed to have collaborated with enemy armed groups, particularly among the Hutu population perceived to be associated with the FDLR or Nyatura, through executions, torture, destruction of villages, looting or arbitrary arrests. Wazalendo groups thrived on a violent war economy in their areas of influence, looting, extorting, kidnapping and killing civilians.

Most of the armed agents active in Petit Nord have benefited from illegal logging or the imposition of taxes on the transport of timber planks in the areas under their control. This source of income is part of the increased income-generating opportunities resulting from the ongoing crisis in Petit Nord.

In Rubaya, mineral production controlled by the Coalition of Patriots Resistant Congolese-Strike Force (PARECO-FF) and mineral trade controlled by PARECO-FF, Wazalendo and M23 did not cease, making the minerals unfit for trade. There was also a serious risk of contamination of the supply chain.

In Ituri, the two main armed groups, Zaire and the Cooperative for the Development of Congo/Union of Revolutionaries for the Defence of the Congolese People (CODECO-URDPC), resumed their armed confrontations and rivalry, including over lucrative gold-mining areas. The Zairean group’s brief commitment to participate in the peace process proved dishonest, as demonstrated by the group’s increased mobilization and launching offensives. CODECO/URDPC also frequently clashed with FARDC, attacked peacekeepers of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and committed indiscriminate and deadly attacks against civilians, including kidnappings and executions. Elements of FARDC and the Republican Guard were involved in gold-mining activities. FARDC financial resources and soldiers were diverted from fighting armed groups to protecting private interests in the mining sector.

In South Kivu, the crisis linked to the M23 continued to affect the dynamics of armed groups. The worsening tensions between Burundi and Rwanda led both countries to resume their contacts and collaboration with foreign armed groups based in South Kivu. In particular, Rwanda renewed its support for the Resistance for the Rule of Law in Burundi (RED Tabara), and Burundi resumed collaboration with the National Council for Renewal and Democracy-Forces de Liberation Nationale (CNRD-FLN). Links between local armed groups, the M23, the AFC and Rwanda created further tensions between armed groups in South Kivu. The “Shikama” mutual fund, based in Uvira, financed Twirwaneho in the Hauts Plateaux, Fizi territory. Leaders of armed groups in South Kivu, including William Yakutumba, a sanctioned person, personally enriched themselves by imposing illegal taxes on miners and their production.

In the mining sector, the development of the Wazalendo phenomenon posed serious threats to the application of due diligence. Economic agents entrusted their security to armed groups.

Primera Gold’s exports have declined significantly since the Panel of Experts published its mid-term report. Primera Gold was weakened by disputes with its partners in the United Arab Emirates. The company became less competitive compared to prices offered in other countries in the region. As a result, gold smuggling continued, mainly to Rwanda and Uganda.

The conflict in Mai-Ndombe continued to escalate, with the Mobondo militia continuing to occupy several Teke groupings in Kwamouth territory. Mobondo continued to attack civilians and engaged in violent clashes with FARDC and the Republican Guard, and gained significant firepower through effective attacks on military positions. In mid-March 2024, the President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Félix-Antoine Tshisekedi, led peace negotiations involving traditional Teke and Yaka chiefs and members of the Mobondo militia, which resulted in a ceasefire agreement. However, the viability of the peace process was called into question when Mobondo militia killed several civilians the day after the agreement was signed. Several Teke chiefs contested the peace initiative as insufficiently inclusive or fair.

 
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