DR Congo's Troubled East


DR Congo's troubled east

Eastern DR Congo, where Italian ambassador Luca Attanasio was killed on Monday, is a vast, beautiful region which has been gripped by militia violence for a quarter of a century

Goma, DR Congo, (APP - UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News - 22nd Feb, 2021 ) :Eastern DR Congo, where Italian ambassador Luca Attanasio was killed on Monday, is a vast, beautiful region which has been gripped by militia violence for a quarter of a century.

A US-based monitor, the Kivu Security Tracker (KST), says 122 armed groups were active last year in the four eastern provinces of North and South Kivu, Ituri and Tanganyika.

Most are legacies of two wars that sucked in countries from around eastern and southern-central Africa, killing millions of people.

In the two Kivu provinces alone, according to KST, 2,127 civilians were killed between January 2019 and October 2020.

- North Kivu - Attanasio was in a convoy of the UN's World food Programme (WFP) that was ambushed north of Goma, the provincial capital of North Kivu.

Armed groups in the area include a Rwandan Hutu militia called the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), some of whose founders took part in the 1994 genocide, and a Hutu Congolese group called Nyatura.

Another is the M23, a Congolese Tutsi group also known as the Congolese Revolutionary Army, which took Goma in 2012-2013.

The region includes the UNESCO-listed Virunga National Park, a huge wildlife reserve that is home to critically-endangered mountain gorillas.

More than 200 of the park's rangers have been killed in attacks stretching back more than a decade. Twelve were killed in April last year in an attack blamed on the FDLR.

Arguably the most notorious group in North Kivu is the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), whose stronghold lies in the Beni area, near the border with Uganda.

Originally Ugandan Muslim rebels, the ADF settled in the DRC in 1995 and in recent years they have given up on attacks in neighbouring Uganda.

In the second half of last year, attacks blamed on the ADF claimed 468 lives, including 108 women and 15 children, according to UN figures.

- South Kivu and Ituri - In neighbouring South Kivu, ethnic violence flared last year in the enclave of Fizi between the Banyamulenge, who are Rwandan-speaking Tutsi Congolese, and other communities -- the Babembe, Bafuliro and Banyindu.

In July, between 18 and 220 people were massacred at the village of Kipupu, a toll whose wide range is explained by the remoteness of the site.

In Ituri, a gold- and oil-rich province in the far northeast, tens of thousands of people were killed in an ethnic conflict between 1999 and 2003 between the Lendu, who are mainly farmers, and the Hema, who are chiefly herders and traders.

Violence returned in December 2017 at the hands of the Cooperative for the Development of Congo (CODECO), an armed political-religious sect drawn from the Lendu.

- UN troops - Chronic violence persists in the Democratic Republic of Congo's east despite a huge commitment by the UN.

With around 15,000 personnel and a budget close to a billion Dollars, MONUSCO is the UN's biggest peacekeeping mission.

Its rapid intervention brigade has been frequently criticised for failures to end the massacres in the Beni region. Joint operations between the peacekeepers and the Congolese army are essentially on hold.

In January 2019, President Felix Tshisekedi took office pledging to make security in the east the cornerstone of his tenure.

But his promises to transfer the army's headquarters, to improve understanding of tactics and strategy in the region, have not borne fruit.

His attempts to weave together a regional solution, bringing in Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi, whose relations are historically tense, seem similarly to have come to a dead end.