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Distrust in electoral process continued to mar prospects for peaceful vote on 20 December; M23 rebels stepped up offensive, threatening key cities in North Kivu province.
Electoral preparations progressed haltingly as opposition discussed coalition. Constitutional Court 18 Nov validated all 26 presidential candidacies for 20 Dec election, and electoral campaign started next day. Six opposition candidates, including heavyweights Martin Fayulu and Denis Mukwege, 24 Nov filed complaint against head of electoral commission, Denis Kadima, and Interior Minister Peter Kazadi, accusing them of manipulating electoral process. EU 29 Nov cancelled election observation mission, citing security and technical reasons. Meanwhile, opposition representatives 13-17 Nov met in South Africa, and three candidates 19-20 Nov withdrew from presidential race to back Moïse Katumbi; neither Fayulu nor Mukwege followed suit.
M23 captured positions in east around North Kivu’s provincial capital Goma. Amid ongoing tensions between Kinshasa and Kigali (see Rwanda), Rwanda-backed M23 rebels continued offensive in North Kivu, with intense fighting in Masisi, Nyiragongo and Rutshuru territories. M23 from late Oct reoccupied most positions they had ceded to East African regional force and repelled army and loyal militias, formerly known as Wazalendo, on Sake-Kitshanga axis and Goma-Rutshuru axis. Notably, M23 14 Nov took control of Kishishe village, Rutshuru territory, 22 Nov captured Mweso city, Masisi territory. Clashes between M23 and army 26 Nov intensified around Kilolirwe village; several thousand households took refuge in Sake town, last stop before Goma. Responding to resurgent M23 threat, UN peacekeeping force (MONUSCO) 3 Nov launched operation with army to reinforce security around Goma; plans for mission’s withdrawal continued unhindered, as MONUSCO and govt 21 Nov agreed on timeline for complete disengagement. East African regional force, whose mandate is set to expire on 8 Dec, largely stayed out of fight. President Tshisekedi 17 Nov signed agreement on Southern African regional force, confirmed deployment “in the coming days”.
ADF continued to wreak havoc in eastern provinces. Islamic State-affiliated Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) rebels 7 Nov killed at least 12 civilians in three localities of Irumu territory, Ituri province; 12 Nov reportedly slaughtered up to 42 people in Watalinga chiefdom, Beni territory, North Kivu.
Large-scale fighting between M23 rebels and govt forces resumed in North Kivu after six months of precarious calm, fuelling tensions with Rwanda; political climate remained heated ahead of December elections.
Ceasefire between M23 and govt collapsed in North Kivu province. Wazalendo coalition of pro-govt armed groups 9 Oct seized strategic town of Kitshanga in Masisi territory from M23 rebel group after intense fighting, and around 11 Oct drove M23 from their stronghold of Bwiza (Bwito chiefdom) in neighbouring Rutshuru territory. Violence 15 Oct flared in Bwito’s Tongo and Bishusha groupements, and M23 overnight 22-23 Oct reportedly killed over 50 civilians in several villages of Tongo. Fighting also reported around 21 Oct in Masisi, with M23 regaining control of Kitshanga. Direct clashes between M23 and govt forces 24 Oct resumed at Kibumba town in Nyiragongo territory, about 20km north of provincial capital Goma. M23 rebels 25-26 Oct opened new front, seizing Bambo town in Rutshuru territory, 60km from Goma. Kinshasa 23-24 Oct released drone footage purportedly showing Rwandan army incursion into DR Congo in support of M23. Meanwhile, UN regional envoy 17 Oct said risk of “direct confrontation” between Kigali and Kinshasa is “very real” (see Rwanda).
Presidential election candidates engaged in heated rhetoric. Electoral commission 19 Oct published list 24 candidates registered for 20 Dec presidential election, pending Constitutional Court confirmation expected 18 Nov. Harsh rhetoric continued between candidates. Notably, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Denis Mukwege 2 Oct called current leadership “inconsistent, irresponsible and incompetent”, while incumbent President Tshisekedi 7 Oct warned against “candidates from abroad” in thinly veiled reference to Mukwege. Opposition seemed unable to build electoral alliance to rally behind single candidate against Tshisekedi. Fuelling divisions, prominent candidate Martin Fayulu 10 Oct said he was only candidate fit for the role and dismissed other candidates as “thieves”.
In other important developments. Suspected Islamic State-affiliated Allied Democratic Forces 23 Oct killed at least 26 civilians in Oicha town, Beni territory in North Kivu. Tshisekedi 12 Oct announced easing of state of siege (akin to martial law) in North Kivu and Ituri provinces, notably lifting curfew and allowing peaceful demonstrations, with military remaining in charge at provincial level.
Civic space restrictions and armed group violence in eastern and western provinces continued to bode ill for general election due in December.
Political climate remained tense ahead of December general elections. Authorities 8 Sept arrested journalist Stanis Bujakera, later charged him with “forgery” and “spreading falsehoods”, prompting condemnation from Committee to Protect Journalists. Court of Cassation 13 Sept sentenced President Tshisekedi’s former ally, Jean-Marc Kabund, to seven years in prison for “insulting the Head of State and the institutions of the Republic” and “propagation of false rumours”. Opposition heavyweight Martin Fayulu 30 Sept confirmed presidential candidacy.
Fallout of Goma massacre loomed large. Authorities 5 Sept put on trial six soldiers, for “crimes against humanity” in relation to 30 August killing of over 50 people protesting foreign forces’ perceived inaction in North Kivu province’s capital Goma. Tshisekedi 18 Sept replaced North Kivu military governor with another army general, de facto extending unpopular state of siege. At UN general assembly, Tshisekedi 20 Sept advocated starting withdrawal of UN mission (MONUSCO) in December instead of next year.
M23 returned to prominence in North Kivu province. Marking shift from recent low-profile strategy, M23 18 Sept proclaimed takeover of Kiwanja town (Rutshuru territory), nominally controlled by East African Community (EAC) troops, and 22 Sept organised large rally in strategic Kibumba town (Nyiragongo territory), from which they supposedly withdrew last Jan. M23 around 20 Sept also clashed with pro-govt armed groups between Kitshanga and Mweso villages in Masisi territory. Meanwhile, EAC 5 Sept extended mandate of regional force in eastern DR Congo by three months.
Other violence continued in eastern provinces. Maï-Maï militia group 7 Sept attacked Balingina village in Ituri province, killing 18 civilians. Also in Ituri, suspected CODECO militia, which gathers various ethnic Lendu armed groups, 31 Aug-8 Sept killed at least 15 civilians in Mahagi and Djugu territories. Congolese and Ugandan forces throughout month reported gains against Islamic State-affiliated Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) in Ituri (see Uganda).
Mobondo militia continued to extend attacks in western provinces. Govt reported Mobondo rebels 11 Sept killed 19 people in village raid in Kongo Central province. Fighting between Mobondo militia and army 17 Sept left 15 soldiers and three Mobondo fighters dead in Kwango province.
Ahead of elections set for December, crackdown on dissent and civil liberties escalated as security forces killed over 40 anti-UN protesters in eastern province of North Kivu.
Anti-MONUSCO protest turned deadly. Govt forces 30 Aug stopped religious group from holding demonstration against UN mission (MONUSCO) in North Kivu’s provincial capital, Goma; crackdown reportedly left at least 43 people dead and 56 wounded, while over 150 people were arrested. Repression sent chilling message across country over space for free speech and dissent in lead-up to general elections due in late 2023.
Armed group violence continued in eastern provinces, mainly targeting civilians. In Ituri province, Islamist militia Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) 19-21 Aug killed over 50 people in Irumu territory. Also in Ituri, Cooperative for the Development of the Congo (CODECO), which gathers various ethnic Lendu militias, 15 Aug killed 11 civilians in two attacks in Irumu territory, and 27-28 Aug killed 30 people in Djugu and Aru territories. Amid fragile truce with govt, Rwanda-backed M23 rebels continued to fight with local armed groups for territorial control in North Kivu. Notably, clashes between M23 and Democratic Forces for the liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) 6 Aug killed at least two FDLR combatants and ten civilians in Marangara and Ruzanze villages, Rutshuru territory. Meanwhile, participants to President Tshisekedi-sponsored roundtable held 14-16 Aug in capital Kinshasa called for immediate lifting of so-called “state of siege” declared in May 2021 in Ituri and North Kivu provinces, citing lack of conclusive results in fight against armed groups.
In other important developments. In likely bid to strengthen control of security apparatus as elections near, Tshisekedi 1 Aug appointed new heads of National Intelligence Agency and National Security Council. Electoral commission 11 Aug published provisional list of candidates for National Assembly, and 27 Aug completed registration of candidates for provincial and municipal elections; political heavyweights Joseph Kabila and Martin Fayulu boycotted registration process. Electoral commission 22 Aug restricted municipal election on 20 Dec to communes located in provincial capitals, citing customary power conflicts in rural areas; elections projected in 2024 in remaining municipalities.
Tensions escalated further ahead of general elections set for December, while civilians continued to bear the brunt of violence in eastern provinces.
Pre-electoral tensions turned violent. Unidentified gunman 13 July killed Chérubin Okende, MP and spokesman of Moïse Katumbi’s opposition party, Together for the Republic, in capital Kinshasa. Small anti-govt protests same day broke out and President Tshisekedi urged judiciary to “shed light on this case”. Adding to turmoil, electoral commission 10 July dismissed all opposition’s demands ahead of general elections set for December, including independent audit of electoral register. In response, opposition leader Martin Fayulu 12 July vowed to block “fraudulent” elections. Electoral commission 23 July closed registration of candidacies for legislative elections, with Fayulu and former President Joseph Kabila’s parties choosing to remain out of the race.
M23 ceasefire remained fragile in North Kivu province. Local sources said M23 armed group 5-16 July killed at least 11 civilians in Bukombo village and another eight in Bungushu village, both Rutshuru territory. Congolese military 27 July claimed to have pushed back incursion by Rwandan army north of North Kivu’s capital Goma. Rwandan army next day rejected accusations, accused Kinshasa of seeking pretext to launch attack on Rwandan territory. European Union 28 July sanctioned nine Congolese and Rwandan individuals responsible for serious human rights violations and/or for fuelling armed conflict in eastern DR Congo, including several armed group members and a Rwandan military officer.
Other armed groups continued to terrorise civilians in East. In Ituri province, association of various ethnic Lendu militias CODECO 3 July raided Pabon village, Mahagi territory, killing two; Islamist militia Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) 12 July killed at least 16 people in Eloke-Nord and Apesiko villages, Mambasa territory. In North Kivu province, ADF next day killed two including one army officer in Mapobu village, Beni territory. Following 16 June school attack in Uganda, Ugandan and DR Congo forces stepped up operations against ADF cell in Mwalika Valley, Beni territory (North Kivu), reportedly killing 16 militants, including several leaders, by mid-July.
In other important developments. As conflict between Yaka and Teke communities persisted in western provinces, armed forces 3 July reportedly arrested 50 Yaka “Mobondo” militiamen.
Political tensions escalated ahead of December general elections, and M23-related violence resumed, jeopardising fragile ceasefire observed on the ground since April.
Political climate sharply deteriorated. Military intelligence 5 June accused opposition leader Moïse Katumbi’s right-hand man, Salomon Kalonda – detained in May – of collusion with Rwanda and M23 rebels, and 8 June searched Kalonda and Katumbi’s homes in capital Kinshasa and Lubumbashi city. Moves fuelled concern among opposition parties that President Tshisekedi may use M23 crisis to repress rivals ahead of December general elections. Opposition and civil society continued to strongly criticise electoral process. Former President Kabila 16 June denounced those “organising chaotic elections that will set the country ablaze”, while opposition heavyweight Martin Fayulu 19 June threatened election boycott if voter list is not redone. After National Episcopal Conference 22 June condemned democratic backsliding, Tshisekedi 25 June accused Catholic Church of intimidation.
Clashes resumed between M23 rebellion and local armed groups allied to army. Following lull in M23-related violence in North Kivu province since April, M23 rebels 8, 26 June clashed with ethnic Hutu militia in Bwito chiefdom, Rutshuru territory, and 15 June captured Kasura, Butale and Lwama villages in Bashali chiefdom, Masisi territory, after clashes with ethnic Hutu and Hunde militias; renewed fighting reported in Masisi 17-21 June. Meanwhile, Angola 3 and 27 June hosted regional summits to help resolve conflict (see Rwanda).
Deadly attacks by ethnic and Islamist militias continued. Association of various ethnic Lendu militias, Cooperative for the Development of the Congo, 11-12 June rampaged through Lala displacement camp in Djugu territory of Ituri province, killing 46 civilians, mostly ethnic Hema. Islamist militia Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) 2-9 June killed at least 24 people in Beni territory, North Kivu. ADF 16 June also launched deadly cross-border attack into Uganda (see Uganda), and 25 June killed several people in Manya locality, Mambasa territory, Ituri.
Conflict between Yaka and Teke communities continued in west. Ethnic Yaka “Mobondo” militiamen 6 June beheaded ethnic Teke village chief in Maluku commune, Kinshasa, and 26 June killed at least 20 people, mostly from Teke ethnic group, in ambush in Kwamouth territory, Mai-Ndombe province.
Amid mounting discontent with East African force, President Tshisekedi secured deployment of Southern African troops to help quell M23 rebellion in North Kivu; intercommunal conflict spread further in western provinces.
Southern Africa’s regional bloc pledged troops for eastern DR Congo. As Tshisekedi stepped up criticism of East African Community (EAC) force’s approach to tackling M23 rebellion, Southern African Development Community 8 May approved troop deployment to eastern provinces. Tshisekedi next day threatened to expel EAC force, accusing it of taking weak stance vis-à-vis M23 and even colluding with rebels in some instances. EAC 11 May denounced Tshisekedi’s criticism as “not fair”, and 31 May approved extension of force’s mandate until Sept. Kinshasa late May reported movements of Rwandan army and M23 rebels in North Kivu province, warned of imminent offensive on Goma city.
Amid fragile M23 calm, other armed group attacks continued unabated in east. Local CMC-Nyatura militia 3-4 May killed 13 people in attack on Kizimba site for internally displaced persons in Rutshuru territory, North Kivu. Islamist militia Allied Democratic Forces in May launched repeated raids in North Kivu’s Beni territory, killing at least 34 people, and 18 May killed another 13 in Irumu territory, Ituri province. Unidentified assailants, possibly CODECO or Front for Patriotic Resistance in Ituri local militias, 12 May killed at least 47 people in several villages of Djugu territory, Ituri. Local Maï Maï Kabido militia 18 and 28 May killed at least five eco-guards in and near Virunga national park in Lubero and Rutshuru territories (both North Kivu).
Intercommunal violence spread further in west. Conflict between Yaka and Teke communities, triggered by land dispute, continued to spread beyond Mai-Ndombe province’s Kwamouth territory. Notably, local militias 11-13 May clashed with security forces and other militias, leaving at least 16 people dead in Nguma and Mongata villages (Kinshasa province), as well as Batshongo village (Kwango province).
Police cracked down on protesters in Kinshasa. Ahead of general elections expected in Dec, opposition demonstrators 20 May took to streets in Kinshasa to denounce alleged voter registration irregularities, prolonged insecurity and cost-of-living crisis. Security forces responded forcefully, with opposition claiming dozens injured. UN 23 May said police used “disproportionate” force.
ADF and CODECO attacks surged in eastern provinces, while full deployment of regional force coincided with lull in fighting between govt forces and M23 rebels in North Kivu.
ADF and CODECO attacks killed scores of civilians in Ituri and North-Kivu. UN humanitarian office 18 April said “persistent attacks” by armed groups in Ituri province’s Djugu, Irumu and Mambasa territories had killed around 150 civilians since early April. Most notably, Islamist militia Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) 2-3 April killed 30 civilians in several attacks on border between Mambasa and Irumu, while CODECO coalition of mostly Lendu militias 13-14 April killed nearly 50 people in Banyali-Kilo sector, Djugu. Meanwhile in neighbouring North Kivu province, ADF 7-20 April killed at least 30 people and took multiple hostages in Beni and Lubero territories.
M23 continued to vacate positions as ECA force completed deployment. North Kivu experienced fragile lull in fighting between M23 rebels and govt forces as East African Community regional force early April completed deployment (see Uganda). Notably, Ugandan contingent late March-early April took control of Bunagana border town, Rutshuru city, and Kiwanja town after M23 withdrawal. Claims of M23 attacks on civilians however resurfaced. Local authorities in Rutshuru territory 26 April claimed M23 in previous days killed 60 civilians in Bwito area. Kenya 27 April replaced regional force commander amid rising tensions with Kinshasa over force’s mandate.
Tensions between Kinshasa and Kigali remained elevated. After President Tshisekedi 13 April excluded direct negotiations with M23, group same day responded that “there will also be no cantonment, disarmament and demobilisation until there is direct political dialogue”. Kagame 15 April blamed M23 crisis on colonial era border delineation, saying “a big part of Rwanda was left outside in eastern Congo and southwestern Uganda”. In response, Kinshasa blamed Kagame for “all the problems” in eastern provinces over last 20 years (see Rwanda).
In other important developments. Ahead of general elections scheduled for Dec 2023, prominent opposition presidential candidates 14 April pledged to work together and scheduled march for 13 May in capital Kinshasa to protest “chaotic electoral process”. Voter registration 25 April closed countrywide; election commission however mentioned possibility of additional registration drives in conflict-ridden territories.
Fighting between M23 rebels and govt forces continued in North Kivu province despite regional troop deployment; President Tshisekedi conducted major cabinet reshuffle ahead of elections.
Regional powers boosted military presence in North Kivu amid M23 fighting. Angolan President Lourenço 3 March announced ceasefire between M23 and Congolese forces to take effect 7 March. Fighting 6-13 March however erupted notably around Sake town (Masisi territory). As ceasefire collapsed, Lourenço 11 March announced troop deployment to North Kivu, which Angola’s parliament 18 March approved. Renewed fighting reported same day between Congolese troops and M23 in Bihambwe village near mining town of Rubaya (also Masisi). Burundian, Ugandan and South Sudanese forces in March arrived in North Kivu as part of East African Community (EAC) regional force to supervise planned pullback of M23 (see Burundi, Uganda). Rebels during month reportedly withdrew from some localities, including Mweso (Masisi), but 30 March still held strategic positions, missing EAC deadline for full withdrawal.
Other armed groups launched deadly attacks on civilians in east. In North Kivu’s Beni territory, suspected Islamist militia Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) 8-9 March attacked Mukondi and Mausa villages, killing nearly 40 civilians; 12 and 14 March killed 36 civilians in Kirindera and Mabuku villages. ADF 18-19 March also launched first-ever attack in Lubero territory, killing at least nine civilians in Nguli village. In Ituri province, attacks by suspected CODECO militia in five villages of Mahagi territory 18 March reportedly left over 30 people dead, and CODECO 26 March executed 17 hostages in Djugu territory.
Cabinet reshuffle brought political heavyweights into govt. Months away from general elections due in Dec, Tshisekedi 23 March reshuffled govt, notably appointing his former Chief of Staff Vital Kamerhe as economy minister and former VP Jean-Pierre Bemba as defence minister.
Delays in election preparations sparked tensions. After Tshisekedi 4 March suggested that violence in eastern provinces could delay elections, opposition leader Martin Fayulu 6 March urged him to leave power by 23 Jan 2024, if need be to make way for caretaker govt. Electoral commission 15 March announced 15-day extension to 1 April of voter registration in electoral zone covering east, where millions of voters are facing disenfranchisement.
M23 offensive moved closer to North Kivu’s capital Goma with rebels capturing more ground in Masisi territory as fighting fuelled regional tensions despite efforts to resolve crisis; voter registration kicked off in eastern provinces.
M23 made major gains in North Kivu province’s Masisi territory. Fighting between M23 and govt forces early Feb moved to area around Sake, last major town before North Kivu’s capital Goma in Masisi territory. As clashes throughout month continued on hills around Sake, M23 captured several other localities in area, notably strategic town of Mushaki 24 Feb, and 26 Feb seized important mining town of Rubaya.
Frosty Kinshasa-Kigali relations continued to dominate regional diplomacy. Demonstrations 6 Feb erupted in Goma over frustration with UN peacekeeping mission (MONUSCO) and East African Community (EAC) regional force’s failure to stop M23 rebels’ advance. Mob next day attacked MONUSCO convoy on its way to Goma, with eight civilians killed in skirmishes. Govt 16 Feb claimed 350 Rwandan troops had just entered North Kivu to reinforce M23 positions (see Rwanda). EAC summits 4 and 17 Feb failed to break new ground, reiterating calls for ceasefire.
Armed group violence remained widespread in North Kivu, Ituri provinces. Islamist militia Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) 8 Feb killed 12 civilians in Konge Pwendi village, Beni territory (North Kivu), and 12 Feb killed another 12 in two villages of Irumu territory (Ituri). Congolese and Ugandan joint operations nonetheless recorded modest successes against ADF, including 5 Feb killing four ADF members attacking civilian convoy in Irumu territory. Meanwhile, CODECO ethnic militia carried out several attacks in Ituri, notably killing 21 people across several villages of Djugu territory 12 Feb. Rival “Zaire” ethnic militia 5 Feb attacked Dyambu village, also Djugu, killing 11 people.
Voter registration kicked off in conflict-ridden eastern provinces. Ahead of general elections scheduled for Dec, voter registration 16 Feb began in conflict-ridden eastern provinces. Registration 19 Feb started in two large camps hosting displaced persons around Goma; electoral commission said those living in M23-controlled areas will be registered gradually, depending on army’s reconquest of these zones.
As M23 rebels’ pledge to withdraw from North Kivu province failed to materialise, Rwandan military shot at Congolese fighter jet; massacres and clashes involving ethnic militias and Islamist militants left over 100 dead in east.
M23 continued to clash with govt forces and other armed groups in North Kivu. M23 rebels 4 Jan took over Nyamilima town before withdrawing mid-Jan, seemingly to reinforce positions elsewhere; 26 Jan seized strategic Kitshanga town, 100km west of North Kivu’s capital Goma, now surrounded to the north and west by rebellion. FM Christophe Lutundula 18 Jan said M23 still occupies Kibumba town despite announcing withdrawal in Dec. As Kinshasa and Kigali continued to trade accusations of supporting rebels in eastern DRC (see Rwanda), Rwanda’s forces 24 Jan fired missile at Congolese fighter jet for allegedly violating Rwandan airspace, urging Kinshasa to “stop this aggression”. Congolese govt same day condemned “act of war”, denied airspace violation.
Other armed group violence plagued Ituri and North Kivu provinces. Clashes between rival ethnic militias CODECO and “Zaire” 8 Jan left at least 23 dead near Djugu town (Ituri), while UN 18 Jan announced discovery near Ituri’s capital Bunia of bodies of nearly 50 people killed 14-15 Jan in attacks attributed to CODECO. Another suspected CODECO raid 27 Jan took place 60km from Bunia; religious leaders reported 15 soldiers killed, while army claimed seven combatants dead. Islamist militia Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) launched spate of attacks against civilians: dozen people killed 15 Jan in bomb raid on church in Kasindi town (North Kivu); at least 24 killed overnight 22-23 Jan in Makungwe village, Beni territory (North Kivu); and at least 15 villagers killed 29 Jan in Irumu territory (Ituri).
National politics remained polarised ahead of December 2023 elections. Election Commission 22 Jan prolonged voter registration in western provinces, admitting only 37% of eligible voters had registered, and 25 Jan launched registration exercise in nine other provinces. Former President Kabila’s party boycotted exercise. Adviser of political heavyweight Moïse Katumbi (who has a non-Congolese parent) 19 Jan condemned “racist regime” after ministers from ruling party raised issue of eligibility for public office of dual nationals or nationals with parents of different nationality.
M23 rebels announced withdrawal from strategic Kibumba town in east as fighting with govt forces and local militias continued.
Situation remained dire in North Kivu as militias took up fight against M23 rebels. Coalition of local militias from late Nov took up arms against M23’s westward advance in North Kivu province. Fighting involving M23, govt forces and local militias reported throughout month on western front of Rutshuru territory, including 6 Dec, 16-17 Dec, and 25-29 Dec in Bishusha and Tongo groupements; clashes 31 Dec also erupted in Kamatembe village in Masisi territory. Meanwhile, M23 rebels 23 Dec announced withdrawal from strategic Kibumba town (Nyiragongo territory) in “goodwill gesture”, reportedly handed over position to East African Community (EAC)’s regional force; army next day described move as “decoy”, saying rebels were strengthening positions elsewhere to occupy territory west of provincial capital Goma; local sources late Dec said M23 still present in Kibumba area. UN mission MONUSCO 7 Dec said M23 late Nov allegedly killed at least 131 civilians in Kishishe and Bambo villages of Rutshuru territory.
Other armed groups continued attacks notably in Ituri province. Islamic State-affiliated Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) 10-13 Dec killed at least 15 civilians in Bahema Boga and Walese Vontuku chiefdoms, Irumu territory (Ituri). Congolese and Ugandan forces 11 Dec bombed ADF camp at North Kivu-Ituri border, killing at least 30. Suspected members of ethnic Hema Zaire militia 16 Dec killed 12 people, mostly from Lendu ethnic group, in Walendu Watsi chiefdom of Mahagi territory (Ituri). In retaliation, ethnic Lendu CODECO militia 28 Dec killed a dozen Hema people in Usigo village, also Mahagi. Third round of EAC-led Nairobi talks between Kinshasa and some armed groups active in east 28 Nov-6 Dec failed to agree on terms of disarmament.
Prominent politician announced presidential bid, broke alliance with president. After electoral commission late Nov scheduled presidential election for 20 Dec 2023, senior political figure Moïse Katumbi 16 Dec declared candidacy, criticised President Tshisekedi’s “very bad, chaotic” record and announced departure from presidential “Sacred Union” coalition. Voter registration 24 Dec kicked off in ten western provinces (of country’s 26).
M23 rebel group advanced further toward North Kivu’s capital Goma, as regional efforts to cool tensions between Kinshasa and Kigali continued.
M23 made further gains near Goma amid regional efforts to de-escalate conflict. Fighting between govt forces and M23 rebels around 11 Nov picked up again in several areas, with M23 mid-month taking control of Kibumba town (Nyiragongo territory) and Tongo city (Rutshuru territory), cutting off only remaining supply route to Goma apart from Rwandan border. M23 rebels 20 Nov seized populated settlements of Kiseguro and Katwiguru (both Rutshuru), about 30km from Ishasha border point with Uganda, and 25 Nov captured Kisharo settlement in same area. As President Tshisekedi 3 Nov again denounced Kigali’s “expansionist impulses” in supporting M23, East African Community (EAC) redoubled efforts to de-escalate tensions (see Burundi, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda). Tshisekedi and Rwandan FM Vincent Biruta 23 Nov attended mini-summit on peace and security in eastern DRC held in Angolan capital Luanda, called for immediate withdrawal of M23 from “occupied zones” in North Kivu and cessation of hostilities starting 25 Nov; M23 refused to lay down arms or withdraw from captured territory.
Govt forces and allies continued to clash with other rebel groups in east. In North Kivu’s Beni territory, alleged Islamic State-affiliated Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) 8 Nov attacked Kabasha village, killing three civilians, and around 9 Nov killed 13 civilians in Bashu settlement. Ugandan Air Force 4 Nov destroyed large ADF camp at undisclosed location in east, while govt forces 25 Nov killed seven ADF insurgents and freed 30 hostages in Mwalika area, Beni. Maï-Maï militiamen 25-26 Nov exchanged fire with govt forces in Butembo city, also Beni; five dead on both sides. CODECO militia carried out several attacks in Ituri province, notably 18-19 Nov in Walla area, Mahagi territory. Military said joint Burundi-DR Congo operation around 26 Nov killed 40 members of Hutu-led rebel group of Rwandan origin National Forces of Liberation near Nabombi town, South Kivu province.
Conflict between Yaka and Teke communities continued in western provinces. Clashes in Misia town, Kwilu province, 2 Nov left 16 people dead and 25 missing; armed assailants 7 Nov attacked Boku village, Kwamouth territory of Mai-Ndombe province, leaving at least 20 dead.
Tensions between Kinshasa and Kigali reached new heights after M23 rebels made dramatic gains in eastern North Kivu province.
M23 rebels gained territory in east, Kinshasa expelled Rwanda’s ambassador. After fighting 20 Oct resumed between govt forces and M23 rebels in North Kivu province’s Rutshuru territory, rebels 23 Oct captured Ntamugenga village, near strategic RN2 highway linking North Kivu’s capital Goma with province’s north and Uganda. Fighting subsequently spread to several localities along highway: rebels 29 Oct took over Kiwanja and Rutshuru towns, cutting off Goma from upper half of North Kivu. Govt, which accuses Kigali of supporting M23, same day expelled Rwanda’s ambassador to Kinshasa. Thousands of anti-Rwanda protesters 31 Oct demonstrated in Goma, demanding weapons to fight amid fears that M23 could target city. African Union 30 Oct called for ceasefire and negotiations during third inter-Congolese peace dialogue due to take place in Kenya 4-13 Nov.
Also in east, ADF forces killed dozens, and west saw deadly intercommunal conflict. Despite ongoing DR Congo-Uganda operations against Uganda-born Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) in east, group 1 Oct allegedly killed 14 people in Kyamata village, Irumu territory (Ituri province); 4 Oct reportedly killed 11 civilians, with 20 others missing in Vido village, Beni territory (North Kivu); 20 Oct killed at least seven people and set fire to health facilities in Maboya town (also North Kivu). Meanwhile, govt mid-Oct said conflict over land between Teke and Yaka communities in Kwamouth territory (western Mai-Ndombe province) had left at least 180 people dead and over 30,000 displaced since July.
President Tshisekedi conducted first major army reshuffle since coming to power. Tshisekedi 3 Oct appointed close relative Lt. Gen. Christian Tshiwewe, formerly commander of Republican Guard (elite unite in charge of presidential security), as new army chief of staff. Presidency said reshuffle, which saw other Republican Guard officers promoted to strategic positions, part of broader military reforms aimed at boosting efficiency. Tshisekedi 17 Oct also appointed new heads of defence zones, notably replacing Gen. Philemon Yav as commander of eastern provinces, who was arrested in Sept for treason in fight against M23 rebellion.
New anti-UN protests erupted amid rampant armed group violence in eastern provinces; President Tshisekedi came under scrutiny as top adviser faced corruption probe.Anger rose at perceived impotence of national and UN forces in North Kivu. Anti-UN Mission (MONUSCO) demonstrations 6 Sept erupted in Beni city, with at least one civilian killed. UN Sec-Gen António Guterres 17 Sept conceded that MONUSCO was no longer capable of defeating M23 armed group operating in North Kivu’s Rutshuru territory, called for diplomatic solution involving DR Congo and Rwanda. Fresh protest against security forces’ perceived inaction against M23 held 22 Sept in Rutshuru town; clashes with police left at least one dead. Tshisekedi 26 Sept announced imminent arrival of Kenyan contingent of East African Community regional force to help stem insecurity in east, with focus on M23 around Bunagana town in Rutshuru. Congolese head of military operations against M23, Lt.-Gen. Philémon Yav Irung, arrested 19 Sept for undisclosed reasons.Armed group violence continued in other eastern provinces. CODECO armed group sustained operations in Ituri province’s Djugu territory. Notably, CODECO 30 Aug-3 Sept launched attacks near Mongbwalu town, leaving at least 33 people dead, including CODECO members and civilians; 9 Sept attacked Mbidjo mining locality near Mongbwalu, with at least 17 killed and hundreds of houses burned down. In South Kivu province, suspected Twirwaneho militiamen 30 Sept shot UN peacekeeper dead at MONUSCO base in Minembwe territory. Congolese army 28 Sept said at least 22 people killed 26-27 Sept when two Ugandan military helicopters crashed in unclear circumstances in Congo’s Ituri province and Kabarole border zone, Uganda.Legal proceedings impacted Tshisekedi’s inner circle. Vidiye Tshimanga, Tshisekedi’s special strategic adviser, 16 Sept resigned after videos allegedly showing him negotiating corrupt mining deal circulated online. Tshisekedi’s office same day affirmed commitment to fight corruption, and authorities 21-27 Sept detained Tshimanga as part of investigation. Meanwhile, Tshisekedi’s former Cabinet Director Vital Kamerhe, who was released in June after serving two years of his 13-year prison sentence for corruption and embezzlement, returned to political arena; Kamerhe 12 Sept launched campaign-like “peace” tour in North Kivu; Kamerhe’s return could help bolster support for Tshisekedi in east ahead of 2023 general elections.
Amid widespread armed group violence in eastern provinces, hundreds of detainees released in jailbreak, while Burundi officially deployed troops. In North Kivu province, alleged Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) rebels supported by local militiamen 9-10 Aug stormed Butembo central prison, freeing at least 800 detainees; authorities 11 Aug reported two policemen killed during raid, and claimed to have recaptured 250 fugitives. Youths in Butembo city 12 Aug demonstrated to denounce police force’s inability to provide security; armed protesters fired at police, leaving four policemen dead. After UN mission (MONUSCO) left Butembo base following deadly anti-MONUSCO protests in July, clashes 23 Aug erupted at deserted base between army and suspected Mai-Mai militia, leaving two militiamen dead. Suspected ADF combatants 25-30 Aug reportedly attacked six villages in North Kivu’s Beni territory and neighbouring Irumu territory in Ituri province, leaving at least 54 people dead, while many others were kidnapped. In Ituri’s Djugu territory, ethnic Hema “Zaire” militiamen 5 Aug killed at least 22 people in Damas village; in retaliation, ethnic Lendu militiamen from Cooperative for the Development of Congo (CODECO) 7 Aug attacked several Hema villages in Djugu, leaving seven Zaire militiamen dead and taking at least 20 people hostage. Also in Djugu, militiamen from CODECO 11 and 16 Aug attacked mining sites, leaving a least 20 people killed; 28 Aug reportedly killed at least six gold miners in Lodjo locality. Meanwhile, in confidential report leaked 4 Aug, UN experts said there was “solid evidence” that Rwandan troops have conducted military operations in eastern DR Congo in support of M23 rebels since Nov 2021 (see Rwanda); during African tour, U.S. Sec State Antony Blinken 11 Aug said Rwandan President Kagame and Congolese President Tshisekedi had agreed to hold direct talks. Clashes between Congolese forces and M23 rebels 16 Aug broke out in several villages of North Kivu’s Rutshuru territory; group notably targeted Rwanguba hydroelectric power plant site. After months of denial from Kinshasa and Gitega of any Burundian army presence in DR Congo, Burundian soldiers 15 Aug officially crossed into South Kivu province as part of bilateral agreement between the two countries (see Burundi).
Anti-UN protests left over 20 dead amid rising anger over peacekeepers’ inability to stem insecurity; govt signed de-escalation agreement with Rwanda as M23 rebels’ offensive in North Kivu continued; other armed group violence remained rampant in east. Hundreds of protesters 25 July stormed UN base in North Kivu’s capital Goma, demanding UN’s MONUSCO force depart. Protests next day spread to Butembo city, and 27 July reached Uvira city, South Kivu province. Govt 27 July said demonstrations had resulted in at least 22 fatalities. Amid rising tensions, UN peacekeepers 31 July opened fire at border post with Uganda, killing two civilians. Amid M23 rebels’ offensive in North Kivu’s Rutshuru territory, President Tshisekedi 6 July met with Rwandan counterpart, President Kagame, in Angola’s capital Luanda; both leaders agreed on roadmap to de-escalate tensions (see Rwanda). M23 next day rejected move and clashed with Congolese forces in Rutshuru’s Kanyabusoro and Kazuba localities, forcing residents to flee. Three-week lull in fighting followed until 27 July, when clashes between M23 and govt forces resumed in Rutshuru’s Kabingo and Rubavu villages. Meanwhile, Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) remained active. In North Kivu’s Beni territory, ADF 7-8 July killed 13 people in Lume locality, while govt forces 15 July pushed back ADF attack on prison in Beni city. In Ituri province’s Irumu territory, ADF 9-10 July killed six and kidnapped over 100 civilians in Banyari Tchabi and Bahema Mitego chiefdoms, and overnight 23-24 July killed at least nine civilians in Kayera and Kyabohe villages. Congolese and Ugandan joint operation against ADF continued: Ugandan forces 3 July captured ADF Lisulubi camp in North Kivu near Ugandan border after heavy bombardment, next day reported discovery of mass grave with 100-150 bodies. Violence by Cooperative for the Development of Congo (CODECO) rebels in Ituri’s Djugu territory declined following CODECO’s June commitment to cease hostilities. Clashes between rival CODECO factions 10-11 July however killed at least 18 in Ritsi locality. Politicians geared up for 2023 presidential election. Martin Fayulu, who lost to Tshisekedi in 2018 election, 14 July announced his candidacy, while Tshisekedi’s former ally, Jean-Marc Kabund, 17 July launched new party. DR Congo 12 July formally joined East African Community.
Tensions with Kigali continued to fester amid M23 rebel group’s offensive in eastern North Kivu province. In North Kivu province’s Rutshuru territory, M23 rebels 6 June shelled army position, leaving two dead, and around 13 June seized Bunagana town, forcing thousands of civilians to seek refuge in Uganda; clashes between military and M23 also reported 17 June in Jomba area. Fighting week of 20 June spread to neighbouring Nyiragongo territory, closer to provincial capital Goma. President Tshisekedi 5 June said there was “no doubt” that Rwanda supported M23, insisted he was seeking peaceful relations with neighbours. Military 9-10 June accused Rwanda of sending 500 special forces in Rutshuru and firing rockets into North Kivu killing two children. Kigali 10 June also accused DR Congo of firing rockets into Rwanda, next day said Kinshasa had handed over two Rwandan soldiers captured in May. Anti-Rwanda demonstrators 15 June marched from Goma city toward Rwanda and attempted to cross border; looting incidents reported. Congolese soldier 17 June stormed border, fired on Rwandan troops before being killed. In North Kivu’s Beni territory, Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) 11-14 June launched attacks in Bambuba-Kisiki groupement, leaving at least 12 civilians dead; 25-26 June killed up to 24 people in and around Mamove locality; 28 June reportedly killed nine villagers in same area. In Ituri province, suspected ADF 5 June killed at least 18 people in raid on Otomabere village, Irumu territory; presumed CODECO rebels 14 June killed eight, kidnapped six others in two attacks in Djugu territory. CODECO 15 June vowed to cease hostilities and adhere to govt’s demobilisation, disarmament and reintegration program, but attacks attributed to CODECO factions continued. After East African Community 20 June agreed to deploy regional security force to eastern DR Congo, demonstrators opposed to deployment 25 June marched in capital Kinshasa. Ahead of 2023 general elections, National Assembly and Senate 3 and 13 June passed new electoral law, and Tshisekedi 15 June swore in three new judges of Constitutional Court. National Assembly same day excluded five MPs for unjustified absences from sessions; former President Kabila’s political bloc Common Front for Congo 16 June denounced move.
Regional tensions rose as Kinshasa accused Rwanda of backing M23 militia in East, CODECO rebel group killed scores in Ituri province, and approval of new electoral law sparked tensions. In North Kivu province, clashes 19 April erupted between M23 and army in Rutshuru territory, 25 May spread to Kibumba area (Nyiragongo territory), 20km north of North Kivu’s capital Goma, with rebels occupying several areas; M23 next day attacked Rumangabo military camp in Rutshuru territory. Kinshasa 25 May accused Rwanda of supporting M23; 28 May suspended all flights of Rwandan national airline RwandAir to DR Congo, designated M23 as terrorist group and excluded it from Nairobi process talks, which President Tshisekedi and regional leaders late April had initiated with 18 armed groups active in east, following resumption of M23 attacks. In Ituri province, Cooperative for the Development of Congo (CODECO) rebels launched several deadly attacks on civilians. Notably, CODECO 8 May killed about 60 civilians, mostly artisanal miners, near Mongwalu locality in gold-rich Banyali Kilo area, Djugu territory; next day attacked Loddha site for internally displaced persons near Fataki town, also Djugu, killing 15 people; 15 May also killed at least nine civilians at Kambi mine in Shaba village, Aru territory. Also in Ituri, Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) rebels around 11-12 May killed at least 30 civilians in Idohu village of Walese Vokutu chiefdom, Irumu territory. Uganda 17 May said troops deployed in eastern Congo in late 2021 to combat ADF would withdraw as planned on 31 May, later hinted at possible six-month extension; Kinshasa deemed retreat “premature” and called for talks, which reportedly started in late May. Meanwhile, former PM under President Kabila, Senator Augustin Matata Ponyo, 3 May announced presidential bid. Dieudonné Kaluba, president of Constitutional Court, which in late 2021 ruled it had no jurisdiction to try Matata over alleged embezzlement, relieved from duties same day. National Assembly, dominated by ruling Sacred Union coalition, 12 May adopted electoral law, rejecting multiple progressive reforms including guarantees against vote-buying and nepotism and measures to foster gender equality. Some opposition lawmakers, including from Kabila’s party, boycotted debates and vote.
Amid ongoing violence from armed groups, regional leaders pledged to launch joint force to tackle M23 threat in country’s east. Violence continued to run high in east. Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) launched attacks in Irumu territory. Notably, alleged ADF 8 April killed eight in Pakulu village; ADF rebels 10-11 April killed at least 20 in Basili Chiefdom villages; alleged ADF 10 April killed nine in Shauri Moya locality, while four others found dead next day. Locals 11 April found 11 bodies in Mangusu village, 5km from Komanda locality where ADF reportedly killed at least 18 others same day. Four civilians died in alleged ADF attack in Otomabere village 16 April. In North Kivu province, ADF 4 April reportedly killed 29 people, including army captain, in Masambo village, Beni territory. Congolese operations continued as security forces alongside UN mission to DR Congo 19 April overtook key ADF base in Irumu’s Mont Oyo zone. Cooperative for the Development of Congo (CODECO) rebels 15 April decapitated five civilians in Ndjala village, Djugu territory. Following M23 rebels late-March offensive against army at border with Rwanda and Uganda, rebels 1 April, and again 10 April declared unilateral ceasefire; M23 rebels and army however accused each other of ongoing violence during month and heavy clashes 27 April resumed with army accusing rebels of provoking them. East African Community (EAC) representatives 21 April agreed to deploy joint military force to address threats from local armed groups in Eastern DRC; move follows DRC’s formal adhesion to EAC 8 April. State of siege 19 April renewed despite opposition from deputies from east. Deputies from parliamentary group Common Front for Congo (FCC), which is closely aligned with former President Kabila, 14 April boycotted National Assembly plenary session on reforms to new 2023 electoral law, prompting Assembly President Christophe Mboso to postpone plenary discussion to 20 April; debate on law 22 April resumed, albeit without FCC deputies. After Court of Cassation 11 April overturned Court of Appeal’s decision that sentenced Vital Kamerhe, Tshisekedi’s former chief of staff, to 13 years of hard labour for corruption and embezzlement, Kamerhe, 18 April returned to Kinshasa.
ADF rebels expanded further into Ituri province, leaving scores dead, while thousands fled to Uganda following clashes between army and M23 militia. Violence in east spread despite ongoing state of siege and presence of Ugandan army. Notably, Cooperative for the Development of Congo (CODECO) 8 March killed 18 civilians seeking refuge in Kilo-Mission catholic parish, Djugu territory in Ituri province; also continued to detain members of Tshisekedi’s Task Force who were kidnapped in Feb. Meanwhile, Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) and local Mai-Mai militiamen 9 March clashed in Irumu territory, leaving five people killed; ADF 13-14 March killed at least 52 civilians in four villages in Irumu, and 15 March killed seven civilians in Otomabere village, also in Irumu. In North Kivu province, ADF killed at least 20 civilians in Kikura village, 3km from Ugandan army’s base in Beni area; two ADF groups 12 March killed more than 30 people in Beni, 27 of them in Mambumembume village. A Ugandan military commander 6 March admitted that ADF had spread out into western Ituri, far from Ugandan border. Congolese army 28 March said M23 rebels attacked its positions in east, accusing Rwanda of supporting militia; Rwanda immediately denied accusations. About 6,000 civilians fled to neighbouring Uganda following clashes. Army claimed M23 downed UN helicopter 29 March, killing eight. Meanwhile, electoral preparations kicked off. Notably, President of Independent National Electoral Commission Denis Kadima 3 March published roadmap for upcoming presidential and legislative elections planned for Dec 2023; also scheduled municipal and local elections (which would make it first such elections in DR Congo’s history) in late 2023. Parliament 15 March reconvened, prioritising debate on electoral laws and reforms, including potential two rounds in presidential elections and new law on nationality (which would exclude presidential candidates without Congolese parents such as Moïse Katumbi, one of lead contenders). President Tshisekedi 17 March declared commitment to holding elections on time. François Beya, Tshisekedi’s former special adviser on security, continued to be held at National Intelligence Agency’s premises; local group “Free François Beya” 11 March submitted memorandum to National Commission for Human Rights calling for his trial or release.
Authorities arrested President Félix Tshisekedi’s special security adviser while rebel attacks continued in east. National Intelligence Agency (ANR) 5 Feb arrested Tshisekedi’s special security adviser, François Beya, in capital Kinshasa; Beya had served last four presidents and had played instrumental role in 2018 election deal between Tshisekedi and former President Joseph Kabila. ANR 8 Feb said arrest related to attempted threat to national security, while many debated exact reasons. Tshisekedi 4 Feb extended state of siege in Ituri and North Kivu despite intensifying discontent. Police 8 Feb arrested National Deputy Josué Mufula after he criticised measure, next day released him. North Kivu provincial deputies 14 Feb asked for state of siege to be replaced with state of limited security emergency for hot zones like Beni and rehabilitation of democratic institutions. Civil society groups 16 Feb requested Ituri General Governor Johnny Luboya be replaced due to his inability to stop attacks. Militia attacks persisted in east. In Ituri, Cooperative for the Development of Congo (CODECO) resumed and extended attacks near Djugu territory and toward Mungwalu gold-bearing areas. Most notably, CODECO 2 Feb attacked Djugu’s Plaine Savo camp for internally displaced persons, killing 62 people. CODECO militia faction linked to Lendu community 16 Feb took delegation of former Ituri warlords hostage in Gutsi locality, Djugu; ex-warlords tasked by Tshisekedi to conduct negotiations on disarmament with various militias active in Ituri. Militia set conditions for delegation’s release, including immediate ceasefire, release of Lendu prisoners, and end of Ituri state of siege; negotiations still under way by end of month. Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) continued to launch attacks. Notably, ADF 20 Feb killed three civilians in Irumu territory’s Biane town; 3 Feb killed four civilians and freed about 20 detainees from police station bordering Uganda’s Nobili village in North Kivu. In speech before Rwandan parliament, Rwandan President Paul Kagame 12 Feb evoked possible military intervention to neutralise armed groups in eastern DRC that represent threat to Rwanda, in particular Hutu rebels of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) and ADF.
Ugandan and Congolese armies continued joint operations against ADF jihadist group in east, while influential National Assembly VP announced his resignation after security incident. Uganda army and Congolese counterparts continued joint operations against Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) in North Kivu (NK)’s Beni territory amid ADF extension beyond Beni area. Ugandan and Congolese military leaders 15 Jan met in Beni area to discuss new operational axes against ADF and ways to secure construction projects, including Kasindi-Beni-Butembo-Goma roadworks. Armies 11 Jan jointly arrested ADF small faction leader Benjamin Kisokeranio in Uvira city (South Kivu). Govt 14 Jan extended state of siege in Ituri and NK provinces; protest against state of siege 24 Jan turned violent in Beni city and left one dead. In Ituri, armed group continued violent attacks. Notably, presumed ADF 4 Jan killed 17 in Irumu territory’s Idobu forest. Also in Irumu, Patriotic and Integrationist Force of Congo (FPIC) 15 Jan raided church leaving 11 dead and dozens injured. Cooperative for the Development of Congo militia 14 Jan stepped up attacks in Djugu and Mahagi territories and killed nine. In NK, ADF 5 Jan killed two on Mbau-Beni axis; 12 Jan looted health centre in Watalinga chiefdom and same day reportedly killed seven in Kisima-Vutotholya. In NK, March 23 rebel group late Jan launched several deadly attacks; notably group 23 Jan attacked army in Nyesisi village, Rutshuru territory, reportedly leaving tens of military killed. In largest cities like Goma, criminality ran high leaving mid-Jan three killed, notably well-known musician Black Balume. On political front, National Assembly’s influential VP and President Tshisekedi’s ally Jean-Marc Kabund 14 Jan announced resignation over “bullying, humiliation and torture” showing emerging political fault lines and potentially spelling uncertainty for ruling Sacred Union coalition; move followed clash between Kabund’s security officer and Republican Guard tasked to protect Tshisekedi as guards reportedly ransacked Kabund’s residence 12 Jan. Sacred Union members and Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS) deputies 17-18 Jan dissociated themselves from Kabund, called for resignation and reaffirmed Tshisekedi as sole authority; UDPS National Disciplinary Commission 29 Jan removed Kabund from party’s interim presidency and struck him off permanently.
Ugandan and Congolese army started joint operations against jihadist group in east, alleged ADF suicide bombing marked first suicide attack killing civilians in country. Ugandan army with Congolese counterparts throughout month attacked Ugandan jihadist Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) in North Kivu (NK) and Ituri provinces. Congolese and Ugandan authorities 10 Dec claimed to have captured four camps, killed 34 ADF terrorists and freed hostages. DRC and Ugandan army 24 Dec announced further artillery and ground operations had led to capture of two main ADF camps in Beni territory; and Congolese military 26 Dec claimed to have killed seven ADF fighters, some of Chadian and Somali nationality. President Tshisekedi 13 Dec defended continued state of siege in east and operations with Uganda, stating Ugandan presence will be “strictly” time-limited. ADF continued deadly attacks throughout month. Notably, ADF 6 Dec fought national army around Masome village leaving seven dead, including two insurgents in Ituri; presumed ADF 8 Dec killed 16 people and kidnapped others in raid on Mangina commune near NK province’s Beni town; ADF 19 Dec clashed with army in Irumu territory, also Ituri, with at least five killed, including insurgents, and 20 Dec attacked villages in Ituri killing at least eight. Presumed ADF suicide bomber 25 Dec killed nine, including himself, in Beni city, NK province, making it first deadly suicide attack in country. Other armed groups in east continued violent attacks: Cooperative for the Development of Congo (CODECO) 8-9 Dec reportedly killed at least 12 civilians near Bunia. Army 28 Dec claimed to have killed 31 CODECO militants in Djugu territory, Ituri province. Ongoing insecurity and kidnappings in east led Chinese embassy 1 Dec to ask all Chinese nationals to leave affected areas. On political front, Tshisekedi 3 Dec removed Albert Yuma from head of national mining company, decision seen as bold move against key ally of former President Joseph Kabila. Court of Appeal 6 Dec ordered release from prison of former Tshisekedi ally Vital Kamerhe on medical grounds; analysts see move as possibly influenced by Tshisekedi preparing alliances for 2023 national elections. Police 20 Dec allegedly fired on demonstrators protesting against insecurity in east, reportedly killing three in North Kivu’s provincial capital Goma; police claimed one officer dead.
Security situation worsened further in east as new armed group launched deadly attacks in South Kivu and other rebel groups killed scores; opposition protested to demand neutrality of electoral commission. In east, unknown group “Coalition of Congolese Patriots for the Application of Article 64” – in reference to constitutional provision stating that Congolese people should resist dictatorship – 3 Nov attacked and briefly occupied South Kivu’s provincial capital Bukavu; fighting killed three security forces and six assailants according to official reports. In North Kivu province, unidentified assailants 7 Nov attacked army positions in Rutshuru territory; army chief next day accused rebel group March 23. Presumed Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) combatants continued attacks in North Kivu and Ituri provinces, forcing thousands to flee to neighbouring Uganda. In North Kivu’s Beni territory, suspected ADF 4 Nov attacked Kalembo town in Rwenzori sector, killing three; 11-12 Nov attacked Kisunga village, Bashu chiefdom, reportedly killing at least 60 and setting fire to local hospital. In Ituri, presumed ADF 5 Nov reportedly killed nine civilians in attack on commercial vehicles under army escort in Walese Vonkutu chiefdom, Irumu territory. Ugandan military 30 Nov launched air and artillery raids against ADF on Congolese soil in operation reportedly agreed with Kinshasa. Militia group Chini ya Kilima-FPIC 15 Nov reportedly killed at least 18 civilians in Chabusiku village near Ituri’s provincial capital Bunia. Also in Ituri, armed group Cooperative for the Development of Congo (CODECO) 6 Nov attacked Djaidu town in Djugu territory, killing two civilians. Army Gen Celestin Mbala in Bunia same day appointed team of mediators to negotiate with CODECO. However, fresh CODECO attacks on refugee camp in Djugu territory 21-22 Nov left at least 29 dead. National Assembly 17 Nov extended state of siege in North Kivu and Ituri for another month; parliamentarians from those provinces abstained from vote. In capital Kinshasa, thousands of opposition party members and church leaders 13 Nov protested President Tshisekedi’s Oct appointment of alleged ally Denis Kadima as head of electoral commission; new demonstrations held 22 and 27 Nov in front of electoral commission headquarters, with police arresting several people.
Violence persisted in east, notably at hands of suspected ADF rebel group, and President Tshisekedi confirmed appointment of head of electoral body despite criticism. Suspected Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) rebels continued attacks in Ituri province, killing dozens and reportedly kidnapping scores between 1 and 18 Oct. Notably, assailants 1 Oct attacked Komanda village; local civil society group said seven killed and blamed ADF. Presumed ADF 9 Oct attacked Mambelenga village, reportedly leaving six dead, and 12 Oct attacked same area, reportedly leaving at least two dead and dozens missing. Also in Ituri, army 2 Oct launched offensive against armed group Cooperative for the Development of Congo (CODECO) at Lipri village, Djugu territory; 21 civilians reported dead. Suspected CODECO continued attacks including burning and pillaging villages in Ituri’s Djugu territory 18 Oct. Meanwhile, in North Kivu (NK) province, suspected Mai Mai militia 9 Oct attacked army post near Beni city, army same day said eight attackers killed; unidentified assailants 15 Oct shot and killed park warden in Virunga National Park. National Assembly 14 Oct approved tenth extension of state of siege in eastern provinces, which sees army take on key public roles. Court in Bunia 15 Oct sentenced seven military, including five colonels, to prison for corruption. Meanwhile, long-running dispute over head of electoral body peaked as National Assembly 3 Oct appointed electoral expert Denis Kadima; move followed failure by religious organisations – called on to offer opinion – previous day to agree on common candidate, with Catholic and Protestant churches disapproving of Kadima. Parties of prominent opponents Moïse Katumbi and Vital Kamerhe criticised Kadima’s appointment, saying he was too close to President Tshisekedi. Tshisekedi 22 Oct however signed ordonnance, confirming Kadima’s appointment, along with 12 members of electoral body; Constitutional Court 26 Oct swore in new electoral body with Kadima as head; opposition however refused to send delegates and boycotted session.
ADF rebel group launched increasingly daring attacks in eastern provinces; tensions flared over stalled appointment of electoral commission’s head. In North Kivu province’s Beni territory, suspected Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) rebels 5 Sept reportedly killed four in Kitsimba locality, Beni-Mbau sector, 16 and 22 Sept killed 14, including customary chief, in several villages in Bashu chiefdom. Citywide shutdown observed 13 Sept in Beni town to protest rising insecurity despite state of siege; authorities reportedly arrested dozens. In Ituri province’s Irumu territory, suspected ADF 1 Sept attacked vehicle convoy escorted by armed forces and UN (MONUSCO) peacekeepers on Komanda-Luna axis, killing ten with at least 80 missing; alleged ADF 4 Sept reportedly killed at least 30 in Luna-Samboko area, Walese Vonkutu chiefdom, and 23 Sept killed four in Komanda locality, Basili chiefdom. In Ituri’s Djugu territory, armed forces 6-7 Sept clashed with armed group Cooperative for the Development of Congo (CODECO) in Kobu area; 34 CODECO reportedly killed. Parliament 16-17 Sept approved eighth extension of state of siege in North Kivu and Ituri. In response to request from some MPs to assess state of siege prior to each vote, PM Sama Lukonde 17 Sept tasked interior, justice, defence and finance ministries to carry out assessment. Ahead of presidential election scheduled for 2023, tensions between govt and opposition rose over appointment of electoral commission’s head. Opposition coalition Lamuka 3 Sept presented own electoral calendar, including consultations to reach consensus on electoral reforms; also reiterated accusation that President Tshisekedi is seeking to illegitimately extend his tenure. Two influential parties of Tshisekedi’s parliamentary majority Sacred Union, Moïse Katumbi’s Together for the Republic and Vital Kamerhe’s Union for the Congolese Nation expressed support for initiative. Police 15 Sept used teargas to disperse Lamuka protest in capital Kinshasa demanding “depoliticisation” of electoral commission. Authorities overnight 20-21 Sept arrested journalist Sosthène Kambidi in Kinshasa over allegations of terrorism and insurrection, after Kambidi reportedly uncovered video showcasing 2017 killing of two UN experts in Kasaï province. National Assembly’s Bureau d’Etudes 26 Sept declared “inadmissible” controversial nationality bill seeking to limit presidential eligibility.
Authorities extended state of siege amid ongoing violence in east; appointment process of electoral commission reached impasse. In North Kivu province’s Beni territory, armed group Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) 5 Aug reportedly killed eight in Mbingi village; 14 Aug reportedly killed at least 14 and injured nine in Kikingi village. Also in Beni, clashes between armed forces and ADF 22-23 Aug left at least nine civilians, one soldier and eight ADF dead in Katanga village; suspected ADF 27-28 Aug killed at least 19 in Kasanzi-Kithovo village; next day reportedly killed three in Oïcha. In Ituri province, suspected ADF fighters 2 Aug killed at least 16 civilians – who had been taken hostage weeks earlier – near Idohu village. Following U.S. designation of ADF as Foreign Terrorist Organization in March and Kinshasa’s first attendance to ministerial meeting of Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS in June, U.S. special forces 13 Aug arrived to support establishment of national counter-terrorism team and evaluate protection capabilities of Gramba and Virunga national parks in east; special forces 17 Aug reportedly deployed to Rumangabo base, Virunga park, North Kivu. MPs 17 Aug and Senate next day approved sixth extension of state of siege in east despite no improvement in security, and as provincial deputies, whose mandates were suspended, denounced shrinking political space and rising human rights violations under state of siege. President Tshisekedi 6 Aug appointed former rebel Tommy Tambwe Ushindi as coordinator of disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration programme. Appointment sparked outcry over Tambwe’s role in rebel movements in late 1990s and early 2000s; Nobel Peace Prize winner Denis Mukwege 11 Aug denounced move as encouraging “armed groups to wait their turn in the bush”. Meanwhile, formation of electoral commission stalled as National Assembly’s mid-Aug deadline to submit approved list of candidates to Tshisekedi passed without progress. Notably, eight religious groups mandated to appoint commission’s chair mid-Aug failed to reach consensus; six of them, which are smaller groups, 19 Aug named Tshisekedi-ally and electoral expert Denis Kadima as candidate, which remaining two groups, including influential Catholic Church, immediately opposed.
Controversial nationality bill threatened to break up President Tshisekedi’s Sacred Union coalition; meanwhile, armed violence continued unabated in east. Tshisekedi 3 July signed law on organisation and functioning of Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) ahead of 2023 presidential election; two-thirds of members to come from political parties, same as previous CENI, despite calls from opposition and religious leaders for CENI to be composed mainly of civil society and electoral experts. Tshisekedi’s Sacred Union coalition MP Nsingi Pululu 8 July introduced controversial nationality bill seeking to prohibit anyone born to a non-Congolese parent from accessing presidency and other sovereign functions. Bill drew widespread domestic and international criticism. Notably, Moïse Katumbi’s party Ensemble pour la République next day criticised law for seeking to exclude Katumbi, whose father is Greek, from presidential election and threatened to leave Sacred Union coalition if bill passed; Archbishop of Kinshasa 11 July denounced bill as “instrument of exclusion and division”. Meanwhile, in address to UN Security Council, head of UN mission 7 July warned of “potentially dangerous consequences of a divisive debate on nationality” ahead of next year’s election. Amid ongoing and increasingly sophisticated violence in east, MPs 16 July approved fourth extension of state of siege. UN refugee agency same day said Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) had launched series of attacks in and around North Kivu’s Beni city since 22 June, killing at least 14 and displacing 20,000; fresh ADF attacks 16, 19, 22 and 27-28 July reportedly left at least 29 civilians dead in Beni territory; armed forces 30 July reportedly clashed with ADF in Kilya locality leaving four ADF, one civilian and one soldier dead. In neighbouring Ituri province, armed violence notably by ADF continued, at times turning into interethnic settling of scores in Irumu territory: mob 1 July killed nine Banyabwisha community members suspected of ADF connections in Komanda locality; ADF 10 July killed seven and kidnapped 30 civilians in Monge village; and armed forces 26 July clashed with ADF in Boga and Tchabi villages, reportedly leaving 15 ADF and seven soldiers dead.
Amid ongoing political tensions, President Tshisekedi visited eastern region apologising for past human rights violations and criticising role of army and other institutions. Tshisekedi 12 June toured eastern provinces, which have been under martial law since late April, asked local population for forgiveness for human rights violations committed by security forces and armed groups and promised to prosecute those responsible for abuses; 20 June described army as “mafia” and denounced senators who 15 June voted against lifting immunity of Senator Augustin Matata Ponyo, PM under former President Kabila, accused of embezzlement of public funds. Meanwhile, armed violence continued. In Ituri province, armed group Cooperative for the Development of Congo (CODECO) 12 June clashed with armed forces in Ikpa-Bura locality, Djugu territory, reportedly leaving at least 11 CODECO militants and three soldiers dead; CODECO same day killed five in Guu village, also Djugu. Armed group Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) 25 June reportedly killed four and kidnapped several others between Boga and Bukiringi villages, and 27 June killed 14 civilians in Manzobe locality, all Irumu territory. In North Kivu’s Beni territory, ADF 4 June killed two in Ntoma village, and 10 June abducted dozens from Kisanga and Livano villages. In Beni town, authorities 27 June implemented curfew after several bombings 26-27 June reportedly injured two civilians. UN Group of Experts on DRC 10 June said they were unable to find “conclusive evidence of ISIL [Islamic State] command and control over ADF operations, nor of ISIL direct support” and said acts committed by armed forces in Ituri’s Djugu and Irumu territories “may constitute war crimes”. Meanwhile, following May confirmation of Tshisekedi’s former Chief of Staff Vital Kamerhe’s prison sentence for embezzlement, his party Union for the Congolese Nation (UNC) 10 June suspended its participation in Tshisekedi-allied Cap for Change (CACH) coalition; also called on 16 UNC deputies to suspend their activities in Sacred Union, Tshisekedi’s new majority coalition. Kamerhe’s conviction along with Senate’s vote against lifting Matata’s immunity could affect fragile coalition.
Amid ongoing violence in east, authorities started implementing “state of siege” in North Kivu and Ituri provinces as military took over from civil authorities. As part of “state of siege” in east, President Tshisekedi 4 May ordered military and police officers to take over from civilian authorities in North Kivu and Ituri provinces starting 6 May for initial period of 30 days; in controversial move, appointed Lt Gen Constant Ndima as North Kivu governor, despite UN accusation that he committed serious crimes in Ituri during 1999-2003 war, and Lt Gen Jon Luboya, former intelligence commander of Rwanda-backed Congolese Rally for Democracy, as governor of Ituri. Armed group violence continued in east. In North Kivu’s Beni region, unidentified armed men 1 and 18 May killed two imams, who had allegedly spoken out against violence in name of religion. Presumed rebels affiliated with Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) 10 May killed peacekeeper during attack on MONUSCO’s Kiliya base. Authorities 12 May announced creation of joint-operations centre with Uganda in Beni and 17 May struck agreement with Kampala to share intelligence on ADF rebels; move prompted several politicians to criticise Tshisekedi for what they called invitation to foreign armies without parliament agreement. In Ituri, armed forces early-May launched offensive against Patriotic and Integrationist Front of Congo (FPIC), notably causing 15,000 civilians to flee Nyakunde locality and killing nine FPIC militia. Meanwhile, in Mambasa territory, ADF 11 May killed at least 29 in Ngaka locality and 11-16 May killed 21 across Bangole groupement, Babila Babombi chiefdom. In Irumu territory, ADF 30-31 May killed over 50 in Boga and Tchabi villages. Tshisekedi continued efforts to consolidate power as his allies 6 May ousted governor of Tanganyika province, brother of former President Kabila, for mismanagement of province; 12 May announced intention to run for second term. In capital Kinshasa, celebrations for Islamic Eid al-Fitr holiday turned deadly: rival Muslim factions 13 May clashed, leaving police officer dead. Rwandan President Kagame 17 May denied crimes committed by Rwandan troops in eastern DR Congo between 1993-2003 despite 2010 UN Mapping Report detailing crimes.