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Armed group violence left over 100 civilians killed in east; meanwhile President Tshisekedi secured new majority in parliament amid ongoing political tensions. In Ituri province, clashes between military and armed group Patriotic and Integrationist Force of Congo early Jan reportedly left over two dozen dead on outskirts of provincial capital Bunia; suspected armed group Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) 14 Jan killed 46 ethnic pygmies in Abembi Masini village, Irumu territory. In North Kivu province’s Beni territory, ADF 31 Dec-4 Jan killed 48 civilians in Tingwe and Mwenda villages; armed forces 1 Jan clashed with ADF in Loselose village, killing 14 and losing two soldiers; angry mob 16-17 Jan lynched three security force personnel across Beni territory, accusing them of complicity with armed groups. In Rutshuru territory (also North Kivu), local Maï-Maï militia 10 Jan killed six wildlife guards in Virunga National Park; armed forces and Maï-Maï militia 30 Jan reportedly clashed in Bwito chiefdom, leaving at least six dead. In South Kivu province, suspected Maï-Maï militia 6-8 Jan reportedly killed four civilians in Uvira and Mwenga territories. Meanwhile, President Tshisekedi won new round of power struggle with predecessor and former coalition partner Joseph Kabila.Constitutional Court 15 Jan ruled deputies could shift political allegiances without risking to lose their seats, opening way for Kabila’s Common Front for Congo (FCC) deputies to defect and join Tshisekedi. Over 300 MPs (out of 500) 22 Jan filed motion of no-confidence against PM Sylvestre Ilunga Ilunkamba (loyal to Kabila); National Assembly 27 Jan approved motion; Ilunga 29 Jan stepped down. Senator Modeste Bahati, appointed 1 Jan by Tshisekedi to identify new majority, 28 Jan submitted list of 391 MPs in support of new parliamentary majority. Protests 18 Jan erupted in Lubumbashi city, Haut-Katanga province, following same-day arrest of Kabila-ally Pastor Ngoy Mulunda for alleged incitement to hate and secessionism; Lubumbashi court 27 Jan sentenced Ngoy to three years in prison. French prosecutors 2 Jan opened investigations against former warlord Roger Lumbala, arrested in Paris in Dec for “complicity in crimes against humanity” during second Congo war (1998-2003), among other charges.
In major show of force and after weeks of political tensions, President Tshisekedi announced end of ruling coalition; meanwhile armed group attacks continued in eastern provinces. President Tshisekedi 6 Dec announced end of ruling coalition with former President Kabila’s Common Front for Congo (FCC), vowed to seek new majority in parliament. Brawl next day erupted in parliament between pro-Tshisekedi and pro-Kabila MPs who rejected move as unconstitutional, leaving three injured, while police used tear gas to disperse Tshisekedi’s supporters gathered outside parliament. MPs 10 Dec voted to remove Kabila’s ally Jeannine Mabunda as head of National Assembly, first indication that Tshisekedi has managed to shift balance of power in his favour in FCC-dominated assembly. Immediately after vote, Industry Minister and FCC member Julien Paluku defected to Tshisekedi, urged fellow FCC member, PM Ilunga Ilunkamba, to resign to avoid no-confidence vote. Tshisekedi 31 Dec tasked Senator and FCC defector Bahati Lukwebo with identifying new majority. Tshisekedi also pursued efforts to reinforce his grip on army and police, meeting with several senior security officials throughout month. Meanwhile, violence continued in east. In North Kivu province’s Beni territory, suspected armed group Allied Democratic Forces 6-22 Dec killed at least 40 civilians in multiple attacks, including at least 21 night of 11-12 Dec in Bolema area, Rwenzori sector. Unidentified gunmen 6 Dec killed eight civilians in North Kivu’s capital Goma. In Ituri province’s Djugu territory, suspected armed group Cooperative for the Development of Congo (CODECO) 7 Dec killed five civilians in Baijate village; CODECO 20 Dec clashed with armed forces in Muvramu village, leaving two civilians and one CODECO combatant dead; in joint attack, CODECO and Patriotic and Integrationist Front of Congo (FPIC) overnight 21-22 Dec killed three in Gbalana village. Elsewhere in Ituri, armed forces 16 Dec clashed with FPIC in Komanda town, Irumu territory, leaving eight militiamen and one soldier dead. In Tanganyika province, ethnic Twa militia 21 Dec killed one and injured several civilians in Kintu locality. UN Security Council 18 Dec renewed UN mission (MONUSCO) mandate for one year.
Armed group attacks continued unabated in eastern provinces, while tensions remained close to breaking point within ruling coalition. In North Kivu province’s Beni territory, suspected armed group Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) 7 Nov killed 12 in Kisima and Matadi villages; 9 Nov killed four in Mbujimayi village; 17 Nov reportedly killed six in Kokola village. In South Kivu province, unidentified armed men 3 Nov kidnapped three humanitarian workers from NGO Oxfam on Kundu-Fizi-centre axis, Fizi territory. In Ituri province, Djugu territory registered relative lull in violence, despite clashes between army and CODECO militia faction Alliance for the Liberation of Congo, which left five soldiers dead in Ezekere locality 3 Nov; suspected ADF around 10 Nov killed six civilians in Samboko village, Mambasa territory. Meanwhile, ruling coalition partners, President Tshisekedi and former President Kabila’s Common Front for Congo (FCC), remained at loggerheads. In alleged attempt to drum up support for his plan to break away from FCC, Tshisekedi 1-24 Nov held series of meetings with opposition and religious leaders, as well as some FCC members, to win them over. After social media messages early Nov called on army to revolt against poor working conditions, including wage arrears and lack of equipment, army 12 Nov denied any unrest within army ranks and warned politicians against any attempt to manipulate military. Thousands of Tshisekedi supporters 14 Nov marched in capital Kinshasa to demand end of coalition with FCC; during march, sec gen of Tshisekedi’s Union for Democracy and Social Progress accused FCC finance minister of freezing funds intended for salaries of civil servants and especially military, in order to turn them against Tshisekedi. Earlier in month, opposition lawmakers 7 Nov started gathering signatures to submit no-confidence motion against pro-Kabila National Assembly President Jeanine Mabunda; over 230 MPs by next day had already supported initiative, surpassing required threshold to put motion to vote. Council of State 23 Nov rejected MP Albert Fabrice Puela’s request that Mabunda and her office resign for not having submitted financial report to plenary on time.
Political tensions reached breaking point, threatening survival of ruling coalition, while deadly violence continued unabated in east. During President Tshisekedi’s visit to North Kivu’s capital Goma, North and South Kivu provincial deputies 7 Oct challenged late-Sept appointment of ethnic Tutsi (Banyamulenge) as mayor of newly created Minembwe commune, South Kivu province; Tshisekedi blamed decision on decentralisation minister and former President Kabila ally Azarias Ruberwa, himself a Banyamulenge, and 9 Oct revoked Minembwe’s status as commune. Ruberwa 19-21 Oct told National Assembly appointment followed direct orders from Tshisekedi himself, revealing major breach within ruling coalition. Meanwhile, Kabila’s Common Front for Congo 21 Oct boycotted swearing-in ceremony of three new Constitutional Court judges, who had been unilaterally appointed by Tshisekedi in July; next day said party will not recognise judges nor feel bound by any of their decisions. In east, armed groups continued to target armed forces and civilians. In North Kivu province, Uganda-born Islamic State-affiliated Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) launched several attacks in Beni territory: ADF and Maï-Maï militia Kyandenga 5 Oct killed ten in Mamove locality; suspected ADF 20 Oct attacked Kangbayi prison in Beni town, freeing over 1,300 inmates including ADF and Maï-Maï combatants; ADF 21-31 Oct killed at least 50 civilians across Beni territory. In South Kivu province, clashes between Maï Maï and Banyamulenge militias late Oct left at least 20 dead. Army 25 Oct said troops had taken over stronghold of Burundian armed group National Liberation Forces (FNL) in South Kivu, killing at least 27 over three days of fighting. In Ituri province, armed group Patriotic and Integrationist Front of Congo (FPIC) 16 and 21 Oct killed at least 15 in Irumu territory. Faction of armed group Cooperative for the Development of Congo (CODECO) 22 Oct reportedly killed at least five near Ituri’s capital Bunia; in following days, army killed at least 21 militiamen in area. Tshisekedi’s efforts toward regional cooperation suffered setback. Burundi 7 Oct boycotted regional summit on security, health and economic cooperation, hosted by Kinshasa via videoconference, although bilateral meeting between FM Nzeza Ntumba and his Burundian counterpart was held in Burundi’s capital Gitega previous day.
Armed groups continued to target civilians and humanitarian workers in east, and former President Kabila’s ambition to return to power strained ruling coalition. In eastern Ituri province, armed group Cooperative for the Development of the Congo (CODECO) 4 Sept entered provincial capital Bunia, before withdrawing same day after negotiations with local authorities. Unidentified armed group 8-10 Sept reportedly killed 58 Hutu civilians in Tchabi village, Irumu territory. In North and South Kivu provinces, also in east, civilians and humanitarian workers continued to come under attack. In North Kivu, suspected armed group Allied Democratic Forces 7-23 Sept reportedly killed at least 37 civilians in several villages in Beni territory. Mai Mai militia 16 Sept attacked convoy of World Food Program and NGO World Vision near Mbughavinywa locality, Lubero territory, killing one and abducting two others. In South Kivu, coalition of Mai Mai militias 8-9 Sept reportedly launched offensive against Twirwaneho militia, leaving at least ten dead in Minembwe area, Fizi territory. Unidentified gunmen 21 Sept kidnapped three staff of Irish NGO Concern in Kajembwe village, Uvira territory. In south-eastern Haut-Katanga province, suspected Mai Mai militias 25-26 Sept stormed second largest city Lubumbashi, killing at least two policemen and one soldier; govt forces repelled attack, reportedly killing 16 rebels. Meanwhile, Kabila’s allies hinted at presidential bid in 2023. Kabila’s ex-chief of staff and current party coordinator 14 Sept said President Tshisekedi agreed to make way for Kabila in 2023 in secret clause of power-sharing agreement; Tshisekedi’s party immediately denied allegations. For first time since Jan 2019, Kabila next day appeared in Senate, where he holds life seat granted to all former presidents; Environment Minister Claude Nyamugabo 18 Sept said “Joseph Kabila will return to power and we are working on it”. After Rwandan Ambassador to DRC Vincent Karega in Aug denied Rwandan involvement in violence in eastern DRC during 1998-2003 war, protesters 4 Sept gathered in Kinshasa to demand his departure and govt 7 Sept said Karega’s statement “is not likely to promote good relations between the DRC and Rwanda” (see Rwanda).
Armed groups continued to carry out deadly attacks in eastern provinces. Armed group Cooperative for the Development of Congo (CODECO) 1 Aug signed unilateral commitment to end hostilities in Walendu-Pitsi sector, Djugu territory in Ituri province. However, attacks continued in Ituri. Armed group Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) 5 Aug killed three civilians and took several hostages in Kyamata locality, Irumu territory. Suspected CODECO 9 Aug killed 19 civilians in simultaneous attacks on three villages in Djugu territory, 16 Aug killed three civilians in ambush on Mungwalu-Dala axis, Irumu territory, and next day killed at least three civilians in Penge village, Djugu territory. In neighbouring North Kivu province’s Beni territory, ADF reportedly killed at least 40, mostly civilians, in several attacks 13-28 Aug. Also in North Kivu, clashes between factions of armed group Nduma Defence of Congo-Renovated (NDC-R) 1 Aug left 16 dead in Kaseke village, Walikale territory; NDC-R faction commander 17 Aug surrendered to army in Kashuga village, Masisi territory, along with 485 combatants. UN Joint Human Rights Office 5 Aug noted threefold increase in killings by armed groups in DRC in first six months of 2020 compared with same period last year. Amid persistent tensions within ruling coalition between President Tshisekedi and his predecessor Joseph Kabila’s Common Front for Congo (FCC), both sides mid-Aug removed some members deemed “too radical” in coalition agreement monitoring committee, resulting in sidelining of Tshisekedi’s former ally Vital Kamerhe’s Union for the Congolese Nation. Situation remained tense in border areas. Ugandan sailors 5-6 Aug reportedly briefly captured 39 Congolese fishermen on Lake Edward on common border. Following mediation from regional bloc Southern African Development Community, Congolese govt 6 Aug announced retreat of Zambian troops from Tanganyika province; clashes between armies had erupted in March after Zambian troops reportedly occupied two Congolese villages. Burundian rebel group Red-Tabara based in DRC 23 Aug reportedly killed 11 civilians in Burundi’s Rumonge province (see Burundi).
Deadly violence intensified in eastern provinces with high toll on civilians, while tensions ran high within ruling coalition. In North Kivu province, armed group Allied Democratic Forces 1 and 28 July clashed with army in Beni territory, reportedly killing nine soldiers; two factions of militia Nduma Defence of Congo clashed 11-20 July in Walikale territory leaving at least 37 dead; armed group March 23 Movement 21 July attacked armed forces in Rutshuru territory, leaving at least three soldiers dead. In South Kivu province, coalition of militiamen 16 July attacked Kipupu village, Mwenga territory, reportedly leaving 18 civilians dead and over 200 missing. In Ituri province, armed group Cooperative for Development of Congo (CODECO) killed at least 31 civilians and seven members of security forces in Djugu territory 4-8 July. After President Tshisekedi early July sent delegation of former Lendu warlords to negotiate demobilisation with CODECO factions in Djugu, CODECO faction in Kambutso village 13 July stated willingness to disarm and start peace process with govt under conditions; other factions reportedly followed suit late July. Political tensions increased within ruling coalition between Tshisekedi and his predecessor Joseph Kabila’s Common Front for Congo (FCC). National Assembly, dominated by FFC, 2 July voted for FCC ally Ronsard Malonda as electoral commission president ahead of 2023 presidential election. After Catholic and Protestant churches 3 July urged Tshisekedi to reverse decision, and Tshisekedi supporters 9 July and opposition members 13 July protested in capital Kinshasa and other cities, Tshisekedi 17 July rejected Malonda’s appointment, citing lack of consensus. Deputy PM and Justice Minister Célestin Tunda ya Katende, at centre of tension between FCC and Tshisekedi since June, resigned 11 July. Head of Constitutional Court, under U.S. sanctions for alleged corruption and obstruction of democracy during 2018 elections, resigned 6 July. Tshisekedi 17 July appointed three new Constitutional Court judges. After 10 July meeting with top army command, Tshisekedi 17 July carried out major army reshuffle, sidelining some pro-Kabila generals, notably Army Inspector General John Numbi.
Armed groups continued to target civilians in north-eastern Ituri and eastern North Kivu provinces, while tensions deepened within ruling coalition. In Ituri’s Djugu territory, armed group Cooperative for Development of Congo (CODECO) launched several attacks on civilians, including ethnic Lendu. Notably, suspected CODECO combatants killed Lendu local official in town of Kpandroma 2 June, at least 16 civilians in Lendu village of Kpadinga next day, and at least 14 others in ethnic Hema villages of Lenga and Lodjo 10 and 17 June. Armed group Allied Democratic Forces continued to consolidate positions in border area between Ituri and North Kivu provinces, killing at least 30 civilians and four soldiers 4-22 June, mainly in Ituri’s Irumu territory. Kinshasa-Gombe High Court 20 June sentenced Tshisekedi’s former chief of staff and president of Union for the Congolese Nation (UNC) party, Vital Kamerhe, to 20 years of forced labour for role in embezzlement of $50mn of public funds. Kamerhe’s lawyers 24 June appealed decision. In following days, Kamerhe’s supporters clashed with police in South Kivu province’s capital Bukavu. Amid deepening tensions within ruling coalition, Constitutional Court 18 June confirmed destitution, voted by Parliament late May, of Tshisekedi’s ally and National Assembly First VP Jean-Marc Kabund; Deputy PM and Justice Minister Celestin Tunda wa Kasende, ally of former President Kabila, also briefly arrested 27 June; senior figures from Kabila’s camp, including PM Ilunga Ilunkamba, expressed their anger and threatened to leave coalition govt. Amid persistent regional tensions, Tshisekedi and Ugandan President Museveni 12 June agreed on new information-sharing strategy to combat armed groups along common border. Ituri local officials 17 June accused South Sudan military of at least six incursions in area since May.
Armed groups continued to target civilians in north-eastern Ituri province and eastern North Kivu province, and tensions with Zambia increased over border dispute in Tanganyika province. In Ituri, new chief of armed group Cooperative for Development of Congo (CODECO) 4 May called for group to end violence, but attacks against civilians persisted throughout month. Notably, suspected CODECO rebels 10 and 17 May killed at least 30 civilians in attacks on villages in Djugu and Mahagi territories, while govt forces 7-25 May killed 40 CODECO rebels in Djugu. Also in Ituri, suspected members of armed group Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) 17-18 May killed eight civilians and one soldier in Kelele and Ndalya villages. In North Kivu province, ADF rebels 8-24 May killed at least 25 civilians in attacks in Beni territory. In South Kivu province, local Maï-Maï militia commander and 120 combatants 20 May surrendered in Walungu territory. In Tanganyika province, Twa militiamen 18 May and 26 May killed four civilians in Nyunzu territory. Govt 8 May accused Zambia of planning to annex areas of Congolese territory on west shore of Lake Tanganyika; Zambian govt immediately denied accusations and said troops were stationed in border area to protect Zambian villages from attacks by unidentified armed individuals coming from DRC. President Tshisekedi 28 May welcomed Congo-Brazzaville’s President Sassou-Nguesso’s offer to mediate dispute. Trial of Tshisekedi’s former chief of staff and president of Union for the Congolese Nation party, Vital Kamerhe, over embezzlement charges started 11 May. Police 23-24 May forcefully dispersed pro-Kamerhe demonstrators in Bukavu city in east. Amid persistent tensions within ruling coalition, parliament 25 May voted to remove Tshisekedi’s ally and First Vice-President of National Assembly Jean-Marc Kabund from office; hundreds of Kabund’s supporters next day protested against his dismissal in capital Kinshasa and other cities.
Armed group Cooperative for Development of Congo (CODECO) early-April stepped up deadly attacks in north-eastern Ituri province, threatening provincial capital, before military launched counter-offensive; tit-for-tat violence left at least 169 dead throughout month. In Ituri, CODECO militants early April gained control of several localities in Djugu, Mahagi and Irumu territories, getting close to provincial capital Bunia. Notably, CODECO attacks in Djugu 10-13 April killed at least 69 civilians and sixteen security forces personnel. Military 17 April said it had recaptured fourteen localities from CODECO control in operations 8-17 April in Djugu and Mahagi territories. Clashes between govt forces and CODECO continued in several territories in Ituri late month, reportedly killing at least 40 militants, six security forces personnel and 38 civilians 19-28 April. Violence also continued in other areas. In North Kivu province, armed group Allied Democratic Forces 6 and 13 April killed eight civilians in Beni territory; unidentified assailants 24 April killed thirteen park rangers and five civilians in attack in Virunga national park; after park authorities accused rebel group Democratic Liberation Forces of Rwanda of involvement, Rwandan rebels 27 April denied involvement and blamed Rwandan govt forces for attack. In Tanganyika province, Twa militiamen 8 April killed seven civilians in Nyunzu territory. In Kongo Central province, clashes between members of separatist religious cult Bundu Dia Kongo and authorities 13-24 April left at least 33 dead, including civilians; police 24 April arrested cult leader in capital Kinshasa. After former President Kabila allies within ruling coalition challenged constitutional legality of COVID-19 state of emergency declared by President Tshisekedi 24 March without parliamentary approval, Constitutional Court 13 April backed measure. Authorities 8 April arrested Tshisekedi’s chief of staff and president of Union for the Congolese Nation (UCN) party Vital Kamerhe on embezzlement charges, prompting protests in following days by UCN supporters in cities of Bukavu and Goma in east.
Govt forces clashed with armed groups Cooperative for Development of Congo (CODECO) in north-eastern Ituri province and Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) in eastern North Kivu province, while President Tshisekedi and former President Kabila met to reduce tensions in ruling coalition. In Ituri, clashes between security forces and CODECO militants 1, 14, 25 March killed around 30 rebels and five soldiers in Djugu territory. Suspected CODECO fighters 15 March killed fifteen members of Hema community in several villages in Djugu territory; 30 March reportedly killed police officer and civilian in Kabakaba locality. Military 31 March killed at least six Maï-Maï militiamen in Ituri’s Mambasa territory. Justice officials 15 March released former Union of Congolese Patriots warlord Thomas Lubanga after completion of fourteen-year sentence for recruiting child soldiers during 1999-2003 Ituri war. Authorities 16 March released former leader of Front for Patriotic Resistance in Ituri (FRPI) after Feb peace agreement between FRPI and govt. In North Kivu, security forces 6 March clashed with armed group ADF in Beni territory; thirteen rebels and four soldiers reportedly killed. Military 20-24 March killed 62 militants and lost fourteen soldiers in further clashes with ADF in Beni. In Lualaba province in south, clashes between military and local Maï-Maï militia 28 March left over 30 rebels and one soldier dead. Defence and security officials met with counterparts from Burundi, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda 11 March in Goma to assess information sharing mechanisms to tackle regional insecurity in eastern DRC. Tshisekedi 12 March met Kabila to ease tensions in ruling coalition; both agreed to prioritise competence and morality over political affiliations in administrative appointments and to cease travel restrictions on officials from Kabila’s Common Front for Congo coalition. In response to spread of COVID-19, Tshisekedi 18 March suspended most international flights and banned gatherings; UN mission (MONUSCO) 19 March announced isolation of all peacekeepers arriving from COVID-19-affected countries and suspension of troop rotations.
Armed group Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) extended its reach into Ituri province in east, leaving over 60 civilians dead in area, and tensions rose between President Tshisekedi and allies of former President Kabila and within Tshisekedi’s alliance. ADF for first time launched attacks in Ituri province, leaving at least 63 civilians dead 2-26 Feb; ADF raids on villages in Beni territory, North Kivu province left at least 51 civilians dead 7-17 Feb. In Ituri, armed group Cooperative for Development of Congo (CODECO) attacks and clashes between CODECO and army 17-29 Feb left at least 34 civilians and seven rebels dead; armed group Patriotic and Integrationist Front of Congo (FPIC) and army 19 Feb clashed in Sezabo village, leaving ten dead; govt and armed group Front for Patriotic Resistance in Ituri (FRPI) 28 Feb signed peace agreement. In North Kivu, local Maï-Maï militia commander and some 300 fighters 2 Feb surrendered near Goma; militia Nduma Defense of Congo and Maï-Maï Nyatura 3 Feb clashed in Kitso area leaving seventeen dead; suspected Maï-Maï Nyatura 5-6 Feb killed three civilians in Butshimula area; unidentified gunmen 20 Feb killed at least six soldiers in Mwaro village. In South Kivu province, clashes between Maï-Maï and Gumino armed groups 17-18 Feb reportedly left three dead. In Tanganyika province, Twa militiamen 20-29 Feb killed four in Nyunzu town. Former military intelligence chief and close ally of Kabila, General Delphin Kahimbi, 28 Feb died in unclear circumstances after he was reportedly suspended from duty over allegations that he had sought to destabilise country; Tshisekedi same day called for investigation. Authorities 12 Feb briefly arrested Kabila’s former intelligence chief and prohibited him from leaving country for illegally travelling on diplomatic passport. Tshisekedi 7 Feb replaced seven senior magistrates including allies of Kabila. Head of Tshisekedi’s party Jean-Marc Kabund-a-Kabund 11 Feb accused Tshisekedi’s chief of staff and head of Union for the Congolese Nation, part of Tshisekedi’s alliance Heading for Change, of mismanaging 100-day emergency program launched in March 2019.
Fighting escalated in Ituri province in north east between security forces and armed groups, militia attacks on civilians surged in Beni territory, North Kivu late Jan, and tensions persisted between President Tshisekedi and allies of former President Kabila. In Ituri, clashes between security forces and armed group Cooperative for Development of Congo (CODECO) in Djugu and Mahagi territories 1-22 Jan left at least 43 dead. Fighting between army and unidentified rebels 5 Jan killed sixteen rebels in Ngongo and Lipri. Unidentified gunmen 15 Jan attacked police station in Irumu killing six. Attack by unidentified assailants in Mahagi territory 19 Jan left nine dead. Maï-Maï raid in Mambasa 19 Jan left three dead. Suspected CODECO attacks in Djugu territory 27-28 Jan left three dead. In North Kivu, security forces made gains against armed group Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) but failed to stop attacks against civilians. Army operation that led to capture of ADF stronghold Madina 9 Jan reportedly left 40 militants and 30 soldiers dead. In Beni territory, ADF rebels stepped up attacks on civilians killing six 22 Jan, at least 36 28 Jan, and at least 21 two days later. In Beni and Lubero territories, Maï-Maï attacks and clashes between Maï-Maï and security forces 6-31 Jan left fifteen dead. Suspected members of rebel group Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda 15-23 Jan launched attacks in Rutshuru territory that left twelve dead. Maï-Maï militiamen night of 6-7 Jan attacked Ebola centre in Beni territory leaving three dead. Tshisekedi 19 Jan suggested that he might dissolve national assembly if it obstructs him. Jeannine Mabunda, national assembly president and member of Kabila’s coalition, 21 Jan said move could amount to high treason. After opposition members late Dec-early Jan suggested Rwanda intended to annex territory in east, Rwandan FM 8 Jan described remarks as harmful for Rwanda-DRC relations.
In east armed group Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) continued to attack civilians in response to army offensive, killing about 100, violence persisted in Ituri province in north east, and tensions continued between coalitions of President Tshisekedi and former President Kabila. In Beni territory, North Kivu province, in response to army offensive launched late Oct, ADF continued to attack civilians leaving at least 97 dead. Notably, during night of 29-30 Dec militants killed eighteen people in Apetina-Sana, west of Oïcha, Beni territory. Civilians continued to protest insecurity, directing anger at UN mission (MONUSCO); security forces 2 Dec prevented hundreds of protesters from reaching UN compound in Beni and attempted to disperse crowds with live fire, killing at least three. U.S. 10 Dec placed sanctions on six ADF rebels including group’s leader. In Ituri province in north east, armed group Cooperative for Development of Congo (CODECO) 6 Dec abducted twelve in Djugu territory. MONUSCO soldiers night of 7-8 Dec repelled attack by unidentified assailants. CODECO raid in Mutanga 11 Dec left nine dead. Clashes between security forces and CODECO 14 Dec in Djugu territory left four militants and two soldiers dead. CODECO raids and clashes between CODECO and military in Mutanga and Djugu 11-20 Dec left at least nineteen dead. In Mambasa, clashes between Maï-Maï militants and armed forces 27 Dec left eight dead. In Rutshuru territory, North Kivu, security forces 4 Dec killed commander of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR). In South Kivu, army late Nov launched operation against FDLR splinter group National Council for Renewal and Democracy (CNRD) capturing around 2,000 combatants and dependents; army 16 and 21 Dec repatriated 361 combatants to Rwanda. Members of Kabila’s coalition Common Front for Congo (FCC) denounced 4 Dec decision by FM Nzeza, member of Tshisekedi’s party, to recall three ambassadors, including two reportedly close to Kabila, for “serious breaches”. UN Security Council 19 Dec renewed MONUSCO’s mandate for one year.
In response to army’s offensive in east against armed group Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), militants killed about 100 civilians sparking protests; deadly attacks continued in Ituri in north east; and tensions rose between alliances of President Tshisekedi and former President Kabila. In Beni territory, North Kivu province in east, after army launched offensive against ADF late Oct, troops captured several of its positions. In response, ADF upped attacks against civilians, leaving about 100 dead 1-27 Nov and thousands displaced. Angered by failure of security forces and UN mission (MONUSCO) to protect them, residents protested late Nov, setting fire to Beni town hall and storming MONUSCO facilities. Clashes between protesters and security forces, mainly in Beni, 23-26 Nov left two police officers and at least seven protesters dead. Tshisekedi 25 Nov decided to increase army presence in Beni territory and agreed to joint army-MONUSCO operations against ADF. In Rutshuru territory, North Kivu, military 9 Nov killed Juvenal Musabimana, commander of Rwandan armed group Union for Democracy (RUD). In Ituri province in north east, Maï-Maï raids 2-28 Nov left five dead. Armed group Cooperative for Development of Congo (CODECO) 16 Nov killed two in Djugu territory. Security forces 29 Nov killed ADF leader Mohamed Mukubwa Islam in Mapobu. In North Kivu and Ituri provinces, suspected Maï-Maï attacks targeting Ebola health workers night of 27-28 Nov left four dead. In South Kivu province, clashes between Maï-Maï and Gumino armed groups 4-27 Nov left twelve dead. After supporters of Kabila and Tshisekedi vandalised posters of rivals in capital Kinshasa and Kolwezi in south east, head of Tshisekedi’s party Jean-Marc Kabund 10 Nov announced suspension of talks between Tshisekedi’s alliance Heading for Change (CACH) and Kabila’s coalition Common Front for Congo (FCC). Kabund 12 Nov described FCC as unreliable partner; FCC same day condemned Kabund’s remarks. Tshisekedi’s Chief of Staff Vital Kamerhe 14 Nov called for calm and FCC 28 Nov reaffirmed its support for coalition govt. Tshisekedi and Ugandan President Museveni 9 Nov agreed to work together to fight armed groups in east.
Violence persisted in Ituri in north east and North Kivu province in east, where fighting could escalate in coming weeks as army ramps up major offensive against armed group Allied Democratic Forces (ADF). In Ituri province, following late Sept announcement by leader of armed group Cooperative for Development of Congo (CODECO) that he was willing to lay down arms, he and some 500 CODECO fighters 6 Oct left their base and moved to near Jiba in Djugu territory with view to disarm. Despite ongoing peace talks with provincial authorities, CODECO continued to commit violent acts in Djugu territory: 13 Oct attacked armed forces leaving four dead; 25 Oct attacked two boats on Lake Albert leaving four dead. Security forces 26 Oct launched offensive against CODECO along Lake Albert. Clashes between Maï-Maï militia and armed forces 11 and 28 Oct left seventeen militiamen and three soldiers dead in Mambasa. In North Kivu province, armed groups Alliance of Patriots for a Free and Sovereign Congo (APCLS) and Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) 1-2 Oct attacked Nduma Defence of Congo-Renovated (NDC-R) militia in Rutshuru territory leaving three NDC-R and four civilians dead in several villages. ADF attacks in Beni territory 13 and 27 Oct left five civilians dead. Army 31 Oct said it had launched previous day major offensive against armed groups in Beni territory primarily ADF. In Lumumbashi in far south east, suspected Bakata Katanga militiamen and security forces clashed 11 Oct leaving at least five militiamen dead. Army chiefs of DR Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda and Tanzania 24-25 Oct met in Goma to discuss potential joint military operations against armed groups in east. Plane carrying presidential staff 10 Oct crashed in Sankuru province killing all passengers; supporters of Tshisekedi’s Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS) party demonstrated in several cities and held party of former President Kabila responsible.
Violence continued in Ituri province in north east killing at least 66 people, and could escalate in Oct if dialogue between provincial authorities and militia leader collapses. In Ituri province, unidentified gunmen 5-12 Sept attacked two villages and displaced persons’ camp killing ten and kidnapping at least six; suspected ethnic Lendu armed group 17 Sept killed fourteen ethnic Hema in Bukatsele; several attacks by unidentified assailants in Djugu territory 17-18 Sept left at least 42 dead. Ituri provincial authorities late Sept held talks with leader of armed group Cooperative for Development of Congo (CODECO), who said he was willing to lay down arms if authorities granted group amnesty and integrated his men into armed forces. CODECO 23 Sept released seven prisoners. In North Kivu province, 55 members of Raia Mutomboki militia surrendered in Walikale. Armed group Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) 16 Sept kidnapped three in Beni territory. In Rutshuru territory, security forces night of 17-18 Sept killed Sylvestre Mudacumura, leader of militia Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) under International Criminal Court arrest warrant. ADF attack on security forces in Beni territory 18 Sept left ADF commander dead. Gunmen 29 Sept ambushed security forces, killing two in Mulimbi, Rutshuru territory. Army chiefs of DR Congo, Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda 13-14 Sept met in Goma, North Kivu to discuss insecurity affecting east and neighboring countries. Parliament 6 Sept approved PM Ilunkamba’s program, which prioritises security, employment, health, access to infrastructure and anti-corruption; MPs from three main opposition groups boycotted vote. President Tshisekedi 13 Sept chaired his first cabinet meeting and asked ministers to disregard political divisions. In Belgium, Tshisekedi met country’s PM and EU officials 16-19 Sept, restoring diplomatic relations with Belgium broken off since 2017.
President Tshisekedi formed coalition govt with former President Kabila’s alliance seven months since taking office, armed group violence persisted in east, and Ebola virus spread to South Kivu province. PM Ilunkamba 26 Aug announced coalition govt with Tshisekedi’s Heading for Change alliance filling 23 ministerial posts and Kabila’s Common Front for Congo coalition taking 42. Platform of protestant churches and Catholic Church 9 Aug said that almost 2 million people had signed petition urging electoral commission to organise local polls; 16 Aug delivered petition to presidency. In Beni territory, North Kivu province in east, armed group Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) 4 Aug killed five civilians; 6 Aug killed two and kidnapped two dozen. Attack by unidentified gunmen 7 Aug in Mbau, about 20km north of Beni, left six civilians dead, prompting some 5,000 to protest insecurity. ADF killed two civilians and one soldier in Mbau 18 Aug sparking more protests in several cities; security forces’ efforts to suppress protests left three demonstrators dead and at least 74 arrested. In Ituri province in north east, army 7 Aug clashed with unidentified gunmen killing at least seven in Djugu territory. Unidentified gunmen 19 Aug ambushed and killed three in Irumu territory. Clashes between army and Ngudjolo militiamen 23 Aug left twenty militiamen and two soldiers dead in Djugu territory. ADF 23 Aug abducted 106 in Irumu territory. In South Kivu, attacks by armed groups in Fizi territory 27-29 Aug left seven civilians dead. During summit of regional bloc Southern African Development Community (SADC) in Tanzanian capital Dar es Salaam, Tshisekedi 17 Aug called on other countries to help reduce insecurity in east and proposed creation of regional coalition to eradicate armed groups in east. Ebola virus spread to third province after Ituri and North Kivu, as authorities 16 Aug confirmed first two cases in South Kivu province, one of which died 14 Aug.
President Tshisekedi continued to negotiate govt formation with former President Kabila; Kabila faced challenge from within his Common Front for Congo (FCC) coalition; violence continued in Ituri in north east; and World Health Organization (WHO) declared Ebola outbreak a global public health emergency. Senator Bahati Lukwebo, president of Alliance for the Democratic Forces of Congo and Allies (AFDC-A), major party within Kabila’s coalition, 10 July declared himself candidate for senate presidency, challenging dominance of Kabila’s party within coalition. FCC expelled Bahati, prompting AFDC-A politicians and activists to stage protests in Bukavu in east 11 July. In senate council elections 27 July, Kabila’s candidate former Minister Alexis Tambwe Mwamba won presidency, but AFDC-A candidate Samy Badibanga won vice presidency. In Sankuru province in centre, provincial parliament 20 July elected Joseph-Stéphane Mukumadi, nominally independent candidate but reportedly close to Tshisekedi, as governor, beating Kabila ally Lambert Mende. In Ituri province in north east, violence continued in Djugu, Mahagi and Irumu territories as armed groups continued to target civilians and military. Eight headless bodies discovered 10km from provincial capital Bunia 18 July, prompting youth to protest against insecurity. 200 additional police deployed to shore up security 8 July. In east, first person in Goma, North Kivu provincial capital, to have tested positive for Ebola 14 July, died next day while being transferred to Butembo. WHO 17 July declared Ebola outbreak in Congo a global public health emergency, noting that Goma is “a city of almost two million people on the border with Rwanda, and the gateway to the rest of DRC and the world”. Tshisekedi 20 July placed Ebola response under presidency’s supervision and same day created seven-man technical secretariat to lead on it. Health Minister Oly Ilunga 22 July resigned in protest.
Ethnic violence erupted in Ituri province in north east and could escalate in July, insecurity and Ebola epidemic persisted in east, and opposition protested against constitutional court’s invalidation of over twenty of its legislative victories. In Ituri province in north east, longstanding enmity between ethnic Hema and Lendu erupted in clashes early June; by 18 June attacks and fighting in Djugu territory had left at least 170 dead. In North Kivu and Ituri provinces, by 23 June Ebola had killed over 1,500 since epidemic began in Aug 2018, and armed groups and communities continued to disrupt response. Two cases identified in neighbouring Uganda. Tshisekedi’s alliance Heading for Change (CACH) and Kabila’s coalition Common Front for Congo (FCC) 22 June agreed that of 45 ministries CACH members would head fifteen and FCC members 30; CACH would hold defence, foreign affairs and justice and FCC interior ministry, but Tshisekedi would choose interior minister. FCC contested Tshisekedi’s “unilateral” 3 June presidential orders to appoint new heads of national railways and mining company, which have yet to enter into force. In response, supporters of Tshisekedi’s party 10-11 June protested in capital Kinshasa, Lubumbashi and Goma, clashing with security forces in Kinshasa. Constitutional court 11 June invalidated election of 33 MPs in Dec polls, 23 of them from opposition Lamuka platform, in each case benefitting FCC. U.S., UK, Switzerland and Canada 14 June criticised decisions for “undermin[ing] a peaceful political climate”. Tshisekedi 17 June met constitutional court’s president, who promised to review decisions. Lamuka supporters defied govt ban and protested on independence day 30 June in Kinshasa and Goma, North Kivu; police violently dispersed protests, one killed in Goma. Several political exiles returned including former VP Jean-Pierre Bemba 23 June, who signalled his opposition to Tshisekedi. Tshisekedi 8 June submitted DRC’s application to join East African Community and 13 June visited Burundian President Nkurunziza.
President Tshisekedi took further steps to open political space and improve regional and international relations, but insecurity persisted, especially in east. Moïse Katumbi, coordinator of opposition platform Lamuka and former Katanga governor, 20 May returned from three-year exile after court overturned conviction and prosecutors dropped investigation against him initiated by govt of former President Kabila. Ne Muanda Nsemi, leader of politico-religious movement Bundu Dia Mayala whom Kabila govt imprisoned but who escaped and disappeared in 2017, reappeared in Kinshasa 6 May, arrested 9 May but released next day at Tshisekedi’s request. Body of Tshisekedi’s father Etienne, opposition leader who died in Belgium in Feb 2017, repatriated 30 May, move previously blocked by Kabila. After months of negotiations between Tshisekedi and Kabila camps, Tshisekedi 20 May appointed Sylvestre Ilunga Ilunkamba, member of Kabila’s party, as PM. Martin Fayulu, Lamuka’s losing presidential candidate, continued to contest results and 15 May threatened to mobilise protests if Tshisekedi did not resign within weeks. Kabila’s Common Front for Congo (FCC) coalition took four of five posts in North Kivu province’s parliamentary bureau 14 May and won with significant margins in delayed senatorial elections in North Kivu and Mai-Ndombe provinces 18 May; FCC now has 86 of 109 senate seats. Tshisekedi continued to strengthen relations with regional and international partners: notably he received Rwandan army chief 10 May; Belgian political and security delegation 12 May; Ethiopian President Sahle-Work 18 May; and French FM 20 May, who promised €300mn for education, health and security sectors. In North Kivu, clashes between army and militia Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) caused displacement in Rutshuru territory, 2 May left eight dead; in Masisi territory, Nduma Defence of Congo-Renovated (NDC-R) militia continued to take ground from rival groups Alliance of Patriots for a Free and Sovereign Congo (APCLS) and Force for the Defence of Human Rights/Nyatura; in Beni territory, attack attributed to Allied Democratic Forces militia 17 May left at least five civilians and one soldier dead. In Ituri province, assailants attacked market on Lake Albert killing nineteen.
Govt formation remained stalled as coalitions led by President Tshisekedi and former President Kabila failed to agree on PM and cabinet appointments; insecurity continued in centre and east. Officials from Tshisekedi’s Heading for Change (CACH) alliance and Kabila’s Common Front for Congo (FCC) met in Kisantu, Kongo Central province 6-7 April to negotiate PM and cabinet, but failed to reach agreement; Tshisekedi refused to appoint FCC’s proposed PM Albert Mulimbi, chairman of state-owned mining company Gecamines. In 31 March legislative elections in Beni, Butembo and Yumbi (postponed from Dec due to Ebola and violence), Lamuka opposition platform won ten of fourteen parliamentary seats and Union for the Congolese Nation (UNC) of Tshisekedi’s Chief of Staff Vital Kamerhe and FCC won one seat each. In governorship elections, FCC won in sixteen of 22 provinces 10 April; governor elections postponed in North Kivu, Mai-Ndombe, South Ubangi and Sankuru. In document made public 30 April, prosecutors dropped investigation into allegations opposition leader in exile Moise Katumbi hired mercenaries, opening way for his return. Tshisekedi made first domestic tour as president 12-16 April to Lubumbashi in south east, and Goma and Beni in east. In U.S. 3-5 April, Tshisekedi met International Monetary Fund head Christine Lagarde who promised resumption of cooperation, suspended since 2012, and Belgian Deputy PM Reynders who pledged to revive ties. In east and centre, over 2,600 Mai-Mai militiamen surrendered 25 March-9 April. In South Kivu in east, army 2 April arrested leader of Raia Mutomboki armed group; 29 more Raia Mutomboki units surrendered 8 April. In North Kivu in east, clashes between three rival armed groups – Nduma Defence of the Congo/Rénové de Guidon, Alliance of Patriots for a Free and Sovereign Congo (APCLS) and Mai-Mai Nyatura – caused escalation in killings, rapes and robberies. Army 11 April said it had killed 36 members of Burundian rebel groups, National Liberation Forces (FNL) and Burundian Republican Forces (FOREBU), 6-8 April in Uvira territory, South Kivu. In Ituri province in north east, unidentified attackers killed eight people in Kalo 5-7 April.
President Tshisekedi struck deal with former President Kabila’s coalition on govt formation and took steps to open political space, as senatorial elections sparked protests and violence persisted in east and centre. Tshisekedi’s coalition and Kabila’s Common Front for Congo (FCC) alliance 6 March agreed Kabila will name “formateur” to appoint new govt. Tshisekedi 13 March pardoned some 700 political prisoners, released some and same day opposition leader Moïse Katumbi received passport, previously denied by Kabila govt. In 15 March senatorial election, FCC won 84 of 100 seats, triggering opposition protests in capital Kinshasa, Goma, Mbuji-Mayi and Lubumbashi. Consequently, electoral commission, national assembly, outgoing senate, prosecuting authority and presidency 17 March suspended senate’s appointment and postponed provincial governor elections sine die; FCC contested decision. Tshisekedi 29 March lifted suspension following investigation by court of cassation. Opposition electoral coalition Lamuka 24 March in Brussels said it would study possible transformation into political platform. Parliamentary and municipal polls, due Dec but delayed due to Ebola and insecurity, held 31 March in Beni and Butembo in North Kivu in east and Yumbi in Mai-Ndombe province in west. U.S. Assistant Sec State for African Affairs Tibor Nagy 13 and 15 March relayed U.S. support for Tshisekedi presidency; U.S. treasury 21 March imposed new sanctions on electoral commission leadership, constitutional court president and former national assembly speaker for reported involvement in corruption. After Belgium and DR Congo agreed late Feb to revive ties, including to increase flights between Kinshasa and Brussels, visa facility for Schengen area reopened 6 March after over a year. Violence persisted in east and centre, especially in Ituri, Tshopo, North Kivu, South Kivu, former Katanga provinces and Kasais. In Ituri, North and South Kivu, army clashed with Mai-Mai groups. In North Kivu, attacks continued to hamper Ebola response: militants 10 March attacked treatment centre in Butembo for second time, killing police officer. UN Security Council 29 March renewed mandate of UN stabilisation mission in Congo until 20 Dec.
Following his inauguration late Jan, President Tshisekedi began to appoint staff and engage international partners and security slightly improved. Tshisekedi began to fill key positions in presidency while govt remained in place awaiting replacement. Former President Kabila’s alliance maintained majority in parliament. Tshisekedi met Kabila for talks 17 Feb. Tshisekedi 4 Feb visited military camp in capital Kinshasa, which houses units of republican guard. Tshisekedi 4-6 Feb visited Angola, Kenya and Congo-Brazzaville and 10-11 Feb attended African Union heads of state summit in Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, where he met UN Sec-Gen Guterres and EU foreign policy chief Mogherini; Tshisekedi 11 Feb expressed his wish that EU head of delegation – expelled in Dec 2018 – return to Kinshasa. Opposition leader Martin Fayulu, who according to official results came second in Dec presidential poll, continued to reject results and hold rallies; several parties have left his Lamuka alliance. Some members of foreign armed groups and local Mai-Mai groups in North Kivu, South Kivu and Tanganyika provinces in east demobilised; 48 militants surrendered in South Kivu 3-17 Feb. In Kasai region, where Tshisekedi has strong base, 600 Kamuina Nsapu militants gave up their weapons saying they were satisfied with peaceful handover of power and three Kamuina Nsapu leaders and over 100 militants surrendered late Jan. Burundian military 3 Feb reportedly began withdrawing from Congo. Congolese army 5 Feb reportedly launched offensive against Burundian rebel group RED-TABARA in South Kivu province, forcing latter to retreat within South Kivu. Uganda 26 Feb repatriated 70 former members of Congolese rebel group M23 to Congo under voluntary repatriation program. Ebola epidemic in North Kivu and Ituri provinces continued: World Health Organization 26 Feb reported 872 cases (807 confirmed) and 548 deaths since outbreak in Aug 2018; new cases mostly reported in Katwa and Butembo health zones in North Kivu. Unidentified assailants 24 Feb partially burnt down Médecins Sans Frontières treatment centre forcing suspension of activities.
Opposition candidate in late Dec polls, Félix Tshisekedi, installed as president 24 Jan in first peaceful transfer of power in country’s history amid strong concerns of vote rigging; and UN reported at least 535 people killed in ethnic violence in west mid-Dec. Electoral commission (CENI) published provisional results 10 Jan declaring Tshisekedi winner with small margin ahead of opposition Lamuka alliance’s candidate Martin Fayulu and ruling coalition’s candidate Ramani Shadary in third place. Amid strong concerns of vote rigging constitutional court 19 Jan confirmed Tshisekedi winner; Fayulu declared himself president. Southern African Development Community (SADC) and other African countries including Egypt, incoming AU chair, took lead in welcoming decision; others, including EU, took note. Former President Kabila’s coalition, Common Front for Congo (FCC), won majorities in national assembly (335 of 485 seats) and in most of 26 provincial assemblies. While security situation remained largely calm, results triggered protests in Kikwit, Kwilu province, Fayulu stronghold, and less so in Kisangani, Mbandaka, Goma and Kinshasa. Police 21 Jan dispersed small Fayulu-led rally in Kinshasa. Govt shut down SMS and mobile internet services 31 Dec-19 Jan, until just before confirmation of results. UN late Jan said at least 535 people were killed in clashes between Banunu and Batende communities in four villages in Yumbi territory, Mai-Ndombe province in west 16-18 Dec; some 465 houses and buildings reportedly burned down or pillaged, estimated 16,000 fled across border into Republic of Congo. UN 29 Jan said violence appeared to have been started by dispute over burial of local chief. In South Kivu, Burundian army backed by Burundian ruling party’s Imbonerakure youth wing and local Mai-Mai militants 16 Jan launched operations in Kaberagure, Uvira territory against Burundian rebels including from RED-TABARA and National Liberation Forces (FNL) groups backed by local Mai-Mai militants; seventeen people reportedly killed. In North Kivu, army 19 Jan clashed with splinter group of Rwandan Hutu rebels Democratic Liberation Forces of Rwanda (FDLR) near Katale, Masisi territory; army clashed with Allied Democratic Forces rebels in Mapobu, near Beni 21 Jan. In Ituri province, army 22 Jan reported killing of leader and six members of Simba armed group and ethnic Lendu militia attacked army position. Govt 28 Jan said it had extradited to Rwanda two FDLR members.
After rise in election-related violence and one-week additional postponement, general elections took place largely peacefully 30 Dec, disrupted in several places by logistical problems; opposition claims of fraud raise risk of violence when results are published in coming weeks. In run-up to vote, violent incidents occurred between opposition supporters and security forces or ruling coalition supporters in Mbuji-Mayi 1 Dec and Tshikapa 9 Dec (both Kasai province), in Kindu (Maniema) 9 Dec, in Lubumbashi (Haut-Katanga) 11 Dec and Kalemie (Tanganyika) 12 Dec, leaving up to eight people dead. Some violence was triggered by govt attempts to block rallies and movement of opposition presidential candidate Martin Fayulu; in other instances ruling coalition supporters were targeted. EU 10 Dec extended sanctions on ruling coalition’s presidential candidate Emmanuel Shadary and others until Dec 2019. Opposition Lamuka coalition 16 Dec reversed position saying it would accept use of voting machine, but insisted that electoral commission only take into account results from manual counting. Fire at electoral commission warehouse in capital Kinshasa 12-13 Dec destroyed much of election material for city, opposed politicians blamed each other. Electoral commission 26 Dec announced election would be delayed till March 2019 in four constituencies (Beni, Beni ville, Butembo ville, all in North Kivu province in east and Yumbi in Mai-Ndombe province in west) citing security problems and Ebola. After days of protests, citizens in Beni and Butembo organised mock elections 30 Dec to demonstrate decision unjustified. Several voting stations opened late 30 Dec due to lack of equipment or voter rolls and some voting machines encountered problems. Four people killed in dispute over alleged fraud in Walungu, South Kivu province in east 30 Dec. Main opposition candidates claimed widespread irregularities and some instances of fraud favouring Shadary. Armed group violence continued in North and South Kivu and Mai-Ndombe province. Most serious incidents included fighting between army and Mai Mai Yakutumba militia in Fizi territory, South Kivu that left four soldiers and fourteen rebels dead; Mai Mai Mazembe militia attacked Mbelu, North Kivu, at least one militant killed; Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) militia 9 Dec attacked Nalu in Beni, North Kivu killing at least ten civilians and 16 Dec attacked army in Beni. In Mai-Ndombe, clashes between Banunu and Batende communities 16-18 Dec left at least 45 dead.
Violence could escalate or break out in new areas around 23 Dec general elections; in Nov opposition failed to unite behind single candidate and armed group violence continued in east. Seven opposition leaders created Lamuka coalition in Geneva 11 Nov, strongly criticising voters’ roll and use of voting machines, agreeing that, if coalition wins, fresh elections would be held after two years in which members Jean-Pierre Bemba and Moïse Katumbi could run, and naming Martin Fayulu as opposition’s single presidential candidate. Next day, two main opposition candidates, Felix Tshisekedi and subsequently Vital Kamerhe, pulled out of agreement citing pressure from political bases. Latter two leaders formed alliance between their parties in Kenyan capital Nairobi 23 Nov, with Tshisekedi as its presidential candidate. Electoral commission 21 Nov opened month-long campaigning period. In North Kivu province in east, armed groups including Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) kept up attacks on civilians in north of province, preventing effective response to Ebola outbreak. Suspected ADF 5 Nov launched attacks on Mangboko, killing seven civilians, and Oicha, killing civilian. Assailants 10 Nov killed woman and kidnapped five others at Mayi-Moya, and killed six civilians in Beni 10-11 Nov. UN mission and army 13 Nov launched joint operation against ADF militants, seven peacekeepers and at least twelve soldiers killed. Suspected ADF attack on Oicha 15 Nov left five civilians dead. Shell hit house in Beni 16 Nov forcing sixteen World Health Organization staff to evacuate. ADF 18 Nov killed three travellers on road between Oicha and Eringeti. In Kasai province in centre, military operation against Kamuina Nsapu armed group killed seventeen militants 7 Nov. Three campaigners for member of ruling coalition disappeared, suspected killed, 17 Nov near Dibaya. Arrival in Kasai provinces of most of estimated 362,000 Congolese forcefully evicted from Angola by armed forces Oct-Nov put added strain on resources. In South Kivu province in east, Burundian military attacked bases of Burundian RED-TABARA rebels 1-2 Nov reportedly forcing them to flee; Burundi denied incursion. Congolese security forces arrested Burundian soldier at Sange and reportedly handed him over to Burundian army 6 Nov, and arrested three other Burundian soldiers for entering Lusenda refugee camp, which shelters Burundian refugees.
Militia attacks escalated in and around Beni in east, sparking local protests and obstructing Ebola response, while political parties continued to debate core electoral issues, including use of voting machines, ahead of Dec general elections. In Beni territory, North Kivu province, armed assailants, most suspected to belong to Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) armed group, upped attacks, leaving dozens of civilians and soldiers dead. Suspected ADF militants 4 Oct attacked army post, killing at least four soldiers and two civilians; ambushed car between Beni and Ituri province killing five people 9 Oct; attacked Beni city 20 Oct killing at least twelve people and abducting at least eight. Violence fuelled growing popular frustration: teachers went on strike, students protested, rioters 21 Oct set fire to govt buildings in Beni city. Violence and community protests in Beni complicated response to Ebola outbreak. Elsewhere, unidentified assailants killed at least 21 civilians near Rubaya, North Kivu 6 Oct. During 4-8 Oct visit, UN Security Council delegation called for consensus on voting machines and voter roll. Unidentified assailants night of 21-22 Oct attacked with grenades home of André-Alain Atundu, spokesperson of ruling coalition, nobody hurt. Govt cancelled opposition rally in Lubumbashi in south planned for 14 Oct. Seven major opposition platforms met in South Africa 23-25 Oct and said they would designate joint candidate by 15 Nov. Opposition held protests 26 Oct in several cities, including capital Kinshasa, Goma and Bukavu against use of voting machines and calling for cleaning of voter roll; opposition party Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS) of Félix Tshisekedi did not take part. Supreme Court 10 Oct suspended trial of exiled opposition leader Moïse Katumbi for alleged recruitment of mercenaries as judges refused to hear lawyers in absence of defendants. Tensions between govt and Angola rose after Angolan security forces and locals in Lucapa, Lunda Norte province in north east Angola 3-5 Oct assaulted and looted Congolese, forcing some 330,000 to flee across border into DR Congo, at least six killed (see Angola).
Ahead of planned Dec general elections, former VP Jean-Pierre Bemba and former Katanga Governor Moïse Katumbi excluded from final candidate list, authorities repressed limited protest and armed group violence continued in east. After electoral commission (CENI) barred six would-be presidential candidates including Bemba in Aug, Constitutional Court 3 Sept confirmed Bemba’s exclusion, but reinstated two candidates, former PM Samy Badibanga and Marie-Josée Ifoku. CENI 19 Sept published definitive lists of candidates for presidential and legislative elections; 21 presidential candidates include ruling party’s Emmanuel Shadary and opposition’s most prominent challengers Felix Tshisekedi and Vital Kamerhe. Opposition delegation led by Moïse Katumbi and Adolphe Muzito 18 Sept met South African ruling party African National Congress (ANC) in Johannesburg; ANC called on South African govt to engage with DRC govt to ensure elections adhere to protocols of regional bloc Southern African Development Community. During Belgian FM’s trip to South Africa, Angola and Congo-Brazzaville, Belgian and Angolan FMs in joint statement 11 Sept called for inclusive electoral process for credible and free vote; Congolese FM 12 Sept warned against interference by neighbours and other partners. British experts 17 Sept delivered report of partial audit of voting machines and recommended how to mitigate risks. Authorities dispersed protests against voting machines organised by Struggle for Change (LUCHA) activists 3 Sept, arresting at least 65 people in major cities, and 12 Sept arrested seven opposition supporters campaigning against machines at Kinshasa University. International Criminal Court 17 Sept fined Bemba €300,000 and sentenced him to twelve additional months for witness tampering; prison term cancelled due to time he has already served. Bemba appealed. Opposition parties held joint rally in capital Kinshasa 29 Sept. In East, suspected members of Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) attacked Ngadi in Beni, North Kivu province 3 Sept; killed eighteen people including at least four soldiers in Oicha about 30km south of Beni city 22 Sept; killed one and abducted sixteen in Oicha 24 Sept. Fighting between army and Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda in North Kivu 4 Sept left at least two civilians dead. In South Kivu province, Mai Mai rebel coalition took control of Kilembwe and neighbouring areas 14 Sept, rebels pulled out and army retook control 24 Sept.
Following announcement that President Kabila will not run in Dec presidential election, violence could flare if definitive list of candidates – to be published 19 Sept – excludes main opposition contenders. Ruling coalition 8 Aug announced that Kabila would not run, abiding by constitutional two-term limit, but that it would be represented by Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, secretary general of coalition’s main party People’s Party for Reconstruction and Development. Jean-Pierre Bemba, leader of opposition party Movement for the Liberation of Congo acquitted by International Criminal Court (ICC) in June, returned to Congo 1-5 Aug, submitting presidential candidacy. Govt prevented Moïse Katumbi, leader of opposition platform Together for Change, returning to Congo to submit candidacy before 8 Aug deadline, denying him authorisation to land at Lubumbashi airport and refusing him entry through land border with Zambia 3 and 4 Aug. Authorities arrested dozens of his supporters in Lubumbashi. Katumbi’s spokesperson 12 Aug said his platform had asked Council of State to lift irregular measure blocking his return. In total 25 people lodged presidential candidacies. Main opposition parties 13 Aug reaffirmed intention to unite behind single candidate. Electoral commission 24 Aug published provisional list of candidates, barring six would-be candidates, including Bemba on account of his ICC conviction for witness tampering. All six began procedures at constitutional court to overturn decision. Catholic Church, affiliated lay organisation, international community and opposition welcomed Kabila’s decision to step down, but underscored that electoral commission needed to resolve multiple issues to ensure free, fair and credible vote. In North Kivu province in east, fourteen bodies found in Beni area 7 Aug, suspected victims of Allied Democratic Forces armed group; fighting between two armed groups in Kalungu area, Masisi territory reportedly left at least twelve civilians dead 5-10 Aug; army fought Nduma Defence of Congo armed group to take control of Kasugho and Kagheri areas, Lubero territory 14-17 Aug. Govt 1 Aug declared new Ebola outbreak around Beni, North Kivu, and cases since reported in Ituri province; 75 deaths reported by 30 Aug.
President Kabila 19 July reaffirmed his commitment to respect the constitution, but remained vague on whether he intended to stand in Dec elections; according to electoral timetable, presidential candidates must register by 8 Aug. Major opposition parties 23 July jointly called for cleaning of voter list, cancellation of plans to use voting machines, confidence-building measures as outlined in Dec 2016 Saint Sylvester agreement and replacement of representative from opposition party Union for Democracy and Social Progress in electoral commission council. Opposition and ruling majority began talks on voter list. Opposition party Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC) 13 July said it had chosen party leader Jean-Pierre Bemba, acquitted by International Criminal Court in June, as presidential candidate. MLC extended Bemba’s presidency of party for five years. Bemba returned to DR Congo 1 Aug. Ruling majority expressed doubt that Bemba was legally allowed run for presidency. Platform of opposition leader Moïse Katumbi 30 July said Katumbi would return to DR Congo 3 Aug. Electoral commission 24 June-13 July registered candidates for provincial elections and 26 July published provisional list of over 18,000 candidates for 715 seats. Govt reshuffled command positions in army 14 and 24 July. In first reshuffle, Gen John Numbi was appointed inspector general of armed forces and Lt Gen Amisi Kumba Gabriel was appointed deputy chief of staff; both have been sanctioned by international partners for involvement in human rights violations. Govt cancelled visits by UN sec-gen and U.S. ambassador to UN scheduled for July. Kabila reportedly also cancelled his visit to Angola planned for late July. Navies of DR Congo and Uganda 7 July exchanged fire on Lake Edward, which straddles disputed border, one Ugandan soldier killed. DR Congo 11 July accused Ugandan military of shooting dead twelve Congolese fishermen and arresting about 100 others. Congolese delegation visited Uganda late month to discuss issues over lake. Uganda 28 July said it had sentenced 35 Congolese to up to three years for illegal fishing. Govt 24 July declared over Ebola outbreak that killed 33 people.
Preparations for Dec elections continued more or less on track and International Criminal Court (ICC) acquitted former VP Jean-Pierre Bemba. Parliament 8 June voted to amend voter registration law so that Congolese overseas will not be able to register and vote. Lay movement of Catholic Church 14 June called on President Kabila to state publicly whether he intended to run for third term and on electoral commission to address number of issues before 30 June, calling on population to take matter into their own hands if deadline not met. At first major public meeting in capital Kinshasa of opposition leader Moïse Katumbi’s Together for Change platform 9 June, Katumbi from exile via Skype reiterated he will return soon to lodge his candidacy and emphasised need for single opposition candidate. Authorities briefly held Katumbi at Brussels airport for travelling with falsified passport; Congolese prosecutor opened investigation into matter 18 June. ICC 8 June acquitted Jean-Pierre Bemba, leader of opposition party Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC), arrested in May 2008 and sentenced in June 2016 to eighteen years in prison for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by his forces in Central African Republic in 2002-2003. Other opposition leaders, especially leader of Union for the Congolese Nation Vital Kamerhe, welcomed Bemba’s possible return to political scene. U.S. 21 June said it had placed visa bans on several senior officials for corruption tied to electoral process, without publishing names, to underline need for peaceful transfer of power. MLC Senator Mongulu Tapangane appointed to constitutional court 21 June. Armed group and criminal violence continued in east at low level. World Health Organization 26 June said Ebola outbreak had been “largely contained” with 55 cases reported, of which 38 confirmed (last confirmed case 6 June) and 28 deaths.
Govt and opposition continued to wrangle over preparations for Dec elections, as armed group violence persisted in east. International Organisation of La Francophonie 6-25 May audited voter register, identified multiple issues, including that 16.6% of voters had been registered without digital recording of their fingerprints; recommended how electoral commission could improve register. Govt 18 May said that list of authorised political parties and coalitions – contested by opposition parties and NGOs – would be revised based on recommendations of committee for follow-up of Dec 2016 Saint Sylvester agreement. Catholic Church 15 and 24 May expressed concern with stalled implementation of Saint Sylvester agreement and with various aspects of election preparations and repeated call for independent audit of voting machines. Kabila 14 May appointed three new judges to Constitutional Court, including two close allies. Police disrupted meetings of opposition leader Moïse Katumbi’s Together for Change movement in Lubumbashi, Haut-Katanga province 3 May and in Bunia, Ituri province 19 May. Three MPs, including two Katumbi allies, banned from parliament 11 May, officially for absenteeism. Katumbi and opposition leader Félix Tshisekedi 25 May confirmed intention to put forward single presidential candidate. Violence continued, especially in east. Unidentified assailants killed park ranger and kidnapped two British tourists and their driver in Virunga national park, North Kivu province 11 May, releasing driver almost immediately and tourists two days later. Mai Mai militia attacked convoy of UN mission (MONUSCO) in Tanganyika province 11 May. Mai Mai militia attacked Namoya gold mine in Maniema province causing multiple casualties 24 May, reportedly tried to take foreign workers hostage but repelled by guards. Suspected Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) militia attacked Mangboko village, Beni territory, North Kivu 20 May killing ten civilians. ADF militants clashed with army on Mbau-Kamango axis, North Kivu 24 May, fourteen ADF and five soldiers killed. Ebola outbreak in Equateur province began early April, reported 8 May; 35 cases confirmed and 25 deaths recorded as of 28 May, World Health Organization began using experimental vaccine.
As preparations for elections in Dec continued, opposition contested electoral commission (CENI)’s plan to use voting machines. Comité Laïc de Coordination (lay organisation of Catholic Church) 8 April asked CENI not to use them to avoid undermining vote’s credibility; five opposition parties jointly contested numbers of voters in register and demanded external audit. Together for Change, platform of opposition leader Moïse Katumbi, held its first meeting in Lubumbashi 7 April. Attorney general late March opened investigation into allegations Katumbi held Italian citizenship while governor of Katanga province, another attempt to prevent him from running in election. President Kabila 16 April rejected international role in elections. Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS) 24 April organised first major opposition rally in capital Kinshasa. Govt agreed with UDPS and Tshisekedi family 21 April on arrangements for repatriation from Belgium of body of former party leader Etienne Tshisekedi who died Feb 2017 and funeral, without specifying date. Violence continued across country, especially in east in North and South Kivu and Ituri provinces. In North Kivu, Allied Democratic Forces 17 April attacked Ngite village, looting houses, before army routed them. Unidentified assailants carried out attack in Mungunga neighbourhood of Goma, North Kivu 30 April killing at least seven people. In north west, fighting began in South Ubangi province 23 April between ethnic Enyele militia and security forces, at least 47 civilians drowned in river fleeing violence. Donors pledged $528mn for humanitarian relief 13 April, conference in Geneva had aimed to raise $1.68bn.
In step toward elections planned for Dec, govt 26 March presented to electoral commission (CENI) list of over 600 registered political parties and coalitions. Opposition politician Moïse Katumbi in exile in South Africa confirmed 11 March his intention to stand for president and creation of new coalition, Together for Change, comprising opposition G7 alliance, Alternance pour la République (AR) alliance and other small parties and associations. Felix Tshisekedi 31 March elected president of Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS) and designated party’s candidate for presidential poll; rival UDPS factions contested his election. Parliament speaker 1 March agreed to UDPS’s request to place on parliamentary agenda replacement of UDPS representative in CENI, in line with Dec 2016 Saint Sylvester agreement’s provision to refresh CENI, and announced possible adjustment of electoral law adopted in Dec. Mixed commission of inquiry comprising govt and civil society with African Union support 10 March submitted final report on human rights abuses during 31 Dec and 21 Jan protests, confirming that security forces killed fourteen people and injured 46. Violence between Lendu and Hema ethnic groups in Djugu area in Ituri province left around 30 people dead 1-2 March, and 39 to 41 people 12-13 March; UN patrol 17 March killed two presumed militia members. Military 24 March said it had killed thirteen militiamen and one soldier had also been killed during clashes in Jemi and Penyi, Ituri province. Alleged members of Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) armed group 3 March killed seven people near Eringeti in North Kivu; suspected ADF 27 March killed at least eleven civilians in Beni, North Kivu.
Crackdown by security forces on anti-govt protests led by Catholic Church-affiliated Comité Laïc de Coordination 25 Feb left two people dead, one in Kinshasa and one in Mbandaka, capital of Equateur province in north west. Platform of protestant churches (ECC) 19 Feb reaffirmed support for elections and electoral commission. Catholic bishops concluded congress 15-17 Feb expressing concerns over violent repression of protests and increased insecurity, while demanding full implementation of Dec 2016 Saint Sylvester agreement and international certification of new electronic voting machines. Conflict between Hema and Lendu communities escalated in Dungu area, Ituri province leaving 60 to 100 people dead in 2018 and forcing some 27,000 people to flee to Uganda mid-Feb; govt and UN mission (MONUSCO) reinforced their presence in area. Security forces repelled attack by alleged Kamuina Nsapu militants in Lombelu, Kasai Central province in centre 26 Feb, clash reportedly left one soldier and fourteen others dead. Army 19 Feb captured camp of armed group Allied Democratic Forces and killed one commander in Beni area, North Kivu. Clashes between ethnic Hutu on one side and Nande and Hundu groups on other left sixteen civilians and seven militiamen dead in Rutshuru territory, North Kivu 25-28 Feb. Army 15 Feb reported killing 48 members of armed group Mai Mai Yakutumba in South Kivu province, forcing some combatants to flee to Burundi and recapturing large areas since launch of new offensive late Jan. After alleged bandits killed three people in separate incidents in Bukavu, South Kivu 15 Feb, residents next day launched large-scale protests against authorities for failing to counter growing insecurity. Rwanda requested investigation into incursion into Rwandan territory by Congolese army 13 Feb, during which three Congolese soldiers killed. Tanzanian authorities 2 Feb arrested and extradited to DRC self-proclaimed General John Tshibangu who threatened Congolese govt with armed uprising. Regional bloc Southern African Development Community 3 Feb said it would open liaison office in Kinshasa.
Following large anti-govt demonstrations on first anniversary of Saint Sylvester agreement 31 Dec, protests against President Kabila’s rule organised in capital Kinshasa and other major cities 21 Jan by Comité Laïc de Coordination, activists affiliated to Catholic Church; repression by security forces reportedly left six people dead. Catholic Archbishop of Kinshasa 2 Jan denounced repression and 12 Jan held mass to commemorate victims. Electoral commission concluded voter registration 31 Jan, said 46mn voters registered, 12% more than expected. Suspected militia fighters 14 Jan killed four soldiers near Kananga airport in Central Kasai province. Kamuina Nsapu militia killed nine civilians in Bata Ishama and Kakenge villages, Kasai province 29-30 Jan. Congolese army 13 Jan launched new operations against armed group Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) in N Kivu in east and reported twenty military personnel killed in ADF attack 19 Jan. Ugandan President Museveni 14 Jan held meeting of East African chiefs of defence forces and representatives of DRC and South Africa to discuss conflict with ADF. Security forces intensified operations against Mai Mai militia in S Kivu causing almost 7,000 people to flee to Burundi and 1,200 to Tanzania late Jan.