In the past month, over 60 civilians have been killed in the North Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The killings have been reported by regional leaders to be perpetrated by members of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) a Ugandan militia that has been ravaging the Eastern Provinces of the DRC for over two decades. Most recently, the Kivu Security Tracker has reported 5 occurrences of violent attacks killing a total of 34 since November 11th, 2019. The weapons used for the killing, are reported as knives, and machetes. The massacres took place in the territory of Beni, concentrated in the villages of Kudukudu, Mayi-Moya, Pakanza, and Mabasele. The victims of these killings are innocent men, women, children targeted by Allied Democratic Forces. The surge of violence has had massive reverberations as the European Commission has recorded more than 2500 people fleeing from the Beni area, a majority of them being women and children.
The killings coincide with the launch of “large-scale operations” by the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC) on October 30th, 2019 in attempts to impair the militia groups ravaging the East. The operations have concentrated in Beni, a territory in North Kivu populated by a number of Ugandan Islamist rebels such as the ADF. The presence of militia groups in the mineral-rich border area has been a source of devastating geopolitical tensions that have engulfed the DRC since the Rwandan genocide of 1994 and the subsequent first Congo war beginning in 1996. Since 1994 the DRC has been an epicentre for the “spillover” of violent conflict from regional neighbours. The ADF represents one of the many foreign spoiler entities undermining the peace process of the DRC. Such an entity has been significantly tied to gross human rights violations such as terrorizing civilian populations through means of rape, torture, summary execution, and forced recruitment of child soldiers.
Caught in the crosshairs of violence is not only civilians, but the peacekeepers deployed on the United Nations Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO). Due to the incongruence of its mandate, and the political complexity of the conflict MONUSCO has opted out of partaking in the conflict in Beni and instead are focusing their attention on providing support to the growing number of internally displaced persons. The lack of UN military intervention in protecting civilians being slaughtered by the ADF has contributed to the rising civil unrest demanding the withdrawal of MONUSCO in the Beni region. As MONUSCO is the largest peacekeeping operation in the history of the UN, the inability to stop the violent conflict in the past 20 years of deployment has deeply tainted the image of the UN in DRC and beyond.
The combinations of the killings by the ADF and the inaction of the peacekeeping forces have incentivized enlistment of the FARDC to hike. The rise of tension between the FARDC and local militia groups indicates an impending catastrophe in the DRC. Catastrophe, which is all too familiar with Congolese in the East who has been embroiled in violent conflict for what seems to be an eternity. In addition to violence, the recent outbreak of ebola has coalesced one of the largest humanitarian disasters of the century. Reports suggest that since the turn of the century millions of deaths have occurred as a result of the conflict. Yet there remains a large media blackout over Central Africa. The lack of international public knowledge in regards to what is going on in the DRC right now has hindered international responses to the crisis. As the silence continues, so will the deaths of thousands upon thousands of Congolese civilians at the hands of militia groups such as the ADF. In order to combat the vicious cycle of violence in the DRC members of the ADF, as well as it’s benefactors must be brought to justice. The first steps to justice involve greater efforts to research and report the killings taking place in Eastern DRC. This can be facilitated through communicative channels of MONUSCO, to better inform the public about what is happening in the DRC. Change begins with grassroots advocacy for the victims and strong pressure on governing bodies such as the UN to take greater action in ensuring the protection of Congolese civilians.