In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the situation in the eastern province of North Kivu, which shares borders with Uganda and Rwanda, is still volatile and a source great concern.
Eight members of a local church were massacred on 9 September in the latest in a series of attacks. According to local NGOs, more than 1,000 people were killed between October 2014 and May 2016.
The Congolese government has always attributed responsibility for such attacks to the Islamist militants of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF). But a new report by the Congo Research Group (CRG), an independent group linked with New York University, published this month, casts doubt on that assessment.
The report – the result of over two years of research and 245 interviews, including many with perpetrators – claims to uncover “a more complex” and “more disturbing” reality.
“While the ADF participated in many of the massacres, it is clear that several overlapping networks of actors were involved, waxing and waning in prominence, sometimes collaborating and other times competing with each other,” the report says.
The report, titled ‘Mass Killings in Beni Territory: Political Violence, Cover Ups, and Cooptation’, attributes some of the blame to the Congolese army, specifically naming one commanding officer, General Muhindo Akili Mundos.
“Instead of bringing the perpetrators to justice, however, they appear to have coopted these networks and escalated the violence in order to control their rivals. All sides benefited from being able to blame a foreign, Islamist organization for the killings,” says the report.
The CRG denounced the failure of the Congolese government and its foreign partners, notably the UN peacekeeping mission, MONUSCO, in dealing with the situation.
“More generally, it demonstrates that a purely military strategy will be insufficient to stabilize this area,” the report says.
It is not the first time that the CRG has highlighted the culpability of the Congolese army in the ongoing violence in North Kivu. A previous report, ‘Who are the killers of Beni?’, published in March 2016, said that in addition to commanders directly tied to the ADF, members of the national army and local militias have also been involved in attacks on civilians.