Armed Groups in North and South Kivu

The Congo Research Group (CRG) is an independent NYC based non-profit research project dedicated to understanding the violence that affects millions of Congolese. They have been studying and documenting the nature of the conflict in the Kivu provinces. They have recently published a new essay on the topic that provides some significant insights.

The CRG notes that there are now 70 active armed groups in the region, and increase from less than 20 groups in 2008. There has been an obvious trend towards fragmentation of groups, with most of them comprising less than 200 men. The largest group remains the FDLR, who are former members of the Rwandan army that helped organize the genocide in 1994. While the FDLR may still be the largest group despite FARDC (Congo army) efforts to destroy them, Rwandan influence within Congo is believed to be at its lowest since the genocide. The Islamic ADF is said to have given up on controlling Uganda (their original goal) and now resort to banditry in the Beni area. A lack of economic improvement has reduced the ability to entice local leaders of all groups to invest in stability rather than conflict. All that’s left has been a military strategy which is lacking in diplomatic or peace-building efforts.

The above map indicates zones of influence, not control. While useful then to identify areas to avoid, by indicating zones of influence the map would tend to exaggerate the extent of control by these armed groups. It is also not meant to imply that armed groups are not operating further north or elsewhere in Congo.

Jason Stearns is the director of the CRG. He has been working on conflict dynamics in Central Africa since 2001, when he spent a year working for a local human rights group in Bukavu. He is author of Dancing in the Glory of Monsters: The Collapse of the Congo and the Great War of Africa, a book I highly recommend if you are interested in understanding the history of the Congo conflict.