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Radio France Internationale
Radio France Internationale
Michael Fitzpatrick

Who are the armed groups ravaging the eastern DRCongo?

M23 rebels in the town of Kibumba, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, 23 December 2022. © Moses Sawasawa/AP

The United Nations Security Council has "strongly condemned" violence perpetrated by armed groups in the Democratic Republic of Congo and has demanded that militia groups disband. Which militia are involved, and who controls them?

In its statement published Wednesday, the Security Council called for "all members of armed groups [to] immediately and permanently disband, lay down their arms and release children from their ranks".

The Council focused in particular on rebels of the March 23 Movement (M23), whose attacks have increased in recent months in North Kivu, which borders Rwanda.

But this week's quarterly report on the DRC by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says the Allied Democratic Forces and the Cooperative for the Development of the Congo (Codeco) are also responsible for the surge in regional violence, with at least 700 civilians murdered in the first three months of this year.


This Tutsi-led rebel group has seized swathes of territory and advanced close to the regional hub city of Goma, prompting the seven-nation East African Community to authorise the deployment in November of a military force of mostly Kenyan soldiers.

M23 rebels were supposed to leave North Kivu by the end of March, but are have been seen throughout the region.

The Congolese government, independent UN experts and several Western governments say the M23 rebels are backed by Rwanda, a claim denied by Kigali.

The Security Council this week again demanded "that all external parties immediately cease their support" for M23.

The March 23 Movement was formed at the end of the Kivu war in 2009. Under a peace deal signed on 23 March of that year, rebels of Laurent Nkunda's National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP) were integrated into the Congolese army.

Dissatisfied with the way in which the peace terms were administered, and refusing Kinshasa's attempts to disperse them to other parts of the DRC, the rebels mutinied, murdered their officers and took to the bush with weapons, vehicles and uniforms stolen from army stocks.

The group continues to control large swathes of North Kivu, and is probably financed by the illegal export of the region's raw materials - principally timber and minerals - to or through neighbouring Rwanda.

Allied Democratic Forces

This islamist-alligned militia was formed in Uganda in 1995 with a view to opposing then Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni.

A series of military defeats in the late 1990s forced group members out of Uganda's western Rwenzori mountains and into North Kivu, where their activities centred on the towns of Beni and Ituri.

With an estimated 500 active fighters, the group pledged allegiance to the Islamic State armed group in October 2017 and was listed as a terrorist organisation by the US administration.

Money, weapons and strategic advice for the ADF are believed to come from islamist organisations in Somalia. The group is locally financed by the illegal export of coffee, timber and gold.


The group was formed as an agricultural cooperative in the 1970s, before morphing in the late 1990s into an armed militia mainly fighting to defend Lendu people in Ituri and North Kivu.

Several of the militias that claim Codeco affiliation stand accused of massacres and war crimes by UN officials.

Today the group is described variously as an armed political-religious sect, an association of Lendu militias, and a political-military sect.

They are active in the region of Ituri and are suspected of being involved in several massacres and armed confrontations with the Congolese army.

A neglected human disaster

Bintou Keita, the head of the UN mission in DRC, told the Security Council meeting on Wednesday that the country's "already immense" humanitarian needs continue to increase.

"This humanitarian crisis remains one of the most neglected in the world," she said, calling for funding of two billion euros promised under the UN's 2023 humanitarian plan for the DRC.

At least 2,100 schools have shut their doors in North Kivu and Ituri provinces since January due to conflict, according to the UN's children's agency, which it said has affected some 750,000 children.

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