The Congo is one of the most ethnically complex and diverse countries in Central Africa, with over 200 different ethnicities. The DRC is broken up into 10 different provinces. Here is a map summarizing the major geography of the country.
This small region of Eastern Congo is the most violent of all the country’s provinces. It is composed of mostly ethnic Tutsi with strong ties to Rwandan and Ugandan Tutsis. The Kivu region borders Burundi, Rwanda, and Uganda, and is the site of most conflict with those countries. After the 1994 Rwandan Genocide, the many of the ethnic Hutu fled to the North Kivu province. This region also remains one of the major sites of conflict mines – mines for tin, tantalum and tungsten that are controlled or pressured by rebel groups – because of the proximity to other countries for exporting and the weakness of the border control. In late October, this region was taken over by the National Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP).
The CNDP (Conseil National pour la Défense du Peuple) The CNDP is an armed group headed by Tutsi general Laurent Nkunda, who claims to be protecting the Kivu’s Tutsi’s from the Rwandan Hutu dominated FDLR. The CNDP is presently in control of the Kivu region, with forces estimated between 4,000 and 6,000 (with support drawn from Rwandan and Ugandan Tutsis).
The FARDC (Forces Armées de la République du Congo) The FARDC is the national army of the Congo. Although supported by MONUC, recent breakdown in troop discipline has lead to disarray and rumors of insincerity (especially as regarding ties with the FDLR). The army’s forces are numbered at around 20,000 in the Kivu region.
The Mayi-Mayi The Mayi-Mayi are pro-government militia, mostly organized in the coalition PARECO (Patriotes Résistants Congolais). In the absence of FARDC unity, the Mayi-Mayi have become the dominant force fighting the CNDP.
The FDLR (Forces Démocratiques de Liberation du Rwanda) The FDLR is composed of several thousand Rwandan insurgents (mostly Hutu) that fled to the eastern DRC after the 1994 Rwandan genocide. These troops are mostly Ex-FAR (Rwandan military responsible for the genocide) members.
MONUC MONUC are the UN peacekeeping forces. It has around 17,000 forces in the Kivu region, whose main job is to protect civilians by any means (as stipulated in the MONUC charter – including deadly force). MONUC has worked in the past with FARDC to reduce violence, although it is facing trouble with the continued weakening of government forces in the province.
The Katanga Province
The province of Katanga is also a major area of violence and humanitarian crisis, although less concentrated on as Kivu or Ituri. Katanga is both the site of major national politics (as Laurent and Joseph Kabila are native to Northern Katanga) and economic interests (the southern region is the countries most mineral-rich area – with cobalt, uranium, and copper mines). Most of the conflict stems from North-South tension, violence between Mayi-Mayi militia and national troops, and displaced persons.
The Mayi-Mayi The Mayi-Mayi forces are a government supporting militia. Recently in the Katanga province, the Mayi-Mayi troops have been in conflict with the FARDC troops, and have perpetrated many humanitarian crimes on the population.
MONUC MONUC are the UN peacekeeping forces whose main job is to protect civilians by any means (as stipulated in the MONUC charter – including deadly force). In the Katanga region, MONUC works directly with the civilians to aid refugees, and stabilize conditions.
The Orientale province contains the regions Ituri and Haut-Uélé of high intensity violence in the period of 1999 – 2003. This region is home to the dominant ethnicities of Hema, Lendu, and Ngiti. Conflict broke out in Ituri in 1999 over land dispute between ethnic Hema and ethnic Lendu. The conflict was feed by the support for a Hema governer by the Ugandan forces (UPDF). The violence that followed was spread by many different actors, including the ethnic group forces (UPC, FRPI, FNI, RCD, MLC), troops from Uganda (UPDF) and Rwanda (Interhamwe), and foreign rebel groups (ADF, LRA). Although violence has subsided somewhat recently in this region, the fewer reported incidents of LRA attacks are not representative of the conditions for civilians (In fact it may point only to the weakened control of authoritative forces).
UPC (Union of Congolese Patriots) This militia and political party is predominantly ethnic Hema and Gegere. The UPC was helped to power in Bunia in 2002 by Uganda. UPC then turned to Rwanda from support and was finally ousted from power by FNI and FRPI with the help of Uganda in 2003.
The FRPI (The Front for Patriotic Resistance of Ituri) The FRPI is an ethnic Ngiti militia and political party that fought during the Ituri crisis. The FRPI is allied with the Lendu Nationalist and Integrationist Front (FNI).
The FNI (Nationalist and Integrationist Front) The FNI is the ethnic Lendu militia and political party, although most of the combat is taken care of by ally FRPI. The FNI was supported by Uganda in driving the UPC from Bunia in 2003.
The RCD (Congolese Rally for Democracy) The RCD is a very influential political party and militia in the DRC backed by Rwanda and Uganda. It was formed by Wamba dia Wamba in his campaign against Kabila in 1998 with the core being from the ADFL (the forces used to depose Mobutu and install Kabila). Fracturing of RCD lead to RCD-K which became RCD-ML (the present actor in the region). The troops go under the name Congolese Popular Army (APC).
The MLC (Movement for the Liberation of the Congo) The MLC rebel militia has always been backed by Uganda since the beginning of the conflict in 1998. The MLC has occasionally fought along side UPC and is opposed to RCD-ML.
The CNDP (Conseil National pour la Défense du Peuple) The CNDP is an rebel group headed by Tutsi general Laurent Nkunda. The main function of the CNDP is to protect the Congolese Tutsi from the Rwandan Hutu and hostile government.
The Interhamwe These troops are the hard-core remainder of the Hutu forces responsible for the genocide in 1994. They have now regrouped in the DRC and perpetrate violence in Rwanda from across the border, as well as in the Orientale providence of the DRC.
The LRA (The Lord’s Resistance Army) The Lord’s Resistance Army is a rebel group based in Southern Sudan responsible for much violence in northern DRC and Uganda. The present leader of the LRA is criminal Joseph Kony.
The UPDF (Uganda People’s Defense Force) The UPDF (formerly the National Resistance Army) are the national troops of Uganda. They are primarily concerned with fighting the LRA and ADF, who have many bases in the Orientale province of the DRC. Therefore, UPDF has intervened in the DRC frequently since 1998 (including to prevent ADF from receiving sanction in Orientale region), despite efforts to pull out (2003).
The ADF (Allied Democratic Forces) The ADF is a rebel group based in Western Uganda and Eastern DRC that is opposed to the government of Uganda. Their main function is attacks on the UPDF forces. The ADF have sought sanctions in Eastern DRC from attacks by the UPDF.
Heavy fighting of the rebel groups RCD and Mai-Mai against Kabila’s governemt led to great poverty. During the war it was cut off from the rest of the country. According to estimations by the UNOCHA in 2004 1.5 million people were starving and suffering from endemic diseases. The region suffered from intense looting, rapes and cruelty by the Rebel forces established in the region. Due to the consequences of the war this area has become very hard to access, making incoming relief hard to get there.
This region fell under the control of the Ugandan and Rwandan forces early into the war. In 2000 a government offensive was stopped along the Ubangui River by the MLC. The FLC tried to centralize control of this are in 2000 but failed and soon it fell apart in 2001. The heavy fighting taking place in this area left it poor and with a weak socio-economic structure.
The Kasai Provinces
This area controlled by the Kabila government and the Angolan government did not see much war, as few fighting took place here. However the Angolan government stripped it of its natural resources heavily as the Kasai region was rich in diamond mining which was beneficial towards the Angolan government which mined many parts of this region. Kasai was in fact an area of non-aggressive opposition to the Kabila government with the UDPS group being important in such region.
An area of strong anti-Rwandan groups, was under the control of the Kabila government. The clashing of many political and military groups led to a decrease in its socio-economic structure and an increase in the poverty of the region.
The Bas-Congo Province was hit especially hard during the Second Congo War by conflict, due to its rich fullness in resources and housing of the state capital – Kinshasa. It was the site of several battles between the army loyal to the Kabila government and to the rebel groups supported by Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi as well as the armies of suck countries. Due to this being a heavy-conflict area the Bas-Congo was the site of numerous lootings, raping and massacres leading to its lack in infrastructure and its great poverty.
Page by Isabel Vogt and Alejandro Montero Ortiz