July 8, 2003

IV.  LOCAL CONTEXT – ARMED POLITICAL GROUPS

Proxies Pursuing Their Own Interests

Ituri is home to eighteen different ethnic groups, with the Hema/Gegere[71] and Lendu/Ngiti[72] communities together representing about 40 per cent of the inhabitants. The other major groups are the Bira, the Alur, the Lugbara, the Nyali, the Ndo-Okebo, and the Lese. With ethnic identity of growing importance, a new group has emerged, the "non-originaires"[73], that is, 'outsiders' who were not born in Ituri. The Nande of north Kivu represent the most prominent of the "non-originaires", due to their importance in the business sector. The emergence of Mbusa Nyamwisi, a Nande, as the leader of the RCD-ML raised the profile of the Nande in Ituri. Hema elites seeking to assert or protect their control of the political and economic spheres in Ituri tend to consider the Nande as direct competitors.

The Hema, Lendu, and other ethnic groups that serve as proxies for governments and rebel movements also seek to set agendas that serve their own interests. They are skilled at playing off the various outside rivals and change sides as their interests dictate. They adapt rapidly to developments on the national scene, working on the basis of the enemy of my enemy is my friend-at least for the moment.

Who is Who - Armed Political Groups in Ituri (May 2003)

RCD-ML:  Congolese Rally for Democracy- Liberation Movement

Current Leader:  Mbusa Nyamwisi

Also know as RCD-Kisangani, the RCD-ML was launched in September 1999 in Kampala when Wamba dia Wamba split from the RCD-Goma.  Backed at the start by Uganda, the RCD-ML has been fractured by leadership struggles and in-fighting.  The current leader, Mbusa Nyamwisi took power after ousting Wamba dia Wamba.  The RCD-ML's military wing is the Congolese Popular Army (APC).  The RCD-ML entered into the Sun City agreement of April 2002 and the APC are now being trained and armed by Kinshasa.

MLC:  Movement for the Liberation of Congo

Current Leader:  Jean-Pierre Bemba

Based in Gbadolite, the MLC has been backed by Uganda since the start of the war in 1998 although there have been occasional differences between the two.  The MLC tried twice to establish a foothold in Ituri: in 2001 Bemba had nominal control of the short-lived FPC coalition of Ugandan- backed rebel groups and in 2002 the MLC attacked Mambasa in western Ituri but were forced backed by the APC of Mbusa Nyamwisi.  The MLC has occasionally fought alongside the UPC and has been a rival of Mbusa's RCD-ML.

RCD-National: Congolese Rally for Democracy - National

Current Leader: Roger Lumbala

Now based in Watcha, northern Ituri, the RCD-N initially operated as a front organization for the Ugandans in exploiting the diamond riches of the town of Bafwasende. In 2001 and 2002, the RCD-N supported MLC attempts to win resource-rich areas from the RCD-ML.  RCD-N has few soldiers and relies on the MLC army. 

UPC: Union of Congolese Patriots (predominately Hema/Gegere party)

Current Leader: Thomas Lubanga

Purportedly launched to promote reconciliation, the UPC quickly became a predominately Gegere-led political party intent on promoting the interests of the Hema and related Gegere. It came to power in Bunia in August 2002 with the help of the Ugandans and used Hema militia as part of its armed forces. It turned to Rwanda for support and formed an alliance with the Rwandan-backed RCD-Goma after being excluded by the RCD-ML and the MLC from the Mambasa ceasefire talks in December 2002. Having turned from Uganda politically, the UPC was ousted from Bunia by the Ugandan army in March 2003 but fought its way back into town in May.

FIPI: Front for Integration and Peace in Ituri  (platform of three ethnic-based parties)

Current Leader: A coalition of three leaders of PUSIC, FNI and FPDC

Created in December 2002 with Ugandan support, the three ethnically-based political parties shared the objective of getting rid of the UPC. Otherwise FIPI has no apparent program.  The group includes Hema dissatisfied with the UPC, Lendu, and Alur, each with its own political party (see below).  After the UPC was forced from Bunia, the parties began squabbling and the coalition appears to have collapsed.

Who is Who - Armed Political Groups in Ituri (May 2003), continued

PUSIC:Party for Unity and Safeguarding of the Integrity of Congo (Hema dissatisfied with the UPC)

Current Leader:  Chief Kahwa Mandro

Former UPC member Chief Kahwa created PUSIC in early February 2003.   Most members appear to be Hema from the south. Uganda supports the party as part of the FIPI coalition.  Chief Kahwa was backed briefly by the Rwandans when he was in the UPC, but claims that PUSIC currently has no such support and is more interested in working with Kinshasa. PUSIC may have allied with the UPC against the Lendu in Bunia in May 2003; if so, this alliance of convenience would be tenuous and probably short-lived.  PUSIC appears to have continued close links with Ugandan authorities.

FPDC:  Popular Force for Democracy in Congo (Alur and Lugbara political party)

Current Leader:  Thomas Unen Chen, a former member of the Zairian parliament

FPDC was created in late 2002 mostly by Alur and Lugbara from the Aru and Mahagi area, north Ituri, to counter the UPC.  Recently it started to recruit and train its own militias.  Although professedly interested in dialogue, it is prepared to fight if dialogue fails. It has been supported by Uganda as part of the FIPI coalition and appears to have close ties with former Ugandan army Col. Peter Karim, an Alur from Uganda.

FNI: Front for National Integration (Lendu political party)

Current Leader: Floribert Njabu Ngabu

Lendu intellectuals and traditional chiefs established FNI but the party claims broad support by the Lendu community in its effort to oppose the UPC.  Lendu militias are reportedly being organised under the military wing of this party, which some equate with the FRPI (see below). Supported by Uganda as part of the FIPI coalition, it joined the Ugandan army in driving the UPC from Bunia on March 6, 2003, for which some its members were publicly thanked by Brigadier Kayihura in April.  FNI has also benefited from military training and support from the RCD-ML and, through it, from Kinshasa. 

FRPI:  Patriotic Force of Resistance in Ituri (Ngiti political party)

Current Leader:  Dr Adirodo.   

Launched in November 2002 the Ngiti party FRPI is said to be closely linked to the Lendu FNI. It is meant to bring together Ngiti militias with traditional leaders in a single force against the UPC.  Based in Beniand said to number 9,000 combatants, the FRPI has close ties to the RCD-ML from which it receives both military training and arms.  It claims to have a large fighting force and many see it as the army of the FNI. It joined the Ugandans in driving the UPC from Bunia in March 2003 and together with the FNI briefly controlled Bunia in May 2003.

FAPC: People's Armed Forces of Congo (mixed)

Current Leader:  Commander Jerome Kakawave Bakonde

Commander Jerome, based in Aru and Mahagi, established FAPC in March 2003.  Jerome has changed allegiances several times, moving from the RCD-ML, to the RCD-N, to the UPC and to the Ugandans but he has more or less stayed in the area of Aru.  His group recently obtained support from the Ugandans who attempted to put Commander Jerome in charge of a mixed security apparatus in Bunia just prior to the start of their withdrawal. Other parties objected and Commander Jerome returned to his home at Aru.[74]   A mutiny occurred in his ranks in May 2003 which was allegedly put down with Ugandan support.[75]  Jerome is reportedly a Banyarwanda from North Kivu.

The actions of the Hema Chief Kahwa Mandro illustrate the readiness of local actors to change allegiances.  Initially supported by Uganda, Chief Kahwa and some other Hema noticed a decline in this backing and decided that the Ugandan Army was not doing enough to protect them against the Lendu.  Chief Kahwa Mandro explained to Human Rights Watch researchers:

In August 2000, I was fighting the Lendu in Ituri.  But I was accused of being with the Rwandans and the Ugandan rebels, the ADF, so the Ugandans also started to fight with me.  I decided I should go and talk to President Museveni which I did in August.  He decided that my cause was noble.  Our group came for training to Uganda on  August 28, 2000.  I was in Uganda for 6 months at Kyakwanzi training camp where 705 of us were trained.

After Sun City the Lendu started to be armed by Mbusa [RCD-ML] and so we decided we had to get rid of him.  Then Lubanga was arrested by the Ugandans.  We didn't understand this.  I stayed in Bunia while Governor Molondo planned a genocide against us.[76] I started training about 3,000 fighters in Mandro with the financial help of the Hema community.  We collected guns from small attacks.  We had been negotiating with Uganda for three years and they had been responsible for so many deaths.  No one was aware of our problem.  In June 2002 I decided to go to Rwanda to find help for our defense.  They had lived through a genocide so they knew what it was like. They understood me and provided us with weapons and logistics.  I discussed the situation with James Kabarebe.

Initially this support was good and I thought Rwanda understood my situation, but they profited from it to create another situation.  They wanted Ituri to be their rear base to attack Uganda.  They continue to send arms including missiles and ammunition for tanks when we don't even have tanks.  They are even sending troops.  They are recruiting young soldiers and putting fear into them. They come in with small planes to airstrips like Mongbwalu, Aru, Boga and Bule. I know they do this as I used to go myself on small planes from Kigali to Ituri.[77]

After becoming disillusioned with Rwandan support and the policy direction of Lubanga's UPC, Chief Kahwa felt threatened. He separated from Lubanga's group and re-established links with the Ugandans.  He continued:

I was on the list of people to be eliminated by the UPC.  When Museveni found out about this, he sent a plane to come and get me.  He encouraged me to talk to the Lendu in Kpandruma so we could stop fighting.  I started a political party, PUSIC, and then became part of the FIPI coalition which wants peace in Ituri and includes Lendu plus others.  I talked to President Kabila in Dar es Salaam where I told him he must stop supporting the Lendu.  They were killing us.  He understood. 

I am going to attack Bunia again and will take it, even if I die. The Ugandan army is informed of our plans but I don't count on them for help.[78]

Assistance from external actors may prompt dissidents in a group to hive off and form their own organization, as Chief Kahwa did.  However, external actors can also promote coalitions, including those across ethnic lines, like the FIPI group which included Hema, Lendu, and Alur political groups.

The increase in the number of combatant groups in and around Bunia has been matched by increased flow of arms to Ituri as outside actors attempt to ensure victory for their local allies.  This greater availability of arms contributed to more casualties in Ituri including civilians.[79]  In addition to being better armed than in the past, Hema, Lendu, and Ngiti militia groups also appear to be better organized and trained and to function with a more structured military hierarchy.

The Hema - Lendu Conflict

The Hema are pastoralists and the Lendu agriculturalists, but historically there was a high degree of co-existence between the two groups and intermarriage was common. Belgian colonial rule accentuated ethnic divisions between the two communities, however, by trying to reorganize traditional chieftaincies into more homogeneous groups and by favoring the Hema over the Lendu.  Even after independence in 1960, the Hema continued as the administrative, landowning, and business elite.  When the territory of Kibali-Ituri was created in 1962, for example, no Lendu obtained key positions in the administration.  President Sese Sokoto Mobutu confirmed the Hema in management positions in the farming, mining, and local administrative sectors as part of his "Zairiaisation" policy. Hema and Lendu fought small battles over land and fishing rights on several occasions after independence, but in general customary arbitration, backed by the state, contained the incidents.[80] 

At no point in the documented history of Ituri has the violence attained the levels seen since 1999. The broader war in Congo has undoubtedly sparked the greater violence of the current conflict.

This conflict began in June 1999 when a small number of Hema allegedly attempted to bribe local authorities into modifying land ownership registers in their favor in the area of Walendu Pitsu, part of the Djugu district of Ituri.  They reportedly used the false papers to evict Lendu inhabitants from the land, or so some local Lendu believed.  These Lendu decided to retaliate. In the absence of a strong local authority, the incident quickly turned into a confrontation between the two communities.  

Ugandan interference aggravated the situation. Brig. Gen. James Kazini, then in charge of the Ugandan army in DRC, named Adele Lotsove Mugisa, a Hema, Provisional Governor of the districts of Ituri and Haut Uele[81], formerly part of Orientale Province.[82]  Although the proposal to create such a unit had been backed by some politicians in the area, it was the decree of the Ugandan general that altered administrative boundaries, effectively creating a new "province."  In his letter setting up the new post of governor, General Kazini gave full assurances of Ugandan support for the endeavor.[83] This important decision, coinciding with the local land dispute, created the impression that the Ugandan army was siding with the Hema landholders.  

By 2003 the original dispute had expanded in numbers of people and area touched by the violence. Groups like the Nande, Bira, and Alur previously not associated with either of the contenders have now been forced to choose sides.

Rumor, Propaganda and Prejudice

As conflict between the Hema and Lendu spread and became more bitter, each group turned to propaganda and myths to justify its cause.  Hema and Lendu intellectuals alike distorted history for political gain, fabricating new narratives that supported their point of view.[84] One Hema spokesperson told Human Rights Watch researchers, "We know there is a genocide against the Hema, but we have been ignored for a long time."  Other Hema evoked a connection with the Tutsi in Rwanda and claimed that the Lendu together with Interahamwe and Ugandan rebels, the ADF, were perpetrating a genocide like that of 1994 in Rwanda.[85]  These Hema expanded the term "negative forces" to include the Lendu.[86] The term had previously being used to describe the Interahamwe and ADF.    Official Hema statements declared that these "negative forces" were hostile to peace and must be eliminated.[87]  At times some Hema described the Lendu as "terrorists".

Some Lendu and Ngiti allied with them sought to whip up anger against Rwanda, Uganda, and their local allies. The Ngiti armed group FRPI published a pamphlet charging that Presidents Kagame and Museveni sought to establish a Hima[88]-Tutsi empire.  They claimed that the Hema, backed by Uganda and Rwanda, would carry out "ethnic purification" and eliminate the Lendu peoples (including the Ngiti) in Ituri.  They urged "fierce resistance" against external aggressors and those groups complicit with them.[89]

In November 2002, a Lendu group, the LORI Cultural Association stressed the historical grievances of their people and called on "all Lendu to resist aggression and all forms of domination that have been a part of Lendu history."[90]  In a January 2002 communiqué, Lendu Chief Longbe Tschabi Linga complained about the marginalization and subordination of his community.  He went on to "denounce the alliance of death between the UPC and RCD-Goma" that have resulted in the "Hema proudly singing about the extermination of the Lendu."[91]

[71] The Hema ethnic group is divided in two sub-groups: the Gegere, also known as the Hema from the north, who speak Kilendu and the Hema, also know as Hema from the south, who speak Kihema.   There are increasing divisions between these two groups.  This reports refers to the Hema for both groups and differentiates Gegere only when their views are different.

[72] The Lendu ethnic group is also divided into two sub-groups: Lendu who originate from the northern areas of Ituri and the Ngiti who come from the south.  In general they consider themselves as brothers and have similar political views.

[73] In the local language this is expressed as "the Bakuyakuya".

[74] Human Rights Watch telephone interview, Bunia, May 2003.

[75] Human Rights Watch telephone interview, Kampala, May 2003.

[76] See below for conflict between Governor Molondo and Hema.

[77] Human Rights Watch interview, Chief Kahwa Mandro, Kampala, February 22, 2003

[78] Ibid.

[79]Different estimates exist of the number of people killed in Ituri, none of which is based on a systematic survey. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) cited 50,000 dead in its Integrated Regional Information Network report on Ituri, December 2002.

[80] Tensions were high in 1962, 1965, 1975, 1983, 1984, 1997. 

[81] Governor Lotsove eventually let the Haute Uele district go its own way after it rebelled against her leadership; she retained control over Kibali-Ituri, commonly known as Ituri.

[82]Ugandan High Command, Brig. Gen. James Kazini to Madame Lotsove, June 18, 1999, reference OPN/SH/C/6A.

[83] Ibid.

[84]See Johan Pottier, Re-Imagining Rwanda: Conflict, Survival and Disinformation in the Late Twentieth Century; Cambridge University Press, 2002.

[85] Human Rights Watch interview with Hema leaders including Dr Dhejju Maruka, Professor Karimagi Pilo, Mr Philemon, and Mr Kiza, Bunia, February 13, 2003.

[86] Jean Baptiste Dhetchuvi, open letter, Ituri – What Future?, September 1, 2002.

[87] Ibid.

[88] Hima are an ethnic group in Uganda often said to be related to Tutsi of Rwanda; Museveni is said to have had a Hima among his ancestors.

[89] Patriotic Force of Resistance in Ituri (FRPI), Manifesto of Resistance, January 2003.

[90] LORI Cultural Association, Declaration of the Lendu Community, November 16, 2002.

[91] Chief Longbe Tchabi Linga and the Editorial Committee, SOS of the Lendu Community in Kpandruma, January 22,  2003.