Since 1999, one of the largest UN peacekeeping missions around the world, Monusco operates in DRC. It regularly (quarterly) reports to the UN Security Council on the socio-political and security landscape of the DRC. Thus, MONUSCO reports determine (influence) in large how the UN (Security Council) defines its priorities and short-term actions (with a possible effect on long-term interventions). Within the complexity of violence in Eastern DRC (Ituri, North Kivu, South Kivu, Maniema, and Tanganyika), the debate (factcheck) below intends to highlight some of the reporting shortfalls that might divert the attention of Security Council.
Due to time limitations, the “factcheck” covers violent incidents in the southern part of South Kivu, Uvira, Fizi, Mwenga territories (the Hauts Plateaux) for the period between January and September 2021. Since 2017, this region is confronted with violence involving local and foreign armed groups but also regional countries. Besides the UN (supposed) capacity to timely collect information, Monusco has military deployments in Minembwe, Mikenke, Bijombo, and Uvira. Some of these deployments are operational for years. For instance, MONUSCO has since 2007 been present in Minembwe. The factcheck departs from what is stated in the Monusco’s reports (the bold points are highlights), underlines what is inaccurate, and what is missing:
- S/2021/807 (published on 17 September 2021)
What is stated (page 4):
- “On 8 July , the FARDC transferred two suspected Twirwaneho collaborators, including one woman, to Bukavu following their arrest in Minembwe on 12 June, which triggered multiple protests by Twirwaneho supporters and Hutu community members.”
What is inaccurate:
- On 8 July 2021, FARDC transferred Rutebuka in Bukavu. His wife was released around 22 June 2021. I personally haven’t heard any woman transferred by FARDC as a “suspect”.
- The “multiple protests by Twirwaneho supporters” was instead a sit-in of thousands of women in Minembwe who were protesting the selective arrests of young Banyamulenge by FARDC and mostly the arrest of Rutebuka’s wife and their baby (below 12 months) who were jailed in container. The sit-in was launched on 12 June 2021 at the time women learnt that even babies are being jailed in containers.
- Besides the women sit-in, there was no other protest in Minembwe around this period. Therefore, it is extremely misleading to refer to the Banyamulenge women as “Hutu community members”.
What is missing:
- While FARDC military General, Yav Philemon and General Bob Kilubi were in Minembwe to discuss the situation that triggered the women sit-in, on 30 June 2021, FARDC soldiers assassinated 4 women within the neighborhood of MONUSCO base. Those assassinated were taking part of the sit-in protest that started on 12 June 2021. Besides the assassination of the 4 women, FARDC killed at least 5 civilians in Minembwe within a vicinity of MONUSCO base, including the three young people killed in Madegu village between 12- 30/06/2021. The killings took place within 100-500 m of Monusco military base in Minembwe.
- While her body showed signs of mutilation, Ngerina (Angelina) was found dead on 16/7/2021. Credible evidence shows that she was murdered by FARDC soldiers in Kabingo village. Though they did not intervene, MONUSCO soldiers in Minembwe knew that Angelina was under threat of being killed by FARDC. One her relatives tried to unsuccessfully call for help, and shockingly enough, MONUSCO considered this a FARDC mission (read I mourn for Angelina). Angelina’s murder took place within 6-8 kms of UN peacekeeping base, a village accessible by vehicle. How long would it had taken to save her life? Less than 20 minutes.
- Monusco did not mention the tragic arrest of the baby who spent more than 10 days in container. MONUSCO has clues on how many people have already died while jailed in this container!
- The women sit-in in Minembwe took place between 12/06/2021-04/07/2021. At some point, women occupied the Minembwe airstrip to the extent that Monusco had to negotiate the access of its helicopters. The sit-in, such large action cannot be subsumed into a protest of “Twirwaneho supporters”.
- Within this period, there have several unreported MaiMai attacks in Minembwe. On 8 July 2021 for instance, hundreds of cattle were looted by MaiMai in Ruhemba village (less than 5 kms of where Monusco is deployed).
- During FARDC attacks in Kamombo (mid-August 2021), thousands of civilians fled from these localities towards Bijombo/Muramvya. Would this be reported in December 2021?
Thx @gnwp_gnwp for sharing the road to peace. Thx Adele @MahoroMpa for bringing this non-violent voice in #Minembwe upfront. For 3 weeks now, the movement has shown how strong and committed can women be https://t.co/gpjTeb5PtA @DaNzigi @GlobalFundWomen @Wolfe321 @WomenPeaceSec pic.twitter.com/HZnHNl40QZ
— Ntanyoma R. Delphin (@Delphino12) June 29, 2021
- S/2021/587 (published on 21 June 2021)
What is stated (page 5):
- “Since 8 April, clashes between the Mai-Mai Gumino and Twigwaneho armed groups on one side and the Mai-Mai Ilunga and Mai-Mai Mushombe groups on the other, allegedly supported by the Burundian armed group Résistance pour un État de droit au Burundi [Red Tabara], spread to the Moyens-Plateaux and the Ruzizi plain, which had previously been unaffected by the violence. Between 9 and 24 April, armed groups killed at least 10 civilians and set fire to 70 villages.”
What is inaccurate:
- One can locate the presence of Burundian rebels, namely Red Tabara, and Forebu in the Uvira Hauts Plateaux around November 2015 and early 2016. While Burundian rebels have actively been operating in this region for 6 years now, Monusco still considers the alliance between MaiMai Ilunga-Mushombe and Red-Tabara as allegations yet.
- From March to April 2021, there has been intense attacks mostly in Rurambo localities. However, it is largely misleading if someone claims that the region “had previously been unaffected by the violence”. If the attacks and clashes referred to by the Monusco are the ones that took place in Rurambo (my guess), one need to remember that Rurambo has been the stronghold of the Burundian groups before moving to Masango (next to Ilunga’s headquarter). Besides several and regular attacks and clashes, the distance between Masango and Rurambo is undoubtedly short, and one could expect any spill over at any time. Moreover, since 2017-18, multiple reports (remarks) have identified violence in Bijombo groupement as requiring a specific attention (see for instance the 2018 USA remark to the UN). This is possibly a shortfall question in terms of predicting when and how violence erupts and spills over.
What is missing:
- Monusco did not refer to how the Rurambo attacks have entirely evicted civilians belonging to some groups. Many of those evicted from Rurambo were then forced to flee towards Ruzizi Plain, namely Bwegera (See RFI reportage for instance)
- For a week and so (May and early June 2021), around 20 civilians were taken hostage by MaiMai Ilunga-Mushombe and Red Tabara in Bijombo groupement, namely around Muramvya villages. The incident followed several attacks that have destroyed villages and raided properties. Monusco did not report these incidents and even the hostages who returned to their “homes” with the support of MONUSCO’s helicopters. MONUSCO is aware that Red Tabara, the Burundian rebels were involved in negotiating the release of the hostages.
- S/2021/274 (published on 18 March 2021)
What is stated (page 5):
- “On 1 January , more than 50 civilians, including six women, were killed in Bijombo and more than 500 households were displaced.”
What is inaccurate
- It has been reported by several sources that 5 women, one young girl (13-17 years) and a one young boy (10 years) were killed on 30 December 2020 within the neighborhood of Bijombo MONUSCO base (almost 3 kms).
- The other 50 people who were looking for food in this area were reported running away due to the fear of crackling of guns during the killing of the victims. However, I haven’t personally heard the killing of 50 other victims. The victims were sheltered in an Internally Displaced People (IDP) site, Bijombo.
What is missing:
- Between January-March 2021, there have been several attacks in Bijombo groupement that have not spared civilians. Some of the declaration social media is that perpetrated by the self-proclaimed General, John Kasimbila Makanaki who has claimed in several cases an intent to wipe out the Banyamulenge in the Hauts Plateaux. Here are links: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WQhSt8Yccv8 or https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ugtrWltV8NY&t=25s
Monusco’s reports cover the large region of Eastern DRC, Ituri, North Kivu, South Kivu, Maniema, and Tanganyika. The situation of Minembwe crisis may not be representative. Even though the shortfalls in the Monusco reporting are not to be generalized, they raise questions on the way data and information are collected in this specific region. One cannot rule out the possibility that other reports have similar loopholes. The effect of these shortfalls will inevitably have an impact on the UN decision-making and interventions. If accumulated across a large period, it can explain the failure to rightly and timely intervene.
NTANYOMA R. Delphin
PhD Researcher in Conflict Economics
The Institute of Social Studies/
Erasmus University Rotterdam
 Click the hyperlink of the report reference number to access the full reports retrievable online.