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DRC: Who's who in Ituri - militia organisations, leaders

NAIROBI, 20 April 2005 (IRIN) - Conflict in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) continues despite a peace agreement signed by Congolese parties in April 2003.

Most former rebel groups in other parts of the country were party to the agreement but militia groups in the northeastern district of Ituri were not signatories.

In 2004 seven of the Ituri groups signed a peace agreement with the transitional government, although some failed to disarm by the 1 April deadline set by the UN Mission in the DRC, known as MONUC.

Now it seems that the government and its newly integrated army brigades are taking the fight to the militia and their leaders. IRIN looks at who is who among Ituri's militia.

L'Union des patriotes congolais (UPC) - Union of Congolese Patriots:

The UPC, a largely Hema organisation, was formed by Thomas Lubanga. It began operating in Bunia, Ituri District's main town, in July 2001, but only gained importance a year later. Lubanga set up the UPC after splitting from the formerly pro-Ugandan Rassemblement congolais pour la démocratie-Mouvement de libération (RCD-ML) - the Congolese Rally for Democracy-Liberation Movement - where he was a military commander and 'minister' of defence.

The UPC is reportedly largely backed by politicians and business interests from the Hema ethnic group - one of the two largest in Ituri - and is divided into the clans of the northern (Gegere) and southern (Banyoro) Hema. The movement and its armed wing, the Front pour la réconciliation et paix - Front for Peace and Reconciliation - took control of most of Bunia before being forced out of the area by the Ugandan army on 6 March 2003.

Tension between the UPC and Uganda - its original supporter - arose in late 2002 when the UPC demanded the immediate withdrawal of all remaining Ugandan troops from the DRC. The tension widened into a split on 6 January 2003, when the UPC formed an alliance with the Rwandan-backed RCD-Goma. In March 2003 anti-Lubangists in the UPC defected to Uganda, which was already supporting another Hema militia coalition opposed to Lubanga, the Parti pour l'unité et la sauvegarde de l'intégrité du Congo (PUSIC) - Party for Unity and Safeguarding of the Integrity of Congo.

The UPC refused to sign the Ituri Cessation of Hostilities Agreement reached between rival governments, political, ethnic and militia groups on 14 May 2004.

Thomas Lubanga had been arrested in March 2005, following an investigation into the killing of nine Bangladeshi UN peacekeepers in Ituri. The UPC's secretary-general, John Tinanzabo, was also arrested on 14 April 2005, a day after declaring that the party had officially renounced armed struggle.

The UPC-Kisembo (UPC-K):

This faction is led by Floribert Kisembo Bahemuka, who broke away from the Lubanga (UPC-L) group in December 2003. Kisembo had tried to unseat Lubanga but failed when most of the militia remained loyal to his rival. Although UPC-K was considered a minor armed group, Kisembo was appointed a general in the national army in 2005 under the reconciliation process of the Pretoria peace accords. Human Rights Watch has named Kisembo as one of five militia leaders accused of massacres and other serious war crimes in Ituri. The others are Lubanga, Jérôme Kakwavu, Bosco Taganda and Germain Katanga, who were also given generalships in the new unified army.

Le Front des nationalistes et intégrationnistes (FNI) - Nationalist Integrationist Front:

The FNI, led by Floribert Ndjabu Ngabu, draws most of its support from the Lendu ethnic group and is based in the Ituri towns of Rethy, some 100 km northeast of Bunia, and Kpandroma, 140 km north of Bunia. The military leader of the movement is Etienne Lona, who was arrested by security services in Kinshasa on 11 March 2005 for his group's alleged involvement in the killing of nine Bangladeshi peacekeepers in Ituri. Nabu was transferred to Makala Prison in Kinshasa.

The Forces armées du peuple Congolais (FAPC) - The People's Armed Forces of Congo:

Also known as the Union des congolais pour la démocratie-Forces armées du people congolais - Union of Congolese for Democracy-People's Armed Forces of Congo - headed by Jérôme Kakwavu-Bukande, who broke away from UPC in March 2003. The movement's headquarters is in Aru, some 300 km north of Bunia, from where it mostly controls Aru Territory and the area around Mahagi Territory. FAPC's ethnic composition is mixed, and it has reportedly formed alliances with other militia groups where and when convenient, including the FNI and, later, PUSIC. The FAPC's strength was thought to be around 4,000 fighters, who began surrendering their weapons on 6 March 2005 in Aru, with the aim of integrating into the national army.

Le Parti pour l'unité et la sauvegarde de l'intégrité du congo (PUSIC) - Party for Unity and Safeguarding of the Integrity of Congo:

Mandro Panga Kahwa, the former military chief of UPC, formed this Hema party in February 2003 after a dispute over leadership and military support with the UPC leader, Thomas Lubanga. PUSIC is dominated by a southern Hema group living near the Ugandan border and has close ties with the neighbouring country.

Officially, PUSIC's leader was Floribert Kisembo but, according to African Security Review, Chief Mandro Panga Kahwa was really in control. Congolese judicial authorities, with the support of the UN peacekeepers of the Ituri Brigade, arrested Kahwa on 9 April 2005. Kahwa, 30, is chief of the Bahema Banywagi region north of Bunia.

One of PUSIC's leaders, Ychali Gonza, was also promoted to general in the national army. PUSIC controls part of the Irumu and Djugu territories and the Lake Albert ports of Tchomia and Kasenyi. On 20 December 2004, PUSIC announced that Kisembo had been dismissed as its chairman in favour of Deo Pimbo, who had been the secretary-general. However, a week later, PUSIC militiamen stated categorically that they still considered Kisembo as their commander.

Forces de resistance patriotiques en Ituri (FRPI)- Patriotic Resistance Front in Ituri:

FRPI, led by Dr Adirodo, is a political party of the Ngiti, one of 18 distinct ethnic groups in Ituri. The party was established in November 2002 and is allied to the Front des nationalistes et integrationnistes (FNI) - Nationalist Integrationist Front - led by Floribert Ndjabu Ngabu. The alliance is aimed at bringing Ngiti militias and traditional leaders together to face the UPC. It supported Uganda's move to drive the UPC from Bunia in March 2003.

Forces populaires pour la democratie au Congo (FPDC) - Popular Force for Democracy in Congo:

This is an Alur and Lugbara political party. Its current leader, Thomas Unen Chen, was a former member of parliament in Zaire (as the Democratic Republic of Congo was formerly known). FPDC was formed in 2002, mostly by the Alur and Lugbara ethnic groups in the Aru and Mahagi areas of northern Ituri, with the aim of countering the UPC. The party has reportedly been supported by Uganda as part of the Front pour l'intégration et la paix en Ituri - FIPI (an offshoot of the UPC) coalition.

Sources:
Trial Watch
Fewer Africa
Human Rights Watch
IRIN
MONUC
Pole Institute
The Lotus Group, Kinshasa

Theme (s): Conflict,

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

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