La paix des armes in North Kalehe
This report analyses the security situation in North Kalehe, which is char- acterized by the presence of armed groups, including the Rwandan CNRD, Mai-Mai Kirikicho, Nyatura Kalume and various Raia Mutomboki – and the near absence of government military forces. The year 2019 included three major developments: the arrival of and military operations against the CNRD in Kalehe, the return of Mai-Mai Kirikicho and Nyatura Kalume to Ziralo, and the failed demobilization of Raia Mutomboki.
However, analysis shows that these security changes are just the latest in a cycle of reconfigurations of the conflict landscape of North Kalehe over the previous 25 years, and that politics lie behind the presence of armed groups. The report details armed group strategies to exert authority in a context of competing political orders. It shows how armed groups’ presence intersects with broader conflict dynamics and politics, as their presence revives griev- ances and tensions between communities (as is the case with the CNRD) or reconfigures patronage networks.
In the context of the 2018 elections and the political transition, armed groups have been at the flashpoints of intense political opportunism by political entrepreneurs and community leaders. Armed groups, community leaders and political entrepreneurs thrived on the politics of elections and disarma- ment, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) opportunities to advance their interests.
Hence, DDR and stabilization efforts have to take into account the political dimension of armed groups and broader conflict dynamics if they are to exert any meaningful impact. This includes depoliticizing the new inter- provincial DDR commission and advancing a new approach that avoids past technical and individual conceptions in order to embrace an inclusive, collective, community-based DDR that gives communities and (former) combatants a role not as simple beneficiaries but as central stakeholders who have a say in the orientation and implementation of the approach.
Violence was connected to these conflicts, which generated local security dilemmas. Consequently, armed groups mobilized to defend their community, albeit often at the behest of political and military entrepreneurs with more self-interested motives. At present, however, violence is mostly related to armed groups’ revenue-generation strategies, which involve armed burglary, robbery, assassinations, kidnappings for ransom and cattle-looting.
Violence is also significantly nourished by interpersonal conflicts involving debt, family matters, and rivalries. In recent years, regional tensions and the activities of foreign armed groups and forces have become an additional factor of instability. Unfortunately, stabilization interventions have largely overlooked or been unable to address these changing drivers of violence. They have mostly focused on local conflict resolution, with less effort directed at addressing supra-local factors, such as the behaviour of political elites and the national army, and geopolitical tensions between countries in the Great Lakes Region. Future stabilization efforts will need to take these dimensions better into account.