Mayhem in the mountains
This report analyses the history and causes of the escalation of violence on the Hauts Plateaux, a mountainous area located in South Kivu Province, eastern Congo. It argues that this violence can be ascribed to four mechanisms.
The first is the tendency to perceive all conflict-related events on the Plateaux as stemming from ‘ethnic conflict.’ This framing obscures other drivers of conflict and violence and leads to attributing collective responsibility for individual acts of violence. The result is revenge violence and the blurring of boundaries between armed groups and civilians. The second mechanism is the security dilemma. In part due the perceived partiality of the Congolese armed forces, the presence of armed groups considered ‘ethnic’ prompts counter-mobilization. The third mechanism is militarization, or the tendency of local political actors and national and regional politico-military elites to resort to force in order to win disputes and power struggles. The fourth mechanism is the multilayered nature of dynamics of conflict and violence, as local, provincial, national and regional developments alike shape the crisis on the Plateaux.
Stemming the violence on the Plateaux requires addressing all four mechanisms. However, current stabilization initiatives do not address militarization nor account for the multiplicity of drivers for conflict and violence. Moreover, by emphasizing intercommunity dialogue, they reinforce discourses of “ethnic conflict” which this report identifies as problematic. To address the crisis on the Hauts Plateaux, interventions need to acknowledge the crucial role of political-military elites at all levels, including national politicians and governments of neighbouring countries.