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Kivu Conflict

Years: 2004-2017
Battle deaths: 7,518 [1]
Non-state conflict, battle-deaths: 572 [3]
Onesided violence: 5,102 [2]

Nation(s) involved and/or conflict territory [note]
Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda

Published prior to 2013 | Updated: 2018-08-12 23:41:50


The current armed conflict in the Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has roots that can be traced back to the colonial era.

Hutu and Tutsi (Banyamulenge or Banyarwanda) had migrated, or arrived as forced labor, to the region from Rwanda since colonial times. Their relations with the indigenous Hunde, Nande and Nyanga communities and their self-defence militias, called Mayi-Mayi, had often been tense and sometimes violent.

This violence escalated dramatically in 1994, after the Tutsi rebels in the RPF ousted the Hutu government in Kigali and 1.5 million Hutu refugees poured into the DRC and settled in large camps in the Kivu just across the border from Rwanda. Along with them came soldiers from the Rwandan Hutu army (FAR) and the Interahamwe militia, who had been the driving forces in the Rwandan Genocide. Fighting between ex-FAR/Interahamwe and Hunde, Nande and Nyanga Mayi-Mayi broke out in Masisi and Rutshuru in 1995. Both sides attacked villages and displaced thousands of people.

The influx of Hutus also led to a mobilization of the Banyamulenge and Tutsi refugees, who feared that the genocide against them would continue in the Kivu. The power struggle between Hutus and Tutsis that led to the atrocities of the Rwandan Genocide in 1994 would continue to be an important factor in the wars that would follow in the DRC.


Elements of the ousted Hutu Army (ex-FAR) and the Interahamwe remobilised in the camps and continued the fight the Rwandan government. As a response Rwanda supported a new rebel group, AFDL (Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo) to fight the Hutu rebels and protect the Tutsi population in the Kivu. This intervention started the First Congo War in 1997, which would eventually lead to the overthrow of the Congolese dictator Mobutu Sésé Seko and the installation of the AFDL leader Laurent-Désiré Kabila as president of the DRC.

In 1998 Kabila tried to rid Kinshasa of Rwandan and Ugandan influence which led to renewed fighting in the Kivu. Rwanda backed the rebel group RCD while Kabila threw his support behind the Hutu militia ALIR. Uganda in turn backed the MLC. RCD and MLC soon controlled eastern DRC and advanced on Kinshasa when the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and UN intervened and halted the advance in 1999. After Laurent-Désiré Kabila was assasinated in 2001 his son Joseph Kabila took power in Kinshasa and a fragile ceasefire was negotiated followed by a peace process.

On 17 December 2002, the Congolese government, several rebel groups and Mayi Mayi signed the Global and All-Inclusive Agreement which described a plan for transitional government that would result in legislative and presidential elections within two years. It marked the formal end of the Second Congo War.


The agreement stipulated that the signing rebel groups and Mayi-Mayi should disarm and be intregrated into the new national army FARDC. This process led to tension and sometimes even clashes within the army.

DRC also failed to disarm all groups leding to renewed fighting in the Kivu. Soldiers from the former Hutu militia ALIR formed a new group named FDLR in 2004. The former RCD commander Laurent Nkunda refused to integrate in FARDC and instead launched the Tutsi militia CNDP in 2005, with soldiers from the RCD-Goma faction. CNDP launched a series of attacks against the FDLR and FARDC and gained control over a large territory in Rutshuru and Masisi. In response to CNDP:s gains, several Nande and Nyanga Mayi-Mayi allied with Hutus and the FDLR to combat CNDP under the name PARECO in 2007-2008.

Fearing another intervention by Rwanda in Kivu and eager to protect the peace process, Joseph Kabila ordered the FARDC to launch several offensives against FDLR. The first, in 2005, failed to defeat it. In 2009 FARDC joined forces with Rwanda in a renewed attempt. Even though the group was wakened and plagued by factionalism it is still active in the Kivu.

The government also launched offensives against CNDP in 2007 and 2008. The group managed, however, to strike back and was closing in on Goma when Rwanda intervened and asked Nkunda to halt his advancement. After a series of clashes between PARECO, FARDC and CNDP a ceasefire was declared and direct talks begun beetween CNDP and the Kinshasa Government on 9 December 2008.
CNDP split in January between a faction led by Bosco Ntaganda which declared a unilateral ceasefire, after the group had been promised to integrate in FARDC and join Rwanda and Congo in their upcoming military operations to disarm FDLR. Nkunda was arrested by Rwanda on January 22. As a part of the agreement CNDP became part of the army and a political party in the DRC.


FDLR continued to be a concern to the Banyamulenge in Kivu, and the DRC and Rwandan Governments. After another flawed election in DRC in 2011, and growing dissent among some factions of the FARDC it suffered a wave of defections in 2012.

In late March Bosco Ntaganda, the former CNDP leader, defected along with hundreds of Tutsi soldiers and formed M23 with the stated goal to overthrow the government in Kinshasa. M23 quickly took control over large parts of the Rutshuru Territory and forced the FARDC out of Goma on 18 November. Talks between the Government and M23 began in Kampala but was halted when the group split. Heavy fighting broke out between FARDC and M23 in May 2013. With help of the newly created UN Force Intervention Brigade, FARDC managed to push back M23 which capitulated on 5 November.

In November 2013 the UN Force Intervention Brigade and FARDC launched an offensive against other small groups that had not disarmed in 2009, such as the Hunde group APCLS which had been a part of the PARECO alliance and PARC-FAAL (Mayi Mayi Yakutumba) in South Kivu.

Other rebel groups and Mayi Mayi that are still active in the Kivu are Raia Mumbotoki with its several offshoots, FDC (Mayi Mayi Guides) and NDC (Mayi Mayi Sheka), which are primarily fighting against FDLR and other Hutu groups such as Rastas, Nyatura and FDDH.








Data Sources

[1] Battle deaths: UCDP Battle-Related Deaths Dataset v. 5-2017 (link) (1989-2017) #283 #374
Low: 7,152 High: 10,668

[2] UCDP One-sided Violence Dataset v. 1.4-2017 (link) including actors: / RCD - CP / RCD - LN / FDLR / Rastas / Government of DR Congo (Zaire) / Mayi Mayi / CNDP / PARECO / Government of Rwanda / ADF / Mayi Mayi Complet / Mayi Mayi Kifuafua, Raia Mutomboki / Mayi Mayi Simba / Nyatura / NDC / M23 / Mayi Mayi Mazembe / Mayi Mayi Mazembe, NDC-R
Low: 4,982 High: 5,838

[3] UCDP Non-State Conflict Dataset UCDP Non-State Conflict Dataset v. 2.5-2016 (link) including dyads: / CNDP vs PARECO / FDC vs FDLR / APCLS vs M23 / FDLR vs Raia Mutomboki / M23 vs M23-R / APCLS vs NDC / FDC vs FDDH / Raia Mutomboki - Bravo vs Raia Mutomboki - Makombo / Bafulero vs Banyamulenge, Barundi
Low: 563 High: 1,558

More about sources


NOTE! Nation data for this war may be inconlusive or incomplete. In most cases it reflects which nations were involved with troops in this war, but in some it may instead reflect the contested territory.



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