President Joseph Kabila became president in 2001 after the assassination of his father who was then President. In democratic elections of November 2006, Kabila was given a new five-year mandate as President. He faces elections again in November 2011.
Recent events has raised concern that Kabila’s strategy for another electoral victory includes evicting the UN peacekeepers from the country, consolidating personal power, cracking down on political opponents, and suppressing free speech. Whether or not Kabila will support democracy as he seeks re-election will become evident in the coming months.
Congolese Military (FARDC)
The Government of the DR Congo does not have control over all elements of the military, the FARDC (Forces Armées de la République Démocratique du Congo). Some soldiers who are supposed to protect the Congolese civilians behave more like the rebels – looting, raping, murdering, and kidnapping. The United Nations reports that top Army commanders are directly involved in illegal mining conflict minerals and that there are criminal networks operating within the Army.
FDLR Hutu Rebel Group
The Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDRL) rebel group is a remnant of the Rwandan Hutu rebel group. (FDLR comes from its original French name, Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda.) The leaders of the FDLR are believed to have participated in the 1994 Rwandan genocide of ethnic Tutsis. When the Hutus took control in Rwanda at the end of the genocide, the FDLR militiamen fled across the border into eastern Congo amid the wave of millions of Hutu refugees fearing reprisals.
The FDLR is a source of instability in the eastern Congo where it operates. The FDLR opposes Tutsi political dominance in the region. Although it is estimated that there are now less than 2000 FDLR rebel fighters remaining, they continue to attack local populations. They have diverse sources of funding, including illegal mining and illegally ‘taxing’ legally-operated mines.
CNDP Tutsi Rebel Group
The National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP from the French, Congrès national pour la défense du peuple, CNDP) is a Tutsi-based rebel group established in 2006 in the Kivu region of eastern Congo. Beginning in January 2009, CNDP rebels were officially integrated into the Congolese Army and peace was made. The integration, however, has not gone smoothly. It appears the CNDP continued its illegal mining, and many of the crimes committed by FARDC soldiers have been attributed to the former CNDP militiamen in its ranks. A recent UN report claims the CNDP is regrouping, but the Congolese Army strongly denies this claim.
The Mai Mai are community-based militias. During the Second Congolese War (1998-2003) they were created as self-defence groups to protect villages against attacking rebel forces. Mai Mai groups are re-emerging in the DR Congo, but are now violently pursuing economic profit through looting and the illegal mining of conflict minerals. They are also responsible for killing 3 UN peacekeepers, and for the mass rape of civilians in August 2010.