Armed Groups in Katanga, a Region at the Heart of Multiple Conflicts

While about to be administratively dissolved, Katanga, the southernmost province of the DRC, has many characteristics that help understand the surge of several armed groups.

DRC’s abundant mineral resources provide for a significant share of its GDP and exports, not without causing various frustrations among the population and the ruling elite. Not to mention the unequal distribution of mineral wealth within the province, as the "geological scandal" is primarily located in the south.

Among the armed groups, the movement of Kata Katanga appears to be the most important, both in size and in number of people who were forced to displace themselves. Since 2012, this set of Mai Mai groups allege that their insurrection - and their many abuses against the civilian population – are guided by a desire for secession of Katanga, like Moise Tshombe more than half a century earlier. Currently inactive, they are believed to serve the interests of several Katangan politicians and military, who would secretly offer them their support.

Another deadly conflict has developed between Pygmies (Twa) and Bantu (mostly Luba) since 2013 in the north of the province. Caught in a cycle of revenge and self-defense, the two communities are equipped with weapons, mainly craft. Their militias confront each other in a conflict which reveals how hard it is for the Pygmy community to survive.

In addition, the far northern Katanga is regularly attacked by some armed groups, mainly Mai Mai and the FDLR who came out of their strongholds located in the neighbouring South Kivu to skim the Katangan surroundings of Lake Tanganyika.

This study was conducted with the help of local members of the Congolese civil society.

Georges Berghezan is researcher at GRIP in the axis "Conflict, security and governance in Africa." His work focuses mainly on gun violence, weapons proliferation and conflict prevention in Central Africa, as well as drug trafficking in West Africa.