DAKAR, Senegal – In mineral-rich eastern Congo, the government's victory over the M23 rebel group brings only cautious optimism. Below is a sample of some of the armed groups that still pose a threat in a region that has been wracked by violence for nearly two decades.
FDLR: The Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, or FDLR, is viewed by analysts as the greatest remaining menace in eastern Congo. The group is led by Rwandan Hutus who helped commit the 1994 genocide and later escaped over the border. The presence of the FDLR has prompted Rwanda to invade Congo twice before to try to wipe out the group. It also has provoked a series of Congolese Tutsi rebellions, including the latest one launched by M23 in April 2012. While the FDLR has weakened in recent years, analysts say it is still well entrenched and its presence in eastern Congo is a reason many of the other armed groups say they exist. A June report from a United Nations expert panel said the FDLR's 1,500 members were mostly located in North Kivu province. It said the armed group has been weakened by high rates of surrender as well as divisions between a hard-line faction that favors armed combat and more moderate members who seek demobilization and reintegration.
Mai Mai Morgan: Composed of just a few dozen combatants, this group headed by Paul Sadala (alias "Morgan") has nonetheless carried out several recent violent attacks, including a raid on a town in Ituri district in January that led to the rape of 50 women, according to U.N. experts. Local civil society groups and the U.N. peacekeeping mission have accused Sadala's forces of raping or sexually mutilating at least 150 women in attacks that spanned just a few days in November last year, as well as engaging in cannibalism and killing some victims by setting them on fire.
Raia Mutomboki: A collection of self-defense groups organized against the FDLR, Raia Mutomboki ("Outraged Citizens") currently has members in both North and South Kivu provinces. The group committed several massacres against the FDLR in 2012, according to U.N. experts, and leaders have said they will continue to fight as long as the FDLR has a presence in eastern Congo. Several Raia Mutomboki members were allied with M23, and earlier this year U.N. experts discovered a draft document in which a Raia Mutomboki group signed onto "the M23 agenda."
URDC: Another group that had ties to M23 is Union for the Rehabilitation of the Democracy of Congo, or URDC, headed by a Congolese army defector named Hilaire Kombi. According to U.N. experts, the group consists of 300 fighters, some of whom have been in dozens of kidnappings of adults and children this year in Beni territory. The group has tapped into regional opposition against Congo's central government and allegedly finances itself through the illegal trade of gold and ivory.
Allied Democratic Forces: A group of Islamist rebels composed of at least 800 fighters and led by Ugandan commanders, the ADF reportedly abducted at least 80 Congolese civilians in the first half of the year, including women and children, according to U.N. experts. Unlike other groups in eastern Congo, the ADF is not plagued by high rates of surrender. Ugandan intelligence sources and a former ADF fighter told U.N. experts that the group begins military training for girls as young as 15 and boys as young as 10.