DRC: A New Conflict in Ituri involving the Cooperative for Development of the Congo (CODECO)

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is engaged in several non-international armed conflicts (NIACs) on its territory against a number of armed groups in Ituri, Kasai and Kivu.

‘Our research found that the Cooperative for Development of the Congo’s (Coopérative de développement économique du Congo, CODECO) level of organization and the intensity of its armed confrontations with the Congolese armed forces (FARDC) meet the international humanitarian law criteria to classify the situation as a NIAC’ explains Dr Chiara Redaelli, Research Fellow at the Geneva Academy.

Our Rule of Law in Armed Conflict (RULAC) online portal provides a detailed analysis and legal classification of this conflict, including information about parties and applicable international law.

This new NIAC complements the DRC entry, which already entails regularly updated information about the four NIACs opposing the Congolese armed forces (FARDC) – supported by the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) – to the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), the Mai-Mai Yakutumba and the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR).

Increased Armed Violence involving 2,350 Fighters

CODECO is a coalition of militia founded in the 1970s as a Lendu agricultural cooperative and operating in Ituri. The group actively participated in the so-called Ituri War, which took place between 1999 and 2003.

At the end of the war, the group did not completely dissolve and stockpiled the weapons used during this conflict in a number of communities. In 2018, CODECO started engaging in armed attacks again with the objective of defending the Lendu population against the Hema.

Currently led by Justin Ngudjolo, it uses the Wago forest as a training base. The total number of its members amounts to approximately 2,350 fighters.

‘The steady increase of the armed violence between CODECO and the FARDC since 2018, as well as the group’s capacity to coordinate attacks and engage in negotiations with the government allow us to classify the situation as a NIAC’ says Dr Redaelli.

Fighter in DRC

Peace Negotiations: Not the End of the Conflict

In July 2020, peace negotiations started and the following month rebel forces signed a unilateral commitment to end hostilities. However, armed confrontations continued and multiple clashes subsequently took place between CODECO and the FARDC

‘The conclusion of a unilateral commitment to end hostilities is not enough to determine the end of a NIAC. As shown in this case, armed confrontations have resumed and IHL, therefore, continues to apply to these instances of violence’ explains Dr Redaelli.

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