Formerly a small local militia, Guidon Shimiray’s Nduma Defence of Congo-Rénové (NDC-R) is today one of the most powerful armed groups in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. But what does it mean for the dynamics of violence in this part of the country, where regional states’ interests are intertwined with local conflicts, as exemplified in the various instances of foreign state support for armed groups for more than two decades? In its new report “For the Army, With the Army, Like the Army?” published Wednesday, May 13, the Congo Research Group (CRG) offers the very first in-depth investigation into the origins of this armed group. The report details its origins as a splinter group from Sheka Ntabo Ntaberi’s NDC, its trajectory from 2014 to 2020, and its relations with other conflict protagonists, including the Congolese national army (FARDC) and the government more broadly.
Drawing on 18 months of in-depth fieldwork resulting in vast documentary evidence and 90 interviews, including with NDC-R combatants as well as sources in political, diplomatic, and security circles, the report shows how Guidon Shimiray and his troops are part of a proxy war led by the Congolese army, which subcontracted them for military operations against certain other militias and local or foreign armed groups. Four senior army officers, including General Innocent Gahizi, were cited at least three times by our sources as being the main organizers of the FARDC’s support to the NDC-R.
The NDC-R’s role as a proxy for the FARDC has thus contributed to its spectacular rise: it has become a formidable force controlling vast areas across Walikale, Masisi, and Lubero territories. Moreover, Guidon Shimiray also allegedly receives indirect support from Rwanda in his fight against the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR). In the long run, such outsourcing of security by the regular army undermines state authority, exacerbates community tensions, and generates abuses against civilians.
This unprecedented investigation also illustrates the experimental modes of governance the NDC-R has implemented in areas under its control. The group has succeeded in creating local governance structures, has produced a laundry list of political demands, and established a nuanced system of taxation and monopolies around mining areas, all while continuing to collaborate with regular state institutions in many places. Over the years, the NDC-R – which initially claimed to be fighting for access to mining revenues by the population of Walikale – has thus developed a diversified extractive business across several economic sectors, in collusion with local leaders, businesspeople, and army officers.
Based on the data gathered on the ground and analyzed in this report, CRG’s analysis will provide the new Congolese administration with some keys to understanding the structural dynamics of conflict in the east of the country. The case of the NDC-R presented here can inform President Félix Tshisekedi’s efforts and strategies for transforming security governance. As this report demonstrates, stabilizing the eastern DRC will require reforming the very Congolese institutions currently charged with dismantling armed groups and protecting the local population.