Photos of the DRC's Armed Citizen Militia

Diana Zeyneb Alhindawi shows us a candid side of the Raia Mutomboki, one of the largest rebel groups in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The group's name is Kiswahili for "angry citizens."

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Aug 11 2016, 12:00am

On the hills above Lulingu, a remote town in the South Kivu province, Raia Mutomboki fighters conduct drills. This particular faction had gained widespread support from ordinary citizens, making it unique in comparison to other armed groups in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

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The Raia Mutomboki (RM), a diffuse network of armed citizens, collectively makes up one of the largest rebel groups in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The group's name, Kiswahili for "angry citizens," suggests the impetus for its creation: outrage at the massacres, rapes, and countless unspeakable atrocities the Congolese people suffered at the hands of the Interahamwe, the Hutu militia that committed much of the genocide against the Tutsi during the Rwandan civil war in 1994.

The Interahamwe has inhabited the jungles of eastern Congo since fleeing Rwanda more than 20 years ago. With no hope of returning home, the Interahamwe has continually tried to carve out its place in Congo, attacking villages and fighting for control of mines and other areas rich in minerals. When it became clear that the Congolese state was failing to protect its citizens, groups of affected Congolese villagers decided to take security into their own hands—they banded together, armed themselves, and formed the RM. They were first active in 2005, and after being largely dormant for a number of years, reappeared in 2011.

The RM has a number of factions, each with a separate leader. Some of these factions have occasionally been at war with one another, and have been accused of committing precisely the kinds of atrocities they were formed to prevent. Others are more benign. Between December 2013 and January 2014, photographer Diana Zeyneb Alhindawi traveled to the South Kivu Province in the DRC to photograph members of the Kikuni faction, which has since disbanded.

A traditional ceremony takes place outside the home of Lulingu’s King Asani Keka Mbezi, one of the Lega people, whose remote location in the eastern jungles allowed their traditions to survive the Belgian occupation.

Mari, here 18 years old, joined the RM as a soldier when she was 16. She and her husband, a fellow soldier, have a son together.

Decaying Belgian colonial-era structures speak to the area’s history of mining, and to Congo’s struggles with outsiders who vied for its riches.

RM fighters gather, wearing leaves for camouflage, after patrolling Lulingu’s surrounding areas.

A child sits on a piece of old mining equipment in a colonial building that, though now a primary school, once served as a jail for the Congolese army.

Villagers and family members mourn at the funeral of a seven-year-old boy, Damas, who was murdered.

Henriette Useni Kabake, Lulingu's government administrator, hosts a town meeting alongside traditional and Raia Mutomboki leaders inside a decayed building from the Belgian colonial era.

Major Bamwizio Kilumbalumba Wamenya sits with his child, outside his home.

Migrants from the Bashi tribe of Bukavu region provide labor for the mines in RM territory. The Lega tribe, which make up the RM, are able to play supervisory roles due to their unique technical knowledge on the mining industry gained from laboring under the Belgian colonial enterprises of the past.

Graffiti on the walls of the home of Henriette Useni Kabake, Lulingu's government Administrator, testify to a time when FARDC soldiers forcefully occupied her home for over a year, throwing out her children.

Decaying Belgian colonial era structures speak to the area’s history of mining, and to Congo’s struggles with outsiders who vied for its riches.

Widow Madelaine Kapinga stands outside of her makeshift home in a part of Lulingu town occupied by people displaced by the conflict. Her story is not an uncommon one in the area, where most have lost family in massacres committed by the Interahamwe or in subsequent fighting with the FARDC.

Major Bamwizio Kilumbalumba Wamenya begins his day with a traditional meditation and cleansing ritual outside his home.

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