Monday, October 17, 2016

Social Network Analysis of Conflict Groups in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Callie Burke
Taking 2nd module

The Complicated Web of Conflict Groups in the Democratic Republic of the Congo


Conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has been ongoing and consistent since the Congo Wars in the mid 90s. The two wars (1996-1997 and 1998-2002) officially ended after formal declarations of peace but violence has continued. Many different groups contribute to the instability in the region, including the ADF (Allied Democratic Forces in Uganda), FNL (Forces nationales de liberation in Burundi), the FDLR (Forces democratiques de liberation du Rwanda), and the M23 (in the DRC). While these have been the biggest ones to emerge over the last fifteen years, currently sources count up to 70 different armed groups in the region.

Armed groups in the region quickly evolve, when one is considered defeated, ten more pop up in its place. Many of these groups have alliances with each other, while others have a hostile relationship. Currently, a messy election and new sanctions imposed by the US has thrown the DRC back into the spotlight. Possible riots and election violence in the West will only exacerbate the conflict in the east. As this conflict grows it will be important to understand which armed groups still exist in the region and how they are connected to one another.

The UN has collected data on the most significant groups, members of these groups, and which groups have ties to each other. I will have to sift through a few documents to piece out this data. But the information they have is extensive and relevant. For example:

The Group obtained evidence that Mai Mai Yakutumba still receives support from some elements of the Congolese army (see S/2011/738, paras. 163 and 171-174). A Congolese colonel told the Group that the army was redeploying Bembe soldiers sympathetic to Mai Mai Yakutumba outside South Kivu.” - S/2015/19

This tells me that Mai Mai Yakutumba has weak ties to the Congolese armed forces. Recently the Congo Research Group has mapped out every single armed group it could get information on. Location data may be useful attribute data to supplement my analysis.

Source: Stearns, Jason and Vogel, Christoph, The Landscape of Armed Groups in the Eastern Congo, Congo Research Group,

Once I collect and codify this data, I want to begin my analysis by looking at connections between groups, specifically by mapping positive and negative ties. 

Depending on the quality of the data I can extract from the UN documents and a couple other sources, I want to move on to analyzing some of the key players in armed groups over the years. Multiple commanders of groups have switched alliances and formed new groups after leaving their original ones. I also want to examine these connections over time to see if previous connections to armed groups has anything to do with the speed of new ones forming.

Primary Questions
  • Do positive and negative ties between armed groups have an impact on their reach, location, size or speed of formation?
  • Are armed groups in the same areas friendly or foe?
  • Does participation in multiple different armed groups contribute to positive or negative ties between armed groups? 



I will primarily be using data collected by the UN.

Documents Include:
  • S/2015/19: Final report of the Group of Experts on the Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • S/2014/453: Report of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • S/2012/843: UN Report on M23 Support Networks
Network Measures

I want to do one network of positive and negative ties between armed groups. Then I will create a two mode network of former and current leaders and the armed groups they have been a part of. After I collect and codify the data I’ll better understand exactly what attributes and other information might be available.


By understanding how conflict groups interact, we can pinpoint areas in which violence is more likely to take place in the future. Ideally I will be able to compare the map of armed group locations with info on connections between groups. Analyzing the networks of current and former leaders will help us understand the ever evolving process of new groups being created.


IRIN – Armed Groups in the Eastern Congo:

Visualizing Armed Groups: The Democratic Republic of the Congo’s M23 in Focus:

1 comment:

Christopher Tunnard said...

70 different armed groups over +/- 20 years of conflict--you are indeed going to have to "sift through" a lot of dox, but the result could be really fascinating and serve as a road map for current and future conflict resolution efforts in the DRC and elsewhere.

Using Ellie Teitsman's approach for Somalia is a good place to start.It may take a while before you realize exactly how big the task ahead of you may be, as I doubt you'll be able to do all groups and all leaders, so you might want think about looking at a couple of samples rather than the whole period. This can be decided once you're into the research and have a better idea of what's involved.

Look forward to seeing this develop.