Questions Remain in The Death of Rebel Leader Morgan

 
Paul Sadala, aka. Morgan, leader of the Congolese militia Mai Mai Morgan

Paul Sadala, aka. Morgan, was killed last week on April 14, two days after he surrendered with 42 members of the Congolese militia Mai Mai Morgan to the Congolese army in the locality of Bandegaido, Mambasa territory, Orientale province (map). It is still unclear why Morgan, who was alleged to engage in sexual violence, gold pillaging, and ivory poaching, surrendered in the first place. One possibility might be that he wanted to benefit from a new disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration program recently put in place.

According to the account of the government, Morgan and his men were transferred from Molokaï village to Bunia town, the capital of Ituri district, Orientale Province. “When we reached the town of Mambasa which is about 100 km. south of Bunia, Morgan refused to continue his way to Bunia unless he was given the rank of general. During the standoff, he was injured on his legs,” army chief Gen Felix Sikabwe said. The government reports that four of Morgan's men (Reuters reported two) and two soldiers were also killed.

The first official account of the government falsely reported that Morgan was bleeding to death when he was flown out by a helicopter of the peacekeeping mission MONUSCO. The UN, however, denied this, clarifying that he had already been dead prior to their arrival. “We only received the remains of Paul Sadala from the DRC army. He was already dead,” Charles Antoine Bambara, the UN mission’s public information officer, told reporters.

The accounts of Morgan’s death are competing and confusing, sparking some to question it altogether. Two days after his death, the provincial deputy and member of the presidential majority Joseph Ndiya accused the Congolese army of assassinating Morgan in order to silence him. The spokesperson of the Congolese government, however, expressed his regret that Morgan would not stand trial for charges issued on November 2012 for war crimes and crimes of sexual violence. Since the first of March, 24 of his men already stood trial for war crimes.

MONUSCO announced that it would launch its own investigations into the killing and probe into the whereabouts of the remaining 42 men. As of April 14, MONUSCO did not know whether they were still alive. The mission is well-advised to conduct a rigorous assessment and report on its findings in due time. As a UN official told Reuters: "There is a worry that other warlords will not come forward to surrender because it is unclear what happened to Morgan." The leader of the civil society of Ituri district echoes this sentiment, arguing that the killing complicates the surrender of Morgan’s fellow members that are still at large. As if to underscore his remarks, the remaining elements of the Mai Mai Morgan militia reportedly staged two new attacks on April 15 and 16, causing women and children to flee. Days later, on April 18, Mai Mai Morgan rebels attacked two villages situated close to Salate in Mambasa territory, MONUSCO said. They reportedly pillaged gold, raped four women and kidnapped a number of men.

Who was Mai Mai Morgan?

A native of the Bombo community, Morgan has been the overall commander of the group. Other leaders include his lieutenant Manu and Jean Pierre, aka. JP or Docteur. In August 2013, my colleague Fidel Bafilemba and I estimated that Morgan had around 250 men at his disposal, mostly from the ethnic groups Nande, Ndaka, Bakumu, Bapiri, and some FARDC deserters. (Note that the UN Group of Experts in mid-July 2013 only spoke of “several dozen” men).

The group has enjoyed friendly relationships with Mai Mai Simba and the Union for the Rehabilitation of Democracy in Congo, or URDC. According to findings of the UN Group of Experts, Mai Mai Morgan enjoys “close relationships” with senior leaders in the FARDC ninth military region, including Maj. Gen. Jean Claude Kifwa, who provides logistical support, arms and ammunition. The group is operating in Mambasa and Bafwasende districts in Orientale Province. While the Mai Mai Morgan militia has no official objective, the group has been heavily involved in the illicit exploitation of natural resources.

In its final report for 2013, the UN Group of Experts reported that during 2013 Morgan shifted his focus away from poaching elephants in the Okapi Fauna Reserve in Haut Uélé and Ituri districts of Orientale Province to attacking gold mines.

Reported gross human rights violations committed by Mai Mai Morgan include pillage, kidnapping, rape, slavery for sexual exploitation, and cannibalism. In mid-2013, the UN Group of Experts reported that from November 1-5, 2012, the group raped or sexually mutilated more than 150 women during a series of attacks on villages in a gold-mining area south of Mambasa.

Future

The death of Morgan and capture of 42 men is a serious – possibly fatal - blow to the group. It remains to be seen whether his successors Manu and Jean Pierre can revive the group. Whatever the future will bring for Mai Mai Morgan, the situation in southern Orientale Province will remain volatile for the nearby future. Other rebel groups such as ADF and FRPI while weakened in light of recent FARDC operations – continue their activities. Meanwhile, the near absence of any effective policing in Ituri “is fuelling mob violence which has seen about 100 people killed and 1,500 houses torched in the past year, according to local civil society groups,” IRIN News reports.

Further reading:

  • The most detailed and authoritative accounts on Mai Mai Morgan can be found in the bi-annual reports of the UN Group of Experts, including S/2014/42 (23 January 2014, para. 64-67); S/2013/433 (19 July 2013, para. 72-78); and S/2012/843 (15 November 2012, paras. 128-132).
  • MONUSCO provided a neat overview of commentary by Congolese media a day after Morgan's death.
  • Enough Project's August 2013 overview (p.10) of Mai Mai Morgan.
  • On 23 January 2013, IRIN News reported on the activities of Mai Mai Morgan. “Rainforest riches a curse for civilians in northeast DRC.

The photo used for this blog is from the UN Group of Experts S/2013/433 (19 July 2013; annex 46, p.116. Also, some sources cited within this blog post are only available in French, not English.

You can follow Timo Mueller at @TimoMueller on Twitter.

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