Mai-Mai Nkutu

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Mai-Mai Nkutu
Leader(s)Paul Manu
Dates of operation2008 - present
Active regionsCentral Lyoa
Major actionsProtection rackets, illegal mining, murder, use of child soldiers, poaching, kidnapping, looting, drug trafficking, arms trafficking, smuggling, illegal charcoal production
Size200-300
Means of revenueIllegal activities
AlliesLyoan crime family
OpponentsGovernment of Lyoa, and various drug cartels and local groups including Mara Salvatrucha

Mai-Mai Nkutu (eponymously known as the Resistance Patriots) is a Lyoan criminal organization and militant group operating in the central parts of the country, mainly Kalwezi province. The organization is considered to be a mixture of an armed group and organized crime, and is typically not included as a belligerent in various Lyoan wars. Despite this, the group has consistently attempted to portray itself as legitimate armed opposition to Lyoa's government. It is believed to be allied to the Lyoan mafia due to involvement in illegal mining, an industry the mafia has attempted to enter multiple times.

History

Mai-Mai Nkutu was organized in 2008 by Paul Manu (alias Nkutu) in eastern Mitende province. The group took the name "Resistance Patriots" and began what it calls a "liberation war". The group originally drew its support from the Tgbala people, which Manu is from. The first action of Mai-Mai Nkutu was an attack on an army position in the town of Mitwaba. The Mai-Mai forces clashed with government forces for around 30 minutes before retreating. In the attack, the Mai-Mai managed to capture several weapons and boxes of ammunition.

After this attack, the Lyoa National Army launched a series of attacks against Mai-Mai Nkutu, which pushed it out of several of its encampments in eastern Mitende. This caused the Mai-Mai to relocate their base of operations to the western portion of the province, with at least one camp being reported in Mboko. Here, the Mai-Mai Nkutu began to take over multiple artisanal mining operations in the area. Manu's forces also began to raid local villages for supplies, as well as hostages to hold for ransom. Kidnapping still is a major source of revenue for the Mai-Mai Nkutu to this day.

The group at this point avoided most confrontations with security forces, instead focusing on trying to grow its ranks, as well as its criminal enterprise. Mai-Mai Nkutu would frequently kidnap children to use them as fighters in their organization. It was estimated that in 2011 that the group had around 80 child fighters in its ranks. In Fall 2011, the group once again began attacking security forces, ambushing several LNA convoys in Mboko and Mitende. These raids yielded the group large amounts of arms and ammunition. The most major of these attacks was in November, when the group attacked a convoy in Mboko, killing 20 soldiers. These attacks once again prompted an army response. In Mboko, the LNA launched an attack on the group's main camp in the province, known as "Madina". The army dislodged the rebels and destroyed the encampment. The army also seized several mining operations connected with the group. These attacks once again caused the group to lay low, content with its existing operations.

The group re-emerged in 2013 with a raid on a mining concession of the Lyoan National Mining Corporation in southern Mitende. In the attack, several workers were killed or kidnapped, and several crates of gold were stolen. The Mai-Mai also began to poach elephants in Ango National Park on the border of Kalwezi and Mitende. Several attacks on rangers of the Institute of Cooperation for the Conservation of Nature were reported and attributed to the Mai-Mai. Approximately 13 ICCN rangers were reported to have been killed as a result of Mai-Mai Nkutu attacks in 2013. At the beginning of 2014, Mai-Mai Nkutu began to increase its operations in Ango National Park, establishing at least one camp within the park. The group set up an illegal charcoal producing operation, as well as at least one artisanal mine in the park. Poaching of the park's wildlife also increased in 2014, with ICCN units unable to stop the Mai-Mai for some time.

In mid-2015, the LNA and ICCN launched an offensive against the Mai-Mai in the park, causing their camp in the park to be captured and destroyed. Sporadic poaching in the park continued; however, despite ICCN efforts. In December 2015, the national army launched another offensive against the group, destroying its main camp in Mitende, pushing most of the group's units into Kalwezi province. At least one camp was still reported to be active in Mitende in 2017.

In 2018, the group was entirely pushed out of Ango National Park by a joint ICCN-LNA operation. Many of the group's fighters surrendered and many others were killed in the fighting. Mai-Mai Nkutu relocated its main hub of activity to northern Kalwezi province, close to Mambasa National Wildlife Reserve. There, the group set up new illegal mining operations and began small-scale poaching of the reserve's animals. The group was not very active in 2019, although then it was reported to have entered into an alliance with the Lyoan crime family. The group re-emerged once again in late August, when they raided the village of Kabamba, killing one and kidnapping several others.

Activities

The strategy of Mai-Mai Nkutu has been labeled by the University of Tigera's Conflict Analysis Department as "erratic" as the group seemingly does not plan its attacks or have a coherent strategy for its insurgency. John Kapungu, the Conflict Analysis Department's director has previously stated about the group, "The Mai Mai Nkutu seems to do what it wants at that very moment. There is little planning in their attacks or military operations, it seems that the attacks they carry out are ordered on a whim by Manu or his deputies."

The group is heavily involved in the illegal mining of gold, silver, and coltan across its area of operations. Typically, Mai-Mai Nkutu will either take over an existing artisanal mining operation, or sponsor its own in regions under its influence. Eliminating Mai-Mai Nkutu's mining concessions is a top priority for anti-Nkutu operations. The Mai-Mai also have been involved in poaching in the various wildlife reserves and natural parks they have operated near or in. Poaching targets are typically elephants, whose ivory tusks are sold on the black market. Other sources of revenue for the group include kidnapping for ransom, looting, and extortion of the local populace. The group's relationship with the Lyoan Mafia also provides them with funding as well.