The Ituri conflict (French: Guerre d'Ituri) is a major conflict between the agriculturalist Lendu and pastoralist Hema ethnic groups in the Ituri region of the north-eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). While the two groups had fought since as early as 1972, the name 'Ituri conflict' refers to the period of intense violence between 1999 and 2003. Armed conflict continues to the present day.
|Part of the Second Congo War, Kivu conflict|
FRPI milicians, waiting with MONUSCO peacekeepers, 2019
European Union (Artemis)
|Commanders and leaders|
FRPI: 1,000 militia (2015)
6,000 FARDC troops; 2,000 MONUC peacekeepers (2005)
|Casualties and losses|
The conflict was largely set off by the Second Congo War, which had led to increased ethnic consciousness, a large supply of small arms, and the formation of various armed groups. More long-term factors include land disputes, natural resource extraction, and the existing ethnic tensions throughout the region. The Lendu ethnicity was largely represented by the Nationalist and Integrationist Front (FNI) while the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC) claimed to be fighting for the Hema.
The conflict was extremely violent. Large-scale massacres were perpetrated by members of both ethnic factions. In 2006, the BBC reported that as many as 60,000 people had died in Ituri since 1998. Médecins Sans Frontières said "The ongoing conflict in Ituri, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), has led to more than 50,000 deaths, more than 500,000 displaced civilians and continuing, unacceptably high, mortality since 1999." Hundreds of thousands of people were forced from their homes, becoming refugees.
In June 2003, the European Union began Operation Artemis, sending a French-led peacekeeping force to Ituri. The EU force managed to take control of the regional capital of Bunia. Despite this, fighting and massacres continued in the countryside. In December 2003, the Hema-backed UPC split and fighting decreased significantly.
"Long-dormant" land disputes between "Hema herders and Lendu farmers" were re-ignited in December 2017 resulting in a surge of massacres with entire Hema villages razed and over a hundred casualties. Tens of thousands fled to Uganda. While the massacres by Lendu militia ceased in mid-March 2018, "crop destruction, kidnappings, and killings" continued. The UN estimated that as many as 120 Hema villages were attacked by Lendu militia from December 2017 through August 2018.