The Ituri conflict
is a conflict between the agriculturalist Lendu
and pastoralist Hema
ethnic groups in the Ituri
region of the northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo
(DRC). While there have been many phases to the conflict, the most recent armed clashes ran from 1999 to 2003, with a low-level conflict continuing until 2007. The conflict had been vastly complicated by the presence of various armed groups who participated in the Second Congo War
, the large amount of small arms in the region, a scramble for the area's abundant natural resources, and the ethnic tensions of the surrounding 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. More than 50,000 people have been killed in the conflict and hundreds of thousands forced from their homes.
The increased intensity of the violence is also the result of a 'borrowing' of ethnic ideology from the Hutu
standoff. Human Rights Watch
reported that the Lendu began thinking of themselves as kin to the Hutu, while the Hema identify themselves with the Tutsi. While there is little basis to this new formation of identity, it vastly increases the imagined stakes of the conflict.
Ethnic tension between the Lendu and Hema go back to colonial days. The Belgian colonialists
favored the Hema, resulting in education and wealth disparities between the two. This divergence continued into... Read More