ituri dr congo 2003



Civil war in the Democratic Republic of
Congo (DRC) began when a regional coalition succeeded in overthrowing
Congolese dictator Marshal Mubutu and replaced him with Laurent Kabila in
May of 1997.  The governments of Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi, Eritrea and Angola
all participated in supporting the regime change (ICG: “Africa’s
Seven-Nation War” May 1999”).  In little more than a year, Kabila’s
supporters accused him of assuming dictatorial powers, and the alliance that
had formed to depose Mubutu began to fragment.  Angola, Zimbabwe and Namibia
backed the Kabila government, while Rwanda and Uganda supported rebel groups
based in the eastern DR-Congo. 

Separate from the war in the south (see the
Center’s DRC Report), a smaller conflict has escalated into civil war near
the border with Uganda.  The presence of various military groups in the
northeast DR-Congo and an abundance of lucrative natural resources have
served to ignite ethnic tensions in the area and escalate the level of
bloodshed.  This remote region has continued to suffer from outbreaks of
violence well after the peace agreements between the DRC, Rwanda and Uganda
led to the troop withdrawals that took place in September 2002.  Today, the
humanitarian crisis continues to escalate, and the prospects for peace (even
if a negotiated settlement is reached) are unlikely to take root soon after,
given the nature of the ethnic fighting.


Historical Background

first occupied the northeast region of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)
in April of 1998, in what the government claimed to be a necessary action to
secure its border with the DRC (SABC: “Uganda Completes Troop…” September
2002).  The Kibali-Ituri Province was created in June of 1999 as a result
of the partitioning of the Orientale and North Kivu provinces by Uganda
(HRW:  “Background to the Hema-Lendu Conflict…” January 2001). 

Ituri province is so highly sought after because of its abundance of natural
resources (gold, diamonds, timber, and coltan) as well as cattle and
agriculture.  There are several different ethnic groups located in this
region, including the Ngiti, Nande, Aru, and Gegere, as well as the primary
groups, the Hema and Lendu.  Tensions over land rights between the Hema
and the Lendu preceded Uganda’s entrance into the DRC, but were exacerbated by
the militarization of the Ituri province that has taken place since 1999. 
The Ugandan People’s Defence Force (UPDF) were involved with arming and
training both Hema and Lendu youth for recruitment into the Congolese Rally for
Democracy- Liberation Movement (RCD-ML), one of the armed political factions
supported by the Ugandan government.  The UPDF were seen as favoring the
Hema ethnic group, who were known to supply the troops with cattle as well as
cash in order to gain their support, although the Ugandan military has denied
any involvement (Prunier: October 2002).  The apparent bias of the UPDF,
and the increased proliferation of weapons into the region have led to growing
tensions between the Hema and Lendu.  The result of the heightened tension
was an outburst of ethnic clashes that erupted in June of 1999 in the Djugu
area of Ituri, where an estimated 5000 people were killed, and over 100,000
were displaced during a five-month period (IRIN: “IRIN focus on Hema-Lendu
Conflict” November 1999). The Djugu region has a population of approximately
1.5 million, with 450,000 Lendu and 250,000 Hema (IRIN: “Special Report on the
Ituri Clashes” March 2000).  The initial outbreak of violence led to a
series of counter attacks and revenge killings that are characteristic of the
battles for control of resources in the Ituri. 


Current Situation

Ugandan troops continued to train Hema and Lendu recruits even after it became
apparent that these groups were involved in armed confrontations (HRW:
“Background to the Hema-Lendu Conflict…” January 2001).  By arming and
training local youth, the UPDF fostered instability in the region; which helped
to generate the appearance that their continued presence was needed to maintain
stability.  The Ituri province then began to be divided up by competing
military factions with limited local (economic) agendas, changing the nature of
the clashes between the Hema and Lendu.  What were once disputes based on
land rights, have become battles for the control of resources and power in the
region.  This set the stage for the emergence of several military splinter
groups in the Ituri, all of which are competing for the resources and wealth of
the area (UPC, RCD-ML, RCD-N, MLC, UPDF) (HRW: “Chaos in Eastern Congo…”
October 2002).   The armed factions are now drawing upon ethnicity
for their support, adding to the social and ethnic tensions that have
contributed to the escalation of violence in the region.  The RCD-K-ML
(led by Mbusa Nyamwisi) and its military branch, the Congolese People’s Army
(APC), have aligned themselves with the Ngiti and Lendu militias.  The
Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC), led by Thomas Lubanga are allied with the
Hema and Gegere militias, and Jean Pierre Bemba’s MLC is working with Roger
Lumbala and the Rally for Congolese Democracy-National (RCD-N).  The Ituri
province and its wealth are being used to financially support groups and
individuals, including some military officers of the UPDF.  A report from
IRIN states “the problem is that rival camps within the RCD-ML have backing
from different camps in the Ugandan security system, which makes it difficult
to sort out their problems. The Ugandan leadership has to talk with one voice”
(IRIN: “New Rebel Group in Bunia” July 2000).

Uganda originally deployed 10,000 troops to
the DRC in August of 1998, and reportedly fought alongside Bemba’s MLC
(formed in November 1998) against the Kinshasa government (IRIN: “Special
Report on Tensions in the Northeast” February 2002).  Acting in accordance
with the 6 September Luanda Accord signed by Presidents Kabila and Museveni,
the Ugandan military withdrew its forces from the DRC in early November
2002, with the exception of two battalions that were left in Bunia with the
mission of providing security during the transition period.  The two
battalions in Bunia are staying at the request of the UN, and in according
to the Luanda Accord have 100 days (from 7 September 2002) before they are
to be withdrawn. 


Key Players

Hema and Lendu Ethnic Groups-

These are the two dominant tribes in the Ituri province, and each have
different cultural, social and economic roots; although they share a history
in the DRC, including intermarriage and cohabitation.  The Hema are a tribe
of pastoralists who have been struggling for decades over land rights with
the Lendu (a primarily agricultural tribe).  Pastoralists inherently need
large tracts of land for their livestock, and agriculturists rely on land
for crop production.  Tensions between the groups developed over access and
rights to the limited availability of land in the Ituri province.  These
tensions have been aggravated by a large population growth rate, which has
served to increase the pressure on the limited resources.  Tribal chiefs had
historically settled disputes over land rights in the region, but with the
erosion of civil society and the militarization of the region that has taken
place in recent years, the traditional means of reconciliation have
disappeared.  Land acquisition is now carried out through the use of force
and violence.  The two groups (and their allied ethnic tribes) are both
responsible for committing acts of violence and intimidation aimed at
expropriating land and other resources from the other ethnic group.

Congolese Rally for Democracy- Kisingani
-Liberation Movement (RCD-K-ML)-

Typically referred to as the RCD-ML, the group is headed by Mbusa Nyamwisi
and is affiliated with the Lendu and Ngiti groups.  The military wing of the
RCD-K-ML is the Congolese People’s Army (APC).  The RCD-K-ML has been allied
with the UPDF forces in Bunia, particularly in fighting against the UPC
forces of Thomas Lubanga.

Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC)

– The UPC is headed by a Hema militia leader, Thomas Lubanga.  Lubanga is
the former ‘minister of defense’ for the RCD-ML, and formed the dissident
UPC group.   The UPC is based near Bunia, and has been fighting with the RCD-ML
(APC) for control of the area.  The UPC fights in conjunction with the Hema
and Gegere militias.

Congolese Rally for Democracy- National (RCD-N)
– The RCD-N is headed by Roger
Lumbala, and is closely allied with Bemba’s Movement for the Liberation of
Congo.  The RCD-N is another splinter group formed from the breakup of RCD-ML.


The Mayi-Mayi are typically identified as a
pro-Kinshasa, indigenous militias that are opposed to the occupation of the
DRC by foreign forces.  The Mayi-Mayi are not as prominent in the Ituri
Province as they are in the Central and Southern regions of the country.  In
recent reports Mayi-Mayi groups have been said to be aiding the RCD-K-ML
(BBC Monitoring Africa, November 2002).

Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC)
– Jean Pierre Bemba’s MLC is
based in Gbadolite, and has been active in attempting to take control of
areas in the Ituri Province.  The MLC has been backed both militarily and
monetarily by the Ugandan government.  Jean Pierre Bemba has been actively
involved in the Sun City accord, which is trying to establish a power
sharing agreement for a transitional government in the DRC.  The original
plan calls for four vice presidents (representing the opposition groups) and
one president (Joseph Kabila); the details of how the power sharing will be
carried out are leading to a stalemate in the negotiations.

Ugandan People’s Defense Force (UPDF –
Ugandan Army) —
The Ugandan army
continues to occupy Bunia, the capital of the Ituri province.  The UPDF
forces agreed to stay in place to promote a stable environment in the
region.  Many reports have surfaced that suggest that the UPDF forces have
continued to act in a self interested manner, and have been involved in
numerous killings, including the violence that took place in August 2002 (HRW:
“Chaos in Eastern Congo…” October 2002).  Rather than acting as a unified
force to secure the region, the UPDF is operating in often-conflicting ways
that suggests there are multiple interests being pursued by the military.

United Nations Organization Mission in the
Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC)

MONUC is the UN monitoring force in the
Democratic of Congo that consists of up to 5,537 military personnel, as
proscribed by the UN mandate of February 2000.  It currently has a staff of
4,246: 3,595 troops, 445 military observers, and 215 staff officers. MONUC
was established under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, which limits the use of
force to self-defense. MONUC has a restricted mandate that allows the use
force only to protect its own facilities and civilians under imminent threat
of danger.  The expanse of the area in which the fighting is occurring and
the inadequate size of the UN force, has limited MONUC’s ability to fully
observe the events that are taking place in the DRC.  MONUC is actively
involved in monitoring the troop withdrawals of Ugandan and Rwandan forces. 
MONUC is also taking part in the repatriation of Rwandan ex-combatants, as
was agreed upon in the Pretoria agreement in July 2002.  UN resolution 1417,
of June 2002, expanded MONUC’s mandate to include the proposed ‘DDRRR”
(voluntary Disarmament, Demobilization, Repatriation, Resettlement, and
Reintegration), of all foreign troops in the DR-Congo.

In early December of 2002, the UN Security
Council voted to broaden MONUC’s personnel capacity to 8,700; a sign that
there is greater international support for carrying out the disarmament and
repatriation phase of the Pretoria agreement.  The current reality is that
MONUC has 1,291 fewer personnel than originally mandated by the UN, and
although the resolution is a positive sign, the commitment to support MONUC
must be carried out in order to improve its capability.


Nature of Abuse

 The Human Costs of War

The International Rescue Committee conducted
a mortality study in the spring of 2001.  The study was conducted in 5
eastern provinces in the DR Congo, not including the northeastern Ituri
province.  Using the information gathered, they projected that of the 19.9
million people living in the eastern DRC, 3.5 million have died (2.5 million
due to the conflict, of which 350,000 are attributable to violence) over a
32-month period (August 1998-March 2001).  In two of the towns where the
survey was conducted (Moba and Kalemie), the IRC reported that approximately
75% of the children born during the conflict will not live till the age of
two (IRC: “Mortality in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo” 2001).  The
figures listed do not reflect the full amount of casualties that have
occurred from the violence, given consideration to the time that has elapsed
since the report, and the under-representation of effects of the conflict in
the Ituri province.

The UN Office
for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) estimated that there are
2.27 million internally displaced people (IDP’s) in the eastern DRC, the Ituri
province alone has over 500,000 IDP’s (OCHA: “Affected Populations in the Great
Lakes Region” July 2002).  In November
200         2, OCHA reported that of
the displaced population, over 900,000 were inaccessible to relief efforts, the
Ituri province accounts for 500,000 of that figure.  Many of the IDP’s
have relocated to other communities, overwhelming the capacity of those
locations to feed and house the populations.  Other groups of IDP’s simply
relocate to living in the mountains or in the ‘bush’, avoiding settlements
where violent outbreaks have taken place, and making access or knowledge about
their security and whereabouts virtually impossible.

The regional
insecurity and the large number of IDP’s have turned a once fertile and
productive agriculture sector into an area where malnutrition, disease and
hunger predominate.  This has contributed to a high rate of infant
mortality (50% of which are believed to be tied to malnutrition), a lack of
access to education, and a deteriorating economic system.  Reports from
2001 estimate that upwards of 70% of the population do not have access to
health care, which contributes to the increase in the mortality rate caused by
undernourishment and disease in the region (WHO: “DR Congo Health Update…”
August 2001).   The recovery of the socio-economic structures in the
Ituri province will take many years to rebuild after the fighting has stopped,
in order to regain what has been lost during the conflict. 


Exploitation of Natural Resources

The UN Final report of the Panel of Experts
on the Illegal Exploitation of Natural Resources and Other Forms of Wealth
of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (UN: “Final Report of the Panel…”
October 2002).  The report issued in October 2002 is a scathing account of
the involvement of multiple countries, military rebel groups, and
individuals in the exploitation of natural resources in the DRC.  The
withdrawal of the foreign forces has done little to end the exploitation in
the DR Congo, and the UN report states that the well-established criminal
networks are continuing to operate within the country.  The report also
alleges that the UPDF leaders are still involved in the instigation of
ethnic fighting between the Hema and Lendu, as a way to justify their
presence in the resource rich areas.  The looting of the DRC involves gold,
diamonds, and coltan, as well as timber, land, agriculture, and tax
revenues.  In the Ituri Province, the report names high-ranking UPDF
officers, as well as leaders of most of the local rebel military groups as
being part of the ‘elite network’ profiting from the conflict. 



isolation of the Ituri Province, and the minimal presence of humanitarian
organizations (due to the unrest), has made it difficult to assess the
actual impact of the violence.  Many of the inter-ethnic attacks have been
carried out with arrows, spears and machetes, and according to some reports
the attackers are typically adult men, but often include children as young
as ten (IRIN: “Special Report on the Ituri…” March 2000).  Entire villages
have been burned to the ground and looted; leading to the displacement of
populations and situations of severe food insecurity.  The effect of the war
has been particularly devastating on women; with systematic rape taking
place throughout the region, and increasing rates of infant and maternal

The structural violence that exists in the Ituri province pre-dates the
current conflict in the DR Congo.  However, the level of violence that has
emerged since 1999 can be directly linked to the involvement of the various
military groups that became active in the region in the late 1990s.  The
killings and massacres that have taken place have primarily involved one
ethnic group (and its allies) attacking another ethnic group (and its
allies).  The violence is being conducted without a system of justice in
place or any degree of accountability, except for the possibility of



September 5, 2002

Where:            Nyankunde,
Ituri Province

At least 100, possibly 1000 killed

On 5 September, the RCD-ML (APC) and Ngiti
militiamen attacked the town of Nyankunde where UPC (Hema and Gegere) forces
were present.  The violence targeted the Hema ethnic group, and expanded to
include attacks at a local church hospital as well as the surrounding
community.  The assailants’ reportedly went from bed to bed through the
hospital, killing any patients who appeared to be Hema (NCN: “Massacre at
Nyankunde” September 2002).  The violence was said to have taken place over
the course of a week, and as much as 90 percent of the population was
displaced from the town.  The main water pipe in the town was intentionally
destroyed, and an outbreak of cholera occurred soon after the attacks took
place.  The hospital in Nyankunde was the primary health facility operating
in the region, and its closure is devastating for the surrounding community
(CMS: “Massacre Wipes out Anglican Work…” September 2002).


August 9, 2002

Where:           Bunia, Ituri

At least 110

The UPC milita, led by Tomas Lubanga and
assisted by contingents of the Ugandan Army, attacked the city of Bunia in
the northeastern Ituri province.  At least 110 civilians were killed during
the violence, which targeted non-Hema ethnic groups (HRW “Chaos in Eastern
Congo…” October 2002). 


Date:               January 19-25, 2001

Bunia, Ituri

Over 2000

Fighting between Hema and Lendu inside the
city led to the deaths of over 200 civilians who were targeted because of
their ethnicity. A Lendu militia attacked the Ugandan controlled airport to
disable a helicopter that was used in raid against their group. When the
assault was repelled, they moved to the nearby Hema neighborhoods to attack
Hema civilians. Later that day the Hema militia carried out reprisal attacks
against Lendu civilians in a different part of the city.  Victims in the
attacks reportedly included women and children; the attacks were carried out
with machetes, arrows, spears, and some victims were burned to death. (BBC:
“Ethnic Massacre in Eastern Congo” January 2001).


January 6-7, 2001

 Nyankunde, Ituri Province

6 Killed

Five Hema and
One Lendu community members were killed when a group of Lendu militia
reportedly attacked the hospital.  There were conflicting reports on how
the violence began (IRIN: “Hema and Lendu Clash…” January 2001).


October, 1999

Where:               Djugu Region of the Ituri Province

Estimates of 5000-7000 killed

Arguments over land rights led to the
killing of thousands of Hema and Lendu, and the displacement of over 100,000
people as dozens of villages were burned to the ground.  Tensions between
the groups were reportedly high after the installment of a Hema as the
governor of the new Ituri Province.


Applicability of 1948 Convention on Genocide

Article II of the UN Convention on the
Prevention and Punishment of Genocide (1948) defines genocide as, … any of
the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a
national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

Killing members of the other group;

Causing serious bodily or mental harm
to members of the group;

Causing serious bodily or mental harm
to members of the group;

Imposing measures intended to prevent
births within the group;

Forcibly transferring children of the
group to another group.

Acts of genocide have
occurred in Ituri province, by both the Hema and the Lendu. The “intent to
destroy” threshold was meet in both Nyankunde with the destruction of the
hospital and in Bunia. The parties manifest their “intent to destroy”
through killing, causing physical harm and creating life conditions designed
to bring about destruction of the opposing ethnicity. These acts of genocide
do not qualify for a full-scale determination of genocide, however due to
their present infrequency. Nonetheless, the international community and
interested parties must take strides to end the conflict before the
situation regresses into genocide on a fuller scale.



The ethic
violence in the Ituri province has led to the deaths of at least 50,000 people
(primarily civilians), and the displacement of over half a million people since
1999 (Amnesty International: “UN must take urgent steps…” October 2002). 
According to the

UN Panel on the Illegal Exploitation of Natural
Resources and Other Forms of Wealth of the DRC
  the human costs of the economically driven conflict have led to the deaths
of over 3 million Congolese (UN: “Final Report of the Panel…” October
2002).  This is a staggering figure for a conflict that has been taking
place for 5 years.  The negotiations for resolving the conflict in the DRC
have progressed over the past year and may have an impact on the long-term
security of the region.  The talks, however, have had little impact on the
short-term resolution of the humanitarian crisis or on ending the violence
and insecurity that has been instigated by the involvement of foreign


Works Cited

Amnesty International:
“Democratic Republic of Congo: UN must take urgent steps to stop the

escalation of ethnic
killings” 17 October 2002.


BBC: “Massacres in
Eastern Congo” 22 January 2001


BBC: “Ethnic massacre
claim in DR Congo” 11 July 2002.


CMS: “Massacre wipes out Anglican work in
east Congo” 11 September 2002.


International Crisis Group: “Africa’s
Seven-Nation War” 21 May 1999.


International Rescue Committee: “Mortality
in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo: Results from

Eleven Mortality
Studies” 2001.

IRIN: “Government Establishes Peace
Commission with Uganda” 27 September 2002.


Focus on Hema-Lendu conflict” 15 November 1999.


IRIN: “New Rebel Group in Bunia” 28 July


IRIN: “Peace deals fail to improve the lives
of 2.2 million IDP’s” 14 November 2002.


IRIN: “Special Report on the Ituri
Clashes-[Part One]” 3March 2000.


IRIN: “Special Report on Tensions in the
Northeast” 19 February 2002.


Human Rights Watch: “Background to the
Hema-Lendu Conflict in Uganda-Controlled Congo”

January, 2002.

Human Rights Watch: “Chaos in Eastern Congo:
UN Action Needed Now” October 2002.


Human Rights Watch: “Congo: Massacres in
Uganda-Controlled Areas” 22 January 2001.


New Congo Net: “Massacre at Nyankunde: the
world must know the horror” 30 September 2002.


Prunier, Gerard: Personal Communication 3
October 2002.

South African Broadcast Company: “Uganda
completes troop withdrawal from DRC town” 28

September 2002.<,1009,43978,00.html>

UN-OCHA “Affected Populations in the Great
Lakes Region” 31 July 2002.


Nations: “Final Report of the Panel of Experts on the Illegal Exploitation of

Resources and Other Forms of Wealth of the Democratic
Republic of the Congo” 16 October 2002.


World Health
Organization: “DR Congo Health Update July 2001” 9 August 2001.


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