Deadly ethnic violence erupts in DRC's Ituri

iStock
iStock

Kinshasa - More than 30 people have been killed and hundreds of homes torched in an explosion of ethnic violence in a Democratic Republic of Congo province where the EU launched a landmark peacekeeping mission, multiple sources told AFP on Monday.

The clashes erupted on Friday in the eastern province of Ituri, between the Hema and Lendu ethnic groups, resulting in at least 23 Hema being "massacred", said Hema spokesperson Hadji Ibrahim Ruhigwa Bamaraki, denouncing the deaths as "a terrorist aggression".

"Hundreds of homes have been burned down in several villages," he said, adding that 12 people were also seriously injured.

Hema herders and Lendu farmers have been locked in violence in Ituri for decades, with tens of thousands killed from 1999 to 2003.

A high-ranking provincial official, who did not wish to be named, confirmed the death toll since Friday and said 10 Lendu fighters also died.

KEEP UPDATED on the latest news from around the continent by subscribing to our FREE newsletter, Hello Africa.

 

FOLLOW News24 Africa on Twitter and Facebook.

"Four people (from the Hema community) died this morning. A police captain died from gunshot wounds and three police were injured," the official said.

"Between 500 and 800 families have been displaced," he added.

Ituri is part of DRC's deeply troubled eastern region that includes the restive North and South Kivu provinces, where militias hold sway over huge areas.

In 2003, the violence was so great it triggered Operation Artemis, a three-month operation by the European Union, its first military mission outside Europe.

It succeeded in the goal of avoiding a humanitarian catastrophe, but the fighting never came to a total halt, and occasional flare-ups still wrack the area.

On Monday, the Catholic charity Caritas said more than 30 people had been killed in the Djugu area and blamed the new clashes on "Lendu combatants."

"They come naked and in silence. They burn down huts, take away possessions and kill people they see or who resist them," Caritas said.

It called on the Congolese government to protect civilians and property and arrest those responsible.

The UN peacekeeping mission in DRC, MONUSCO, said it would conduct an air reconnaissance mission to assess the situation.

The Hema community has begun two days of mourning and stopped all commercial activity as a mark of respect.

The latest violence comes amid uncertainty over the future of President Joseph Kabila, who has ruled since 2001.

Kabila, whose regime has been widely criticised for corruption and repression, was meant to finish his second and final term in office more than a year ago, but has stayed in power.

Under a deal brokered by the Catholic Church, he was meant to step down under elections that should have been held last year. Instead, the polls have been postponed until December this year.

The opposition have accused Kabila of seeking to remain in power as long as possible.

"We are approaching the elections and there are hotbeds of tension all over the country, Kasai, in the Kivus and now there is renewed violence in Ituri. We must remain on our guard," said opposition MP Juvenal Munubo.

Ituri has remained a "breeding ground for violence, because there has been no real reconciliation between Lendu and Hema," he added.

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
Subscribe to News24
Lockdown For
DAYS
HRS
MINS
Voting Booth
Who do you think is going to win the 2020 US election?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Results
Biden is going to take it
46% - 7338 votes
It's four more years for Trump
54% - 8459 votes
Vote
ZAR/USD
16.18
(-0.11)
ZAR/GBP
21.11
(+0.32)
ZAR/EUR
19.19
(-0.32)
ZAR/AUD
11.55
(-0.12)
ZAR/JPY
0.15
(-0.13)
Gold
1902.10
(-0.13)
Silver
24.58
(-0.38)
Platinum
903.00
(+2.55)
Brent Crude
42.50
(+1.69)
Palladium
2377.52
(+0.95)
All Share
55339.58
(+0.99)
Top 40
50692.28
(+0.83)
Financial 15
10790.70
(+3.99)
Industrial 25
74905.70
(+1.05)
Resource 10
52561.57
(-0.49)
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes morningstar logo