Conflict in Ituri Province of Democratic Republic of Congo

A CODECO militiaman A CODECO militiaman ALEXIS HUGUET (AFP)

28 September 2020

The violence in Ituri Province is causing tens of thousands of civilians to flee from their homes

In the Djugu and Mahagi areas, in Ituri Province in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), conflict started again in December 2017. It is estimated that tens of thousands of civilians have been displaced since then.

As per the testimony of a teacher Joachim Lobo who used to work in Ituri Province, he dreams of being reunited with his students if the violence stopped in northeastern DRC. He belongs to the Hema community and last year had to leave Sombuso, in Djugu. He had to save himself from the cruelty of a group of the Congo Development Cooperative (CODECO) which was initially created by the Lendu people who are responsible for the deaths of a huge number of Hema civilians. Lobo is currently living in a camp for displaced people 12 miles away in Loda. The absence of latrines, food, drinking water, and medical care creates very hard conditions to live in. “We thought we would have a responsible government, yet we don’t know when we can return to our land” he said. Besides, this is not the first time Lobo is forced to flee as it also happened in 1999 during the Second Congo War (1998-2003), a conflict that saw Lendu and Hema fighting against each other.

President Felix Tshisekedi denounced the violence as an “attempted genocide” and a “plot”  and announced a military operation named “Ituri Tempest” against the attackers, which led to the death of a CODECO chief. One year later, he sent a delegation of former militia chiefs to negotiate the surrender of pro-Lendu fighters. The daily raids have declined after the talks. Some key roads are again open to traffic even if vehicles are still controlled by the military. Agathe Gipatho, a 60-year-old woman, during an exchange with members of the Alur community in Nioka said they need military forces that can protect the population and create peace. In the meantime, some people are  still skeptical about any peace process.


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Author: Giulia Francescon; Editor: Shrabya Ghimire

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