Ethnic clashes have broken out in DR Congo’s northern province of Ituri, leaving at least 79 people dead and tens of thousands displaced. The bulk of the fighting is between the Hema and Lendu tribes. According to reports from Al Jazeera, Lendu fighters have razed at least six villages in the past week, and some 60,000 displaced people are seeking shelter in the provincial capital of Bunia.
Lendu-Hema violence has a long history that spans over 40 years and several wars. Ituri was branded “the bloodiest corner of Congo” by Human Rights Watch in 2003, when it estimated that some 55,000 civilians had been killed from 1999-2003. Since then the death toll has slowly ticked upward as low-level conflict raged between the pastoralist Hemas and farming Lendus.
The recent spike in violence does not bode well for the overall stability of DR Congo, especially given the uncertainty surrounding the future of President Joseph Kabila, who has remained in office beyond his constitutionally mandated two-term limit.