Twenty civilians were killed Wednesday in Ituri in the northeast of the Democratic Republic of Congo, where hundreds of people have been the target of “crimes against humanity” that could be brought before the International Criminal Court (ICC) d ‘after international bodies.
The killing took place just before dawn in Djugu territory, the epicenter of the violence north of the capital of Bunia province, a local official told AFP.
“Given the insecurity that reigns in the area, we await the return of the team that is on the ground for the details of the exact toll,” he details on the provisional toll of about twenty dead.
The killing was attributed to militiamen from the Cooperative for the Development of the Congo (Codeco), accused of most of the massacres.
Codeco claims to defend the interests of one of the communities of Ituri (the Lendu, farmers), particularly against the Hémas (breeders and traders).
Thousands of people have fled the violence. “Between October 1, 2019 and May 31, 2020, at least 530 civilians have been killed by armed groups in Ituri, including 375 since the peak of violence in March,” according to the United Nations on June 5.
“Crimes against humanity,” said High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet in late January after visiting Bunia.
“And the majority of the victims come from the Hema community,” she added in an interview with Radio France Internationale (RFI).
The killings “could constitute crimes under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court,” warned ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda on June 4.
A conflict between the militias of the two Lendu and Hema communities, instrumentalized by neighboring Uganda, had killed tens of thousands between 1999 and 2003, until the intervention of a European force Artemis under French command.
Violence resumed for obscure reasons in late 2017, this time without Uganda appearing to play a role. The Hema did not reconstitute militias, relying on the – sometimes failing – authority of the State.
Former warlords of the 1999-2003 conflict were sent a few days ago on a peace mission in Ituri by the President of the Republic.