At least 161 people were killed in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Ituri province over the past week, local officials said on Monday.
The killings are reported to have been ethnically targeted in an apparent resurgence of clashes between farming and herding communities.
Although identities of the attackers has not been confirmed, fingers point to violence between Hema herders and Lendu farmers, who have been embroiled in bitter conflicts for years over grazing rights and political representation.
Open conflict between the two sides from 1999-2007 resulted in the deaths of around 50,000 people in one of the bloodiest chapters of the DR Congo’s civil war that left millions dead from conflict, hunger and disease.
The two sides also clashed in late 2017 and early 2018, killing hundreds of people and displacing tens of thousands.
Reuters reports a parliamentarian from Ituri to say the latest violence was sparked by the killing of Lendu businesspeople last Monday.
“Members of the Lendu community believed that these assassinations were the work of the Hema,” Pascal Kakoraki Baguma said. “This is why they launched several attacks on Hema villages.”
“Sources affirm that 161 bodies have been found so far. But the death toll goes beyond the bodies recovered, as there were other massacres of civilians and police officers,” he said.
Restoring peace and stability in the DR Congo’s eastern borderlands remains a key focus of President Felix Tshisekedi, who took office in January 2019.