The Ituri conflict was a major conflict between the agriculturalist Lendu and pastoralist Hema ethnic groups in the Ituri region of the north-eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). While the two groups had fought since at least as early as 1972, the conflict itself lasted from 1999 to 2003. A low-level armed conflict continued until 2007.
The conflict was complicated by the presence of various armed groups (many of which had participated in the Second Congo War), the large quantities of small arms in the region, the area's abundant natural resources and wealth, and the existing ethnic tensions throughout the region. The Lendu ethnicity was largely represented by the Nationalist and Integrationist Front (FNI) while the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC) claimed to be fighting for the Hema.
The conflict was extremely violent and was accompanied by large-scale massacres perpetrated by members of both ethnic factions. In 2006, the BBC reported that as many as 60,000 people had died in Ituri since 1998. Hundreds of thousands of people were forced from their homes, becoming refugees.
In June 2003, the European Union begun Operation Artemis, sending a French-led peacekeeping force to Ituri. The EU force managed to take control of the regional capital of Bunia. Despite this, however, fighting and massacres continued in the countryside. In December 2003, the Hema-backed UPC split and fighting decreased significantly.