Unlike the widespread fighting during DRC's four year civil war, this appears to be largely ethnic in origin and unrelated to the issues of the civil war. Until a few days ago, the town of 300,000 had been under the control of Lendu militia but they were driven out earlier this week by a well-armed Hema militia. The Lendu and the Hema are the two main ethnic adversaries in this area.
While the United Nations Security Council continues debating how to resolve this fighting, the conflict continues unabated. Most residents have already fled the city and many of them have made it across the borders into Uganda or Burundi. Although the U.N. started an emergency debate on May 12, it is not expected that any decisions will be made for at least several days with implementation of any action to come some time after that.
France has offered troops and urged other nations to do the same but the Hema militia in DRC has already declared they consider the French to be an enemy force who they will engage.
Local aid agencies, including the U.N. personnel on the ground, are already predicting a humanitarian crisis if action does not come quickly. It is thought that the present conditions in the Bunia area are very similar to those in Rwanda just before the 1994 genocide began. Food and medical supplies are dangerously low and only the flight of so many residents has presented this situation from already reaching a crisis point.
The ethnic Lendu and Hema have a long-standing dispute over land and there have been accusations that Rwanda and Uganda have fanned the flames of this dispute. The Lendus are farmers while the Hemas are both farmers and livestock ranchers; in many parts of Africa, there are quarrels between farmers and pastoralists but observers of the history of this area say this dispute was made worse by outside powers during colonial times and more recently by the Ugandans and Rwandans.
Last year, the U.N. reported that Ugandan commanders had personally benefited from exploitation of Ituri province's rich resources. The area is rich in gold and a Canadian firm, Heritage Oil Corporation, is busy exploring for oil in the region.
YellowTimes.org correspondent Paul Harris drafted this report.