Preventing Widespread Conflict In Democratic Republic Of Congo (Ituri)

Preventing Widespread Conflict In Democratic Republic Of Congo (Ituri)

Year(s): 2003.

Location: Ituri, Democratic Republic of Congo.

UN Regional Group: Africa.

Type of Conflict: Vertical (state-based) Intrastate Conflict with Foreign Involvement.

Type of Initiative: A peacekeeping mission.

Main Implementing Organisation(s): The EU and UN.

Impact: Limited.

Summary: Operation Artemis prevented a much larger conflict which could have contributed to a major famine from happening in Ituri, Democratic Republic of Congo, in 2003.

Description of Case 

​At the height of the Second Congo War, most of the country was divided into three areas controlled by the governments of Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Rwanda, and Uganda. As the peace process started showing signs of progress and personnel of the United Nations Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Mission de l’Organisation des Nations Unies pour la stabilisation en République démocratique du Congo, MONUC) began deploying, the presence of uninvited foreign troops on Congolese soil came under increasing scrutiny by institutions such as the International Court of Justice. The province of Ituri, on the border of Uganda, was the scene of considerable fighting during the war but was ultimately under the control of the Ugandan government by the end of the conflict. In 2002, during talks hosted by the Government of Angola, the Ugandan and Congolese administrations negotiated a plan for the withdrawal of all Ugandan forces from DRC and formally normalised relations as part of the Luanda Agreement.[1] The plan included provisions for the creation of an Ituri Pacification Commission (IPC). Composed of local citizens, MONUC, representatives of the international community, and the governments of DRC and Uganda, the IPC developed a roadmap for peace and laid the foundations for an interim administration to be established in Ituri following the Ugandan withdrawal.[2] However, rather than restoring stability, the departure of 7,000 Ugandan troops on 6 May 2003 opened the door to an eruption of violence between the various militias operating in the province over control of key towns such as Bunia. DRC security forces were unable to assert control of the area, and a lone battalion of Uruguayan MONUC personnel could not protect the thousands of civilians fleeing the violence.[3] In addition to the dangers posed by conflict, the crisis threatened to spark a major humanitarian disaster in a region already devastated by conflict and famine.

In response to the worsening situation, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan called for a rapid intervention to protect civilians in Ituri until MONUC forces in the area could be reinforced later that year. Just seven days later, the first soldiers of a force composed mostly of French troops (90 percent) supported by other (mostly) European states landed in Bunia as part of the EU’s Operation Artemis.[4] This mission succeeded in restoring security to the town and preventing a wider conflict from taking place in Ituri after the Ugandan withdrawal, provided protection and aid to tens of thousands of refugees, and offered a vital window for the overstretched MONUC to gather its strength.[5] In September 2003, Artemis was withdrawn, and the UN assumed responsibility for security in Bunia and Ituri. The intervention did not end armed conflict in Eastern DRC, but it did prevent a major conflict from erupting.

[1] Agreement between the DRC and Uganda on withdrawal of Ugandan Troops, Cooperation and Normalization of Relations between the two countries (Luanda Agreement), 2002. Available at: (Accessed 05/01/2022)

[2] Kees Homan. “Operation Artemis in the Democratic Republic of Congo.” in European Commission. Faster and More United? The Debate About Europe’s Crisis Response Capacity. (Brussels: EC, 2007) p.151

[3] Ståle Ulriksen, Catriona Gourlay, & Catriona Mace. “Operation Artemis: the shape of things to come?” International Peacekeeping, Vol. 11, No. 3. (2004) pp.511-2

[4] Ibid. pp.516-7

[5] Homan. “Operation Artemis in the Democratic Republic of Congo.” p.3