Anti-UN protests in Congo's east kill 15, injures 50

At least 15 people have been killed and dozens of others injured during two days of demonstrations in Congo’s east against the United Nations mission in the country, officials said (Moses Sawasawa/AP)

At least 15 people were killed, and scores more were injured during two days of anti-UN demonstrations in the eastern region of Congo.

The United Nations confirmed that one peacekeeper and two international policemen serving with the UN peacekeeping force were killed, and another was injured at the UN base in Butembo, North Kivu province, in the east, when "violent attackers snatched weapons from Congolese police" and opened fire on UN personnel.

Farhan Haq, the deputy spokesperson for the United Nations, stated that reports of civilian deaths, including reports of UN peacekeepers killing and hurting people, will be reviewed.

Hundreds of assailants reportedly attacked MONUSCO bases in Goma and other North Kivu on Tuesday, "fueled by hostile remarks and threats made by individuals and groups against the United Nations, particularly on social media."

"Mobs are throwing stones and petrol bombs, breaking into bases, looting and vandalizing, and setting facilities on fire," Mr. Haq said, adding, "we are trying to calm things down" by assigning rapid reaction forces. Still, there is no indication that the violence has ceased.

In addition, Mr. Haq reported that at least four attacks targeted the homes of MONUSCO personnel, who have since been transferred to UN camps. Earlier on Tuesday, he added that a mob attempted to infiltrate the compound of the United Nations Development Programme but was repulsed by security officers.

Monday, demonstrators set fire to and forced entry into the UN mission offices in Goma, accusing the peacekeeping forces of failing to protect residents amid escalating violence in the eastern area of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. They demand that the UN forces, which have been in Congo for years, withdraw.

Monday saw the deaths of at least six individuals in Goma and eight civilians in Butembo, according to Congo's police.

On Monday, government spokesman Patrick Muaya reported that at least five persons had been murdered, and another fifty had been injured.

Protesters attributed the fatalities to the troops' gunfire.

Numerous rebel factions reside in the mineral-rich east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The region's security has deteriorated despite a year of emergency operations by a joint force of the militaries of Congo and Uganda. Civilians in the east have also experienced bloodshed at the hands of jihadi rebels affiliated with the Islamic State.

On Twitter, the government spokesman described the response by security personnel and peacekeepers as "warning shots to disperse the demonstrators and prevent any attack on the @MONUSCO base and facilities."

"The government has ordered the security forces to take all necessary steps to ensure the return of calm and the normalization of activities in Goma," he said. In addition, he stressed that the peacekeeping soldiers are already being removed.

In Congo's Kasai Central and Tanganyika areas, the peacekeeping operation closed its post in June 2021 and June 2022. According to the United Nations, the mission has more than 16,000 uniformed personnel in Congo.

As a result of the escalating combat between the Congolese military and M23 rebels, approximately 200,000 people have been forced to evacuate their homes. According to a report by Human Rights Watch, the M23 troops have improved their weapons and defensive skills.

The acting head of MONUSCO, Khassim Diagne, and the spokesman for the UN, Mr. Haq, condemned the killings of UN workers.

Mr. Haq stated that UN peacekeeping commander Jean Pierre Lacroix, now in Mali, will come to Congo "as soon as possible."

Mr. Diagne called the violence against the United Nations "absolutely unacceptable" and "counterproductive" in light of the goal of MONUSCO to protect people, dissuade armed groups, and strengthen the ability of state institutions and services.

Mr. Haq responded to a question about whether the UN's effort was a failure because armed groups continue to roam the country by stating, "Our presence has provided protection, but it has not solved the problem," which involves the region and armed groups competing for control of mineral- and resource-rich areas.

Within this framework, he said, the United Nations has been "doing our best" to guarantee that people's lives and fundamental rights are not violated.

Mr. Haq stated that the UN intended to reduce its peacekeeping presence and withdraw from Congo, but "we have stayed because the situation on the ground is far too perilous for us to consider leaving and putting so many lives at risk."

Publish : 2022-07-27 08:19:00

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