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At least five killed as anti-UN protesters overrun base in eastern DRC

By RFI
Congo REUTERSOlivia Acland
JUL 26, 2022 LISTEN
REUTERS/Olivia Acland

At least five people have been killed and about 50 wounded during anti-UN protests in the eastern DR Congo city of Goma, government spokesman Patrick Muyaya said Tuesday.

Demonstrations against the perceived ineffectiveness of the UN peacekeeping operation MONUSCO erupted in Goma on Monday.

Hundreds of people blocked roads and chanted hostile slogans before storming the UN peacekeeping mission's headquarters and a logistical base - an important commercial hub of North Kivu province.

Protesters smashed windows and looted valuables, while helicopters airlifted UN staff from the premises and security forces fired teargas in a bid to push them back.

The unrest in Goma continued on Tuesday, with the fatal shooting of a man near the logistical base, an AFP correspondent saw.

In a tweet, government spokesman Muyaya added that security forces had fired "warning shots" at protesters in Goma to stop attacks on UN personnel.

Anti-UN protesters also took to the streets in the North Kivu towns of Beni and Butembo, according to witnesses.

Soldiers were deployed on the road leading to the MONUSCO base in Beni, which lies about 350 kilometres (215) miles north of Goma, while protesters burned tyres.

Security forces also dispersed protesters who had gathered in front of a MONUSCO base in Butembo, another provincial hub, local sources said.

Volatile region

The UN mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo, known as MONUSCO, is one of the world's biggest peacekeeping operations.

But it has regularly come under criticism in the country's troubled east for its perceived inability to stem decades-long bloodshed.

More than 120 armed groups roam the volatile region, where civilian massacres are common and conflict has displaced millions of people.

Ahead of Monday's protest, the Goma youth branch of the ruling UDPS party released a statement demanding MONUSCO "withdraw from Congolese soil without conditions because it has already proved its incapacity to provide us with protection".

Khassim Diagne, the deputy special representative of the UN secretary general to MONUSCO, stated after the protest that "the incidents in Goma are not only unacceptable but totally counter-productive," adding that the peacekeepers were in the region to protect civilians.

He also told AFP that the people who had entered the base were "looters". "We condemn them in the strongest terms," he said.

Resurgent militia

The protest comes after the president of the Congolese senate, Modeste Bahati, told supporters in Goma on July 15 that MONUSCO should "pack its bags".

On Monday, protesters interviewed by AFP appeared to agree with the sentiment.

"They said they don't have the strength to fight the M23, now what are they still doing here?" said Shadrac Kambale, a motorbike-taxi driver, referring to a recently resurgent militia.

After lying mostly dormant for years, the M23 group resumed fighting last November.

The rebels have since made significant advances in eastern Congo, including capturing the North Kivu town of Bunagana on the Ugandan border.

Sankara Bin, another protester, told AFP: "We don't want to see MONUSCO walking in the streets of Goma, we don't even want to see their planes flying over."

The UN first deployed an observer mission to eastern Congo in 1999. It became the peacekeeping mission MONUSCO -- the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo -- in 2010, with a mandate to conduct offensive operations.

It has a current strength of about 16,300 uniformed personnel and there have been 230 fatalities among them, according to the UN.

(with AFP)

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