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25.11.2019 Congo

DR Congo, UN announce 'joint operations' after Beni violence

By AFP
Democratic Republic of Congo.  By  (AFP)
NOV 25, 2019 CONGO
Democratic Republic of Congo. By (AFP)

DR Congo and UN peacekeepers will launch "joint operations" to beef up security in an eastern town where massacres by a shadowy armed group sparked angry protests by local people, the presidential office said Monday.

Demonstrators stormed a United Nations peacekeepers' camp near the DR Congo town of Beni, incensed by failures to curb a notorious group that killed eight civilians overnight, an AFP reporter said.

Defying warning shorts fired by Congolese security forces, protesters broke into the camp, which had apparently been evacuated, and set fire to an office, an AFP reporter saw.

They were among an angry crowd several hundred strong that had headed to two camps after setting fire to Beni town hall, partially damaging it.

Army spokesman Colonel Mak Hazukai confirmed that the town had been attacked by armed men overnight, telling AFP that "the enemy entered the Boikene quarter and killed eight civilians".

The killing has been blamed on the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) militia, a group that has its historical roots among Ugandan Islamists opposed to Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni.

The force has plagued eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) for decades, despite the presence of a large UN force and repeated pledges by the government to root it out.

Within hours of the massacre and the protest, the DRC presidency in Kinshasa announced the armed forces would stage "joint operations" in Beni with the UN force, MONUSCO.

The operations aim at "ensuring peace and security for the civilian population," it said after an emergency meeting with MONUSCO.

The DRC's armed forces will also set up an "advance headquarters" in Beni, it said in a statement.

The army launched an offensive in the Beni area on October 30, vowing to "definitively wipe out" armed groups in the lawless east.

In response, the ADF has carried out a string of massacres, apparently to discourage people from collaborating with the authorities.

Seventy-seven civilians have been killed in the Beni region since November 5, according to a not-for-profit organisation, the Congo Research Group (CRG).

Embattled mission

MONUSCO -- the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo -- is one of the biggest UN peacekeeping operations in the world.

It was established in 2010, taking over from a UN mission in Congo called MONUC, set up in 1999 at the height of the second Congo War.

The mission today comprises more than 16,500 military personnel and observers, 1,300 police and at least 4,000 civilians.

But it has struggled to make headway in a vast country beset by armed groups as well as entrenched poverty and poor governance.

On Monday, the speaker of the DR Congo parliament, Jeanine Mabunda, said MONUSCO's mission "cannot be limitless".

"There is an unease over the presence, the cost of MONUSCO in the DRC, and the results obtained," Mabanda said in Paris.

She said it was "legitimate for people to ask why this force is still in the DRC."

On Saturday, the mission said the Congolese army had launched its anti-militia offensive unilaterally, and this was why it could not intervene.

"MONUSCO cannot engage in operations in a war zone without being asked and without strict coordination with the national army," it explained in a tweet.

Uncoordinated action could lead to casualties from friendly fire, it added.

Troubled region

Beni, in addition to being in the front line of militia violence, is also the epicentre of an Ebola epidemic that has killed around 2,200 people since August 2018.

On Sunday, a Dornier-228 plane smashed into a densely populated area of Goma shortly after takeoff.  By PAMELA TULIZO (AFP) On Sunday, a Dornier-228 plane smashed into a densely populated area of Goma shortly after takeoff. By PAMELA TULIZO (AFP)

On Friday, the World Health Organization (WHO) said fighting in the region could jeopardise an opportunity to end the outbreak.

Also in eastern DR Congo, at least 29 people were killed on Sunday when a small plane crashed after takeoff, smashing into a densely populated area of the city of Goma.

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