At least 15 killed as anti-U.N. protests flare in east Congo

by mcardinal


At least 15 people were killed and about 50 wounded during a second day of violent anti-United Nations protests in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s eastern cities of Goma and Butembo on Tuesday, authorities said.

The dead included demonstrators and U.N. personnel as U.N. sites were attacked by crowds.

A Reuters reporter saw U.N. peacekeepers shoot dead two protesters as people threw rocks, vandalized, and set fire to U.N. buildings in Goma.

The demonstrations began on Monday when hundreds of people attacked and looted a U.N. warehouse in Goma – a regional hub for international aid groups – demanding that the mission leave the country. They flared again on Tuesday and spread to Butembo, about 124 miles north of Goma.

The protests were called by a faction of the ruling party’s youth wing that accuses the U.N. mission – known as MONUSCO – of failing to protect civilians against militia violence.

“Mobs are throwing stones and petrol bombs, breaking into bases, looting and vandalizing, and setting facilities on fire,” Deputy U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq told reporters in New York.

Some stormed the houses of U.N. workers who were evacuated from Goma in a convoy of vehicles escorted by the army, a reporter said.

One peacekeeper and two U.N. police personnel were killed when their base in Butembo was attacked, the U.N. spokesman said. Butembo’s police chief said that seven civilians were also killed when the peacekeepers retaliated.

“The situation is very volatile, and reinforcements are being mobilized,” Haq said, adding that U.N. forces had been told to exercise maximum restraint and only fire warning shots.

Government spokesman Patrick Muyaya had said earlier that at least five people were killed and about 50 wounded in Goma. The Reuters reporter in Goma said peacekeepers fired tear gas and live bullets at the crowd, killing two and wounding at least two others.

Protesters were initially peaceful but turned violent as some picked tear-gas grenades off the ground and threw them back at the MONUSCO warehouse.

Butembo police chief Paul Ngoma said demonstrators attacked the MONUSCO base there with stones and gunfire.

“That’s how three MONUSCO peacekeepers died. On the population side the provisional report shows seven dead as MONUSCO also reacted with weapons,” Ngoma said.

India’s foreign minister said two of the peacekeepers who died were Indian. Ngoma said the third one was Moroccan.

Among the demonstrators were militiamen recruited from the bush who brought weapons, he said, adding that the number of wounded was unknown.

MONUSCO – the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo – has been gradually withdrawing for years.

Resurgent clashes between local troops and the M23 rebel group in east Congo have displaced thousands. Attacks by militants linked to Islamic State have also continued despite a year-long state of emergency and joint operations against them by the Congolese and Ugandan armies.

MONUSCO took over from an earlier peacekeeping operation in 2010. It had more than 12,000 troops and 1,600 police deployed in Congo as of November 2021.

Copyright 2022 Thomson/Reuters