2 UN peacekeepers from BSF among 15 killed in anti-UN protests in Congo

Hundreds of assailants attacked bases of the UN force MONUSCO in Goma and other parts of North Kivu fuelled by hostile remarks and threats made by individuals and groups against the UN

The protesters have been agitating against the rise of insecurity and inaction of the UN in the region. Photo: Twitter

Two Border Security Force (BSF) personnel who were part of the UN Peacekeeping Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo were among the 15 people killed on Tuesday in anti-UN protests in the eastern city near the country’s border with Uganda.

Dozens of others have been injured in the violence.

“Deeply grieved at the loss of lives of two valiant Indian peacekeepers of the BSF in the Democratic Republic of Congo. They were part of MONUSCO. The perpetrators of these outrageous attacks must be held accountable and brought to justice. Deepest condolences to the bereaved families,” External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar tweeted.

Two policemen were also killed in the violence at the UN base in Butembo in North Kivu province in the east when violent attackers snatched weapons from Congolese police and fired on the UN personnel.

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UN deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said reports of civilian casualties, including reports of UN peacekeepers killing and injuring civilians, would be investigated.

He said that on Tuesday hundreds of assailants again attacked bases of the UN force, known by its French acronym MONUSCO, in Goma as well as other parts of North Kivu fuelled by hostile remarks and threats made by individuals and groups against the U.N., particularly on social media.

“Mobs are throwing stones and petrol bombs, breaking into bases, looting and vandalizing, and setting facilities on fire,” Haq said.

“We are trying to calm things down including by dispatching quick reaction forces but there is no evidence the violence has ended.”

In addition, Haq said at least four incidents targeted the residences of MONUSCO staff, who have now been relocated to UN camps.

And a mob also tried to enter the compound of the UN Development Programme earlier Tuesday but was rebelled by security guards, he said.

Demonstrators on Monday had set fires and forced entry into the UN mission offices in Goma, accusing the peacekeeping forces of failing to protect civilians amid rising violence in Congo’s eastern region.

They are calling for the UN forces, present in Congo for years, to leave. Congo’s police said at least six people were killed in Goma on Monday, and eight civilians in Butembo.

Earlier, government spokesman Patrick Muyaya said at least five people were killed and about 50 wounded by Monday.

Protesters blamed shots fired by the peacekeepers for the deaths.

Congo’s mineral-rich east is home to myriad rebel groups and the regions security has worsened despite a year of emergency operations by a joint force of the armies of Congo and Uganda.

Civilians in the east have also had to deal with violence from jihadi rebels linked to the Islamic State group. The government spokesman didn’t say what caused the deaths but on Twitter, he described the response by security forces and peacekeepers as warning shots to disperse the demonstrators and prevent any attack on the @MONUSCO base and installations.

“The government has instructed the security forces to take all measures to ensure a return to calm and the normal resumption of activities in Goma,” he said.

He also reiterated that steps are already being taken for the peacekeeping forces to be withdrawn. In June 2021 and June 2022, the peacekeeping mission closed its office in Congo’s Kasai Central and Tanganyika regions.

The mission has more than 16,000 uniformed personnel in Congo, according to the UN. The protests are taking place as fighting has escalated between Congolese troops and the M23 rebels, forcing nearly 200,000 people to flee their homes.

The M23 forces have shown increased firepower and defense capabilities, according to a report by Human Rights Watch.

MONUSCO’s acting head Khassim Diagne and UN spokesman Haq condemned the killings of U.N. personnel. Haq said U.N. peacekeeping chief Jean Pierre Lacroix, who is currently in Mali, will be traveling to Congo at his earliest opportunity.

Diagne described the violence against the UN as absolutely unacceptable and counterproductive given MONUSCO’s mission to protect civilians, deter armed groups and build the capacity of state institutions and services.

(With inputs from agencies)

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