3 UN mission personnel among 15 killed as protests flare up in Congo

3 UN mission personnel among 15 killed as protests flare up in Congo

Government spokesman puts death toll in Goma since Monday at 15, including 12 civilians, 1 UN peacekeeper, 1 UN police officers, and 61 injured

By Aurore Bonny

DOUALA, Cameroon (AA) – At least 15 people have been killed, including one UN peacekeeper and two UN police officers, and over 60 injured since Monday as violent anti-UN mission protests spread from Goma, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, to several towns on Wednesday.

Protests against the UN Stabilization Mission in Congo (MONUSCO) resumed and spread in many towns in the North Kivu province on Wednesday, according to local media.

During a joint press conference with Khassim Diagne, deputy representative of the UN secretary-general, government spokesman Patrick Muyuya said 15 people had been killed since Monday, including 12 civilians, one UN peacekeeper, and two UN police personnel.

He added that 61 people have been injured and are being treated at hospitals in North Kivu.

The protests came after Modeste Bahati Lukwebo, head of the Congolese Senate, accused the international community of being "complicit" in the country's instability and encouraged people to "take up all kinds of arms."

"We even question if it is worth continuing to hold Monusco on our soil with 20,000 soldiers stationed here for 22 years and no peace," Lukwebo said.

He also accused the UN of refusing to lift the embargo on the Democratic Republic of Congo's arms procurement before the UN Security Council.

- Warning shots and claims about UN

Protesters resumed on Wednesday in several locations throughout Goma, demanding that the UN mission leave the country.

The police used warning shots to disperse the demonstrators and clear the roads in Goma, according to local media outlet Actualite.cd, adding that various commercial activities in the city remain halted.

The Congolese authorities and MONUSCO officials met on Tuesday night after mobs vandalized and looted the mission's warehouse during Monday protests.

The assailants snatched their weapons and shot them at close range, said the MONUSCO official.

The death toll is the result of demonstrations in North Kivu, a province of Congo plagued by insecurity and the threat of armed rebel groups.

People have claimed that UN forces shot civilians on Monday and Tuesday.

The UN’s Diagne denied the allegations, saying, "I'm not sure where this information originated from if shots were fired. But I can promise you that under our rules of engagement, we are not permitted to fire on people. We are still the United Nations, after all.”

He said that the use of force was never reported to him by the head of MONUSCO operations and that if the UN mission had fired on civilians, there would have been hundreds of deaths, not dozens.

"That is not our approach … I have to tell them to just use warning shots in all circumstances," Diagne said.

The gunfire reported by multiple local sources, according to Muyuyale, were "warning shots to disperse the demonstrators and prevent any attack on MONUSCO."

The government has directed security forces to take all appropriate measures to restore calm and restore normalcy, he said.

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