Beni – Soldiers fired warning shots to disperse protesters approaching a UN peacekeepers’ base in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo on Monday, an AFP correspondent saw, a day after two people were killed by members of the UN force.
Congolese forces shot into the air and police fired tear gas to break up two columns of dozens of people in the eastern border city of Beni, who were rallying against the UN peacekeeping mission, MONUSCO.
Security perimeters had been set up in front of MONUSCO buildings, where the UN force has also stepped up security with armoured vehicles and tanks, the correspondent saw.
Anger has been fuelled by perceptions that MONUSCO is failing to do enough to stop decades of armed conflict. More than 120 militias operate in the DRC’s troubled east.
“We’re facing a force which has all the military, logistic and financial means to put an end to the activities of armed groups,” said Losuire Shabani, of the pro-democracy movement Lucha (Fight for Change).
“It doesn’t use them. As a result, we are asking for these tourists to leave. We will demonstrate until we effectively get this departure now that peacekeepers are killing us instead of armed militia,” he added, also addressing the demonstrators.
On Sunday, two people were killed and 15 injured after UN peacekeepers opened fire during an incident in eastern DR Congo on the Uganda border.
The peacekeepers, coming back from leave in Uganda, opened fire before opening the barrier and crossing the border at Kasindi, in Beni territory.
UN chief Antonio Guterres said he was “outraged” by the deadly incident and demanded “accountability”.
A total of five UN peacekeepers – three Moroccans and two Indians -died in the Democratic Republic of Congo last week, with three of the fatalities linked to violent protests in the town of Butembo.
Senior UN official Jean-Pierre Lacroix and MONUSCO’s leader in the city of Goma, Bintou Keita, paid tribute to the dead in a ceremony on Monday marked by the absence of Congolese representatives.
Keita spoke of “completely unfounded” reasons that motivated some of the local population’s anti-MONUSCO sentiment and acknowledged “improvements” were needed.
The United Nations first deployed an observer mission to eastern Congo in 1999 and established MONUSCO in 2010 with a mandate to conduct offensive operations.
The peacekeeping operation is one of the largest and costliest in the world, with its annual budget worth $1 billion.
Picture: Getty Images