Anti-UN protests in DR Congo leave 15 dead

·3-min read

At least 15 people have been killed and about 50 wounded during a second day of violent anti-United Nations protests in Democratic Republic of Congo's eastern cities of Goma and Butembo, authorities say.

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

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

The demonstrations began on Monday, when hundreds of people attacked and looted a UN 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 200km north of Goma.

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

"Mobs are throwing stones and petrol bombs, breaking into bases, looting and vandalising, and setting facilities on fire," Deputy UN spokesman Farhan Haq told reporters in New York.

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

One peacekeeper and two UN police personnel were killed when their base in Butembo was attacked, the UN 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 mobilised," Haq said, adding that UN 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 Organisation Stabilisation 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 DR Congo have displaced thousands.

Attacks by militants linked to the Islamic State group have also continued despite a year-long state of emergency and joint operations against them by the DR Congolese and Ugandan armies.

MONUSCO took over from an earlier peacekeeping operation in 2010.

It had more than 12,000 troops and 1600 police deployed in DR Congo as of November 2021.

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