Protesters demand UN troops leave DRC amid growing conflict | United Nations News
The UN peacekeeping mission, MONUSCO, has come under regular criticism for its perceived inability to stop fighting in the conflict-torn east.
Protesters set fire to and forced entry into UN mission facilities in Goma, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, demanding peacekeepers leave the country amid insecurity growing in the region.
Hundreds of people blocked roads and chanted anti-UN slogans on Monday before breaking into the headquarters of the UN peacekeeping mission in Goma, a major commercial hub in North Kivu province .
Protesters smashed windows and looted computers, furniture and other valuables from the headquarters, an AFP reporter witnessed, while UN police fired tear gas in an attempt to repel them.
Helicopters airlifted some UN officials from the overrun headquarters.
Protesters also stormed a UN logistics base on the outskirts of town, where a student was shot in the leg.
The UN peacekeeping mission in the DRC, known as MONUSCO, has regularly come under local criticism for its perceived inability to stop fighting in the conflict-torn east.
More than 120 armed groups roam this volatile region, where massacres of civilians are frequent and where the conflict has displaced millions of people.
Ahead of Monday’s protest, the Goma youth wing of the ruling UDPS party issued a statement calling on MONUSCO “to withdraw from Congolese soil unconditionally as it has already proven its inability to provide us with protection”.
Khassim Diagne, the deputy special representative of the UN secretary-general to MONUSCO, said after the protest that “the incidents in Goma are not only unacceptable but totally counterproductive”, adding that peacekeepers were in the area to protect civilians.
He also told AFP that the people who entered the base were “looters”. “We condemn them in the strongest terms,” he said.
The protest comes after DRC Senate President Modeste Bahati told supporters in Goma on July 15 that MONUSCO needed to “pack its bags”.
On Monday, protesters interviewed by AFP seemed to agree with this sentiment.
“They said they didn’t have the strength to fight the M23, now what are they still doing here?” said Shadrac Kambale, a motorcycle taxi driver, referring to a recently resurgent militia.
After lying dormant for years, the group resumed fighting last November.
The rebels have since made significant advances in eastern Congo, including taking the North Kivu town of Bunagana on the Ugandan border.
Sankara Bin, another protester, told AFP: “We don’t want to see MONUSCO marching in the streets of Goma, we don’t even want to see their planes flying overhead.”
The UN first deployed an observer mission to eastern Congo in 1999. It became the peacekeeping mission MONUSCO – the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic Congo – in 2010, with a mandate to carry out offensive operations.
It currently has about 16,300 men in uniform and there have been 230 deaths among them, according to the UN.