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5 killed, 50 injured in anti-UN protests in eastern Congo

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KINSHASA, Congo (AP) — At least five people have been killed and about 50 others injured during the second day of protests in Goma, eastern Congo, against the United Nations mission in the country, an official said. governmental.

The UN has confirmed that a peacekeeper and two international police officers serving with the UN peacekeeping force were killed and another injured at the UN base in Butembo in the North Province -Kivu in the east when “violent assailants snatched weapons from Congolese police” and fired on UN personnel.

Deputy UN spokesman Farhan Haq said reports of civilian casualties, including reports of UN peacekeepers killing and injuring civilians, would be subject to scrutiny. ‘investigation.

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 in other parts of North Kivu” fueled by hostile remarks and threats made by individuals and groups against the UN, especially on social media. “

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“Crowds are throwing rocks and petrol bombs, breaking into bases, looting and vandalizing, and setting fire to facilities,” Haq said. “We are trying to calm things down”, including by sending rapid reaction forces, but there is no evidence that the violence has ended.

Additionally, Haq said at least four incidents targeted the residences of MONUSCO personnel, who have now been moved to UN camps. And a crowd also tried to enter the United Nations Development Program compound earlier on Tuesday but were rebuffed by security guards, he said.

On Monday, protesters set fires and forced entry into UN mission offices in Goma, accusing peacekeepers of failing to protect civilians amid rising violence in the region eastern Congo. They are calling on the UN forces, present in the Congo for years, to leave.

“At least 5 dead, around 50 injured,” government spokesman Patrick Muyaya said in a tweet, condemning the attacks on UN personnel and buildings.

Protesters blamed shots fired by peacekeepers for the deaths.

Mineral-rich eastern Congo is home to a myriad of rebel groups and security in the region has deteriorated despite a year of emergency operations by a joint force of Congo and Ugandan armies. Civilians in the east have also faced violence from jihadist rebels linked to the Islamic State group.

The government spokesman did not say what caused the deaths but described the response of security forces and peacekeepers as “warning shots to disperse protesters and prevent any attacks on the base and installations. from @MONUSCO,” he said on his Twitter account.

“The government has instructed the security forces to take all measures to ensure a return to calm and the resumption of normal activities in Goma,” he said. He also reiterated that steps are already being taken for the withdrawal of peacekeeping forces.

In June 2021 and June 2022, the peacekeeping mission closed its office in the Congolese regions of Kasai Central and Tanganyika. Mission has more than 16,000 uniformed personnel in Congo, UN says

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The protests come as fighting has intensified between Congolese troops and M23 rebels, forcing nearly 200,000 people to flee their homes. M23 forces have shown increased firepower and defense capabilities, according to a report by Human Rights Watch.

Acting MONUSCO chief Khassim Diagne and UN spokesman Haq condemned the killings of UN personnel. Haq said the head of UN peacekeeping operations, Jean Pierre Lacroix, who is currently in Mali, will visit Congo “as soon as possible”.

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.

Haq responded to a question asking if the UN effort had been a failure because armed groups are still roaming the country saying “our presence has provided protection but it has not solved the problem” which involves the region and armed groups vying for control of minerals and resource-rich regions.

In this framework, he said, the UN has “done its best” to ensure that people’s lives and basic freedoms are not taken away from them.

Haq said the UN had planned to withdraw its peacekeeping force and even withdraw from Congo, but “we stayed because the situation on the ground is far too dangerous for us to consider leaving and put so many people at risk.”

AP writers Edith M. Lederer of the United Nations and Al-Hadji Kudra Maliro in Beni, Congo contributed.