UN soldiers have been attacked in the DRC by locals who want them to leave. Here’s why.

Since July 25, anti-UN protests have raged in the eastern region of the DRC, leaving 36 people dead – including four peacekeepers – and 170 injured on Wednesday, the Congolese government told CNN.

Protesters are demanding the withdrawal of UN forces from the central African country for failing to subdue rebel groups in the east who are staging deadly attacks on civilians.

In another shootout on Sunday, two UN soldiers were accused of opening fire at a border post between Uganda and the DRC, killing two people and injuring 15 others, an official told CNN on Monday. DRC government spokesperson.

“There was an accident at the Uganda-DRC border yesterday (Sunday),” DRC Communications Minister and government spokesman Patrick Muyaya said.

“Some blue helmets came back from vacation and when they arrived at the border, the immigration service (of the DRC) told them to come back after three days… because there is a lot of pressure in in the DRC. But they decided to push through and started shooting. Two people died and 15 others were injured.

In a statement, the MONUSCO force called the actions of its personnel involved in the shooting “indescribable and irresponsible behavior”, adding that the officers had been arrested and were being investigated.

“Contacts have also been established with the country of origin of these soldiers so that legal proceedings can be initiated urgently with the participation of victims and witnesses…”, adds the press release.
In 2010, MONUSCO replaced an earlier UN operation called MONUC, which had been created to help bring peace and stability to the DRC.
What began as a “small observation mission”, in 1999 with a small deployment of 90 troops, grew into “the UN’s largest and most robust operation”, and in 2000, the UN Security Council had authorized more than 5,000 troops for the MONUC force in the DRC.
As of November last year, MONUSCO had over 12,000 soldiers and over 1,600 police deployed in the DRC.

Why are people angry?

Muyaya said the DRC public has become disenchanted with the UN peacekeeping force for failing to secure the country.

The DRC is grappling with decades of militia violence as state forces struggle to contain rebel groups. Fighting between government troops and the M23 rebel group, which seeks to control the country from its stronghold in eastern DRC, has left scores dead and thousands displaced.

“People are upset and tired of UN peacekeepers in the DRC because they’ve been here for 20 years, but the security situation hasn’t changed much,” he said.

At least 29 civilians were killed by the M23 between June and July this year, according to Human Rights Watch.

The deadly militia also controls several towns and villages in North Kivu province in eastern DRC, the rights group said in a report.
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Reacting to anti-UN protests, Khassim Diagne, Deputy Special Representative of the UN Secretary General, said in a series of tweet that MONUSCO never said it was the solution to the DRC’s security crises.

“MONUSCO has never claimed to be a panacea to the DRC’s security problems. We operate in support of the state to protect and bring stability,” Diagne wrote.

In another tweet, Diagne said a misunderstanding about MONUSCO had led to “excessive expectations”.

“We need to communicate better. Many people misunderstand the UN, Security Council and MONUSCO. This leads to excessive expectations, suspicion and forgetfulness of achievements,” he tweeted, adding that the MOUNSCO force had already withdrawn from eight provinces. in the DRC.

“Every day, MONUSCO protects communities, builds provincial capacity, conducts investigations, separates children from armed groups and funds projects,” Diagne said, citing the UN force’s achievements.

Why now?

Thomas Fessy, senior DRC researcher for Human Rights Watch, told CNN that protests against the UN mission have taken place over the past decade but escalated due to a cycle of unrelenting violence. end in eastern DRC.

Congolese police officers oversee as protesters pull a container used to barricade the road near the compound of the warehouse of a United Nations peacekeeping force in Goma in the North Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo on July 26, 2022.

“Attacks and killings are relentless, the displacement of people greater than ever, so people are questioning MONUSCO’s ability to protect civilians and help defeat a myriad of armed groups,” Fessy added. . “The frustration and anger of the Congolese people at the UN mission should not be overlooked.

Government spokesman Muyaya added that the protests are also prompted by comments made in June by MONUSCO spokesman Mathias Gillmann that UN forces do not have enough equipment to fight the M23.

“The UN spokesperson here made a statement saying the UN was not in a position to fight the M23…and explained that the M23 had modern weapons,” Muyaya said.

The DRC government on Wednesday ordered Gillmann’s expulsion from the country, accusing him of making “unscrupulous and inappropriate” statements that heightened tensions between MONUSCO and the Congolese people.
During a briefing in June, the representative of the UN Secretary-General in the DRC and head of MONUSCO, Bintou Keita, told the UN Security Council that the security situation in the eastern region of the DRC is was deteriorated due to intense attacks by M23 and other armed groups.

Keita said such attacks were capable of overwhelming MONUSCO.

“If the M23 continues its well-coordinated attacks against the FARDC (DRC armed forces) and MONUSCO with increasing conventional capabilities, the Mission could find itself facing a threat that goes beyond its current capabilities”, a- she declared.

Keita added that in recent clashes, the M23 fought as “a conventional army” rather than an armed group.

“The M23 has increasingly sophisticated firepower and equipment…as well as precision on aircraft…The threat this poses to the population and peacekeepers (peacekeeping forces Peace Corps) that have a mandate to protect is obvious.”

CNN has contacted the UN mission in the DRC for additional comment.

One year to evacuate UN troops

The UN mission in the DRC is gradually withdrawing its troops from the troubled country for years.

In 2010, the UN Security Council decided to withdraw 2,000 peacekeepers from the DRC following pressure from then-President Joseph Kabila, who demanded a complete withdrawal of UN fighters from the DRC. country.

The DRC government under current President Felix Tshisekedi has said it is working with the UN on a withdrawal plan.

Government spokesman Muyaya told CNN the government agrees with citizens on the full withdrawal of UN troops from the DRC, but it could take up to a year to evacuate them all. .

“As a government, we are on the same level with our people, but the difference is that we are working with MONUSCO on a plan for their retirement. We have been working on it since September last year. Even if we decide to end our collaboration with them today, it will take at least six to nine months or maybe a year to make sure they leave.”

Muyaya added that the government was under pressure to deal with the situation quickly. However, the DRC is expected to come under more pressure after the UN evacuation when its forces clash with militias in a lonely effort.

Muyaya said the DRC government was also working on security reform to build a formidable army.

“We are working with MONUSCO on a transition plan. We are preparing them to leave, at the same time we are making sure that we are doing a good reform to ensure that we have an army capable of handling all the security problems in the country. ,” he said.

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