DRC’s anti-UN protests: Here’s what’s behind them

Since July 25, anti-UN protests have broken out in the eastern part of the DRC, with 36 people – including four peacekeepers – dead and 170 injured as of Monday. Wednesday, the DRC government told CNN.

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

In another shooting Sunday, two UN soldiers allegedly opened fire on a border post between Uganda and the DRC, killing two and injuring 15 others, a government spokesman said. The DRC told CNN Monday.

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

UN brigade in Congo opens fire on border post, kills two

“Some of the UN peacekeepers had returned from vacation and when they reached the border, the immigration agency (DRC) asked them to come back in three days … because there were a lot of them. pressure at the moment in the DRC. But they decided to force them to pass and open fire. Two dead and 15 wounded.”

The MONUSCO force in a statement described the actions of the officers involved in the shooting as “unspeakable and irresponsible behaviour”, adding that officers were arrested and are being investigated. .

“Contacts have also been established with the country of origin of these soldiers so that legal proceedings can be expedited with the participation of victims and witnesses…” statement more.
In 2010, MONUSCO replaced an earlier United Nations operation called MONUC, which was established to help bring peace and stability for DRC.
Started as a “small observer mission”, in 1999 with a small deployment of 90 soldierswas transformed into “the largest and most powerful operation of the United Nations”, and in 2000, the United Nations Security Council authorized more than 5000 soldiers for the MONUC force with respect to the DRC.
Since last November, MONUSCO There are more than 12,000 troops and more than 1,600 police deployed in the DRC.

Why are people angry?

Muyaya said the DRC public has become displeased with the UN peacekeeping force for failing to ensure the safety of the country.

The DRC has struggled with decades-long militia violence as state forces struggle to rein in rebel groups. Fighting between government troops and the M23 rebel group, which sought control of the country from their stronghold in the eastern DRC, has left thousands dead and thousands displaced.

“People are annoyed and tired of UN peacekeepers in the DRC because they have been here for 20 years, but the security situation has not changed much,” he said.

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

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

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

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

“We need better communication. A lot of people misunderstand the UN, the Security Council and MONUSCO. This leads to over-expectations, doubts and forgetting achievements,” he tweeted, adding that the MOUNSCO force had withdraw from the eight provinces in the DRC.

“Every day MONUSCO protects communities, strengthens the capacity of provinces, conducts investigations, separates children from armed groups and funds projects,” says Diagne.

Why now?

Thomas Fessy, DRC senior researcher for Human Rights Watch, told CNN that protests against the UN mission have been going on for the past decade, but have escalated due to a cycle Endless violence in eastern DRC.

Congolese police monitor as protesters drag a container used to barricade a road near a United Nations peacekeeping force warehouse in Goma in the Democratic Republic of Congo's North Kivu province on July 26, 2019. 2022.

“The attacks and killings are non-stop, displacement is higher than ever, so people are questioning MONUSCO’s ability to protect civilians and help defeat countless groups.” armed,” Fessy added. “The frustration and anger of the Congolese people at the UN mission should not be ignored.”

Government spokesman Muyaya added that the protests were also fueled by comments made in June by MONUSCO spokesman Mathias Gillmann that UN forces did not have enough equipment to fight back. M23.

“The UN spokesman here has made a statement that the UN is not capable of fighting the M23 … and is explaining that the M23 has modern weapons,” Muyaya said.

Government DRC ordered the expulsion of Gillmann from the country on Wednesday, accusing him of making “insensitive and inappropriate” statements that exacerbated tensions between MONUSCO and the Congolese people.
In a June meetingThe representative of the UN Secretary-General to the DRC and the head of MONUSCO, Bintou Keita told the UN Security Council that the security situation in the eastern part of the DRC has deteriorated due to intense attacks by M23 and armed groups. other.

Keita said such attacks have the potential to overwhelm MONUSCO.

“If the M23 continues its coordinated attacks against the FARDC (armed forces of the DRC) and MONUSCO with increasing conventional capabilities, the Mission could face a threat beyond beyond the current capacity,” she said.

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

“The M23 has increasingly sophisticated firepower and equipment … as well as precision on board … This threat poses to civilians and those wearing green helmets (peacekeepers). United Nations peace), whose duty to protect is obvious.”

CNN has reached out to the UN mission to the DRC for further comment.

One year to evacuate UN troops

The UN Mission to the DRC has been step by step pull out its soldiers from a troubled country for many years.

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

The DRC government under current President Felix Tshisekedi said it was working with the United Nations on a plan to withdraw troops.

Government spokesman Muyaya told CNN that the government has agreed with the people on the complete withdrawal of UN troops from the DRC, but it could take up to a year to evacuate them all.

“As a government we are equal to our people but the difference is that we are working with MONUSCO to plan their withdrawal. We have been doing that 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 handle the situation quickly. However, the DRC is expected to come under more pressure following the UN evacuation as its forces confront militia groups in a single attempt.

Muyaya said the DRC government is also undertaking security reforms to build a formidable army.

“We’re working with MONUSCO on a transition plan. We’re preparing them to leave, and at the same time, we’re making sure we’re doing a good job of reform to ensure that we have an army that can handle all the security issues in the country,” he said.

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