Since July 25, anti-UN protests have erupted in the eastern region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, with 36 people – including four peacekeepers – killed and 170 injured as of Wednesday, the DRC government told CNN.
Protesters are demanding the withdrawal of United Nations forces from the central African country for failing to rein in rebel groups in the east that orchestrate deadly attacks against civilians.
In another shooting incident on Sunday, two UN soldiers were accused of opening fire on a border post between Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, killing two people and wounding 15 others, a DRC government spokesperson told CNN on Monday.
“An incident occurred on the border between Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo yesterday (Sunday),” said the Minister of Communications of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and government spokesman Patrick Moya.
“Some UN peacekeepers came back from vacation and when they got to the border, Immigration Service (DRC) asked them to come back after three days…because there is a lot of pressure right now in DRC. But they decided and made their way and started The shooting resulted in the death of two people and the injury of 15 others.
In a statement, MONUSCO described the actions of its personnel involved in the shooting as “unspeakable and irresponsible behaviour”, adding that the officers were arrested and are being investigated.
Why are people angry?
Maya said the people of the Democratic Republic of Congo have become frustrated with the UN peacekeeping force for failing to secure the country.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo has grappled with decades of militia violence as government forces struggle to rein in rebel groups. The fighting between government forces and the March 23 rebel movement, which is seeking to seize control of the country from its stronghold in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, has left many dead and thousands displaced.
“People are upset and tired of the UN peacekeeping forces in the DRC because they have been here for 20 years but the security situation has not changed much,” he said.
At least 29 civilians were killed by the March 23 Movement between June and July of this year, according to Human Rights Watch.
“The United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has never claimed to be a panacea for security problems in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. We are working to support the country to protect and stabilize,” Diani wrote.
In another tweet, Diani said a misunderstanding of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo had led to “excessive expectations”.
“We need to communicate better. Too many people misunderstand the UN, the Security Council and MONUSCO. This leads to excessive expectations, doubts and forgetfulness of achievements,” he wrote on Twitter, adding that the MONUSCO force had already withdrawn from eight provinces. in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
“Every day, MONUSCO protects communities, strengthens regional capacities, conducts investigations, separates children from armed groups, and finances projects,” Diani said, citing the achievements of the UN force.
Thomas Vesey, senior DRC researcher at Human Rights Watch, told CNN that demonstrations against the UN mission have occurred over the past decade, but have escalated due to the endless cycle of violence in eastern DRC.
“The attacks and killings are relentless, and the displacement of people is higher than ever, so people question the ability of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) to protect civilians and help defeat countless armed groups,” Vessi added. The frustration and anger of the Congolese at MONUC should not be overlooked.”
Government spokesperson Muyaya added that the protests were also prompted by comments made in June by the spokesperson of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC), Matthias Gilman, that the UN forces did not have enough equipment to fight the March 23 movement.
“The UN spokesperson made a statement saying that the UN was unable to fight the March 23 movement…and made it clear that the movement has modern weapons,” Mayaya said.
Keita said such attacks were able to defeat the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC).
“If M23 continues its well-coordinated attacks against FARDC (the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo) and MONUSCO with increased conventional capabilities, the mission may find itself facing a threat beyond its current capabilities,” she said.
Keita added that in the recent clashes, M23 fought like a “conventional army” and not an armed group.
“The M23 has increasingly sophisticated firepower and equipment…as well as precision on board…the threat this poses to the population and the Blue Helmets (UN peacekeepers) who have a mandate to protect is clear.”
CNN has contacted the United Nations Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo for additional comment.
One year for the evacuation of the United Nations forces
In 2010, the United Nations Security Council decided to withdraw 2,000 peacekeepers from the Democratic Republic of the Congo after pressure from President Joseph Kabila who demanded the complete withdrawal of UN fighters from the country.
The government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo under current President Felix Tshisekedi said it was working with the United Nations on the withdrawal plan.
Government spokesman Muaya told CNN that the government is in agreement with the citizens for the complete withdrawal of UN forces from the DRC, but that it could take up to one 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 retreat. We have been working on it since September of last year. Even if we decide to end cooperating with them today, it will take at least six to nine months or maybe One year to make sure they leave.”
Mayaya added that the government is 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 confront militia groups in a solo effort.
Maya said the DRC government is also working on security reform to build a formidable army.
“We are cooperating with the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo on a transition plan. We are preparing them to leave, and at the same time, we are making sure that we do a good reform to make sure we have an army that can handle all the security issues in the country,” he said.