The UN Secretary-General António Guterres has strongly condemned an attack on peacekeepers serving in the Stablization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) which took place during violent demonstrations at the mission’s base on Tuesday. Two Indian police officers and a Moroccan ‘blue helmet’ were killed, and an Egyptian police officer injured.
According to news reports, at least 15 people died overall during a second day of protests in the restive North Kivu region, which began on Monday, with demonstrators accusing the United Nations of failing to do enough to stop a rise in deadly attacks by armed groups, some of which have been active in the area for decades.
Uptick in violence
Millions have been displaced by violence in recent years, with 97 civilians killed just last month alone in attacks across eastern DRC, that included abductions, looting and burning of homes, according to UN refugee agency UNHCR.
Several settlements for internally-displaced families have been attacked with more than 160,000 more displaced following a resurgence in activity by the brutal M23 rebel group in North Kivu.
Apart from the UN personnel who died during the violence, five civilians were reportedly killed in Goma, with around 50 others wounded, and seven died in demonstrations in Butembo.
“The Secretary-General expresses his deepest condolences to the families of the fallen peacekeepers, as well as to the Government and the people of India and of Morocco”, said a statement issued by Deputy Spokesperson Farhan Haq on Wednesday night in New York. “He wishes a speedy recovery to the injured peacekeeper.”
Mr. Guterres condemned the multiple attacks on UN bases across the region which began on Monday, “in which individuals and groups forcibly entered bases and engaged in looting and destruction of United Nations property, while also looting and setting fire to the residences of United Nations personnel.”
In a tweet, MONUSCO said on Wednesday that protesters had “violently snatched weapons” from Congolese police and fired at peacekeeping forces.
The UN chief said he regretted the loss of life among those demonstrating, and affirmed MONUSCO’s commitment to work with the Congolese Government to fully investigate the incidents.
Possible war crimes
He recalled the Status of Forces agreement between the UN and Congolese authorities, “which guarantees the inviolability of United Nations premises. He underscores that any attack directed against United Nations peacekeepers may constitute a war crime and calls upon the Congolese authorities to investigate these incidents and swiftly bring those responsible to justice.”
The Secretary-General welcomed a statement condemning the violence issued by a Government Spokesperson on Monday, which also indicated that prosecutions would be forthcoming.
“The Secretary-General reaffirms the United Nations’ strong commitment to the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of the Democratic Republic of Congo”, said Mr. Haq, adding that the head of MONUSCO and the mission overall, “will continue to support the Congolese Government and people in their efforts to bring about peace and stability in the east of the country.”