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Protests turn violent as the public turns on UN peacekeeping mission

On 27 July, UN Secretary General António Guterres condemned what he calls a “fatal attack on peacekeepers”, which UN News has claimed in its headline “left 3 dead”.

In a statement by Farhan Haq, deputy spokesperson for the Secretary-General, he expressed his “deepest condolences to the families of the fallen peacekeepers, as well as to the government and the people of India and of Morocco.”

At the protests, which began on Monday 25 July at two of the mission’s facilities in Goma and Butembo, three members of the Indian police force and one member of the Moroccan military were killed. One Egyptian police officer was injured.

Hidden figures

The statement did not draw particular focus on the deaths of the sixteen civilians who died, as the count continues to grow. DRC senator Patrick Muyaya Katembwe says 67 people were injured in the protests.

Videos circulating online show peacekeepers firing live ammunition at protesters. The UN has denied these reports, with an official saying there has been no initial evidence for the claims.

The UN blamed the violence and looting of its property on criminals pretending to be protesters, who supposedly seized weapons from the local police and opened fire on the protest.

The UN spokesperson added he “regrets the loss of life of demonstrators in this context and affirms MONUSCO’s commitment to work with the Congolese authorities to investigate these incidents.”

Failing to keep the peace

The soldiers are part of the Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO), present in the country for more than two decades. Recently, peacekeepers have faced growing criticism for failing to quell ongoing violence by armed groups.

According to the UNHCR, 97 civilians were killed in the past month alone.

The US Embassy in Kinshasa has released a security alert for the country, warning that the violence has “the potential to spread to other NGOs and foreign institutions”.

According to the Status of Forces agreement between the UN and Congolese forces, any attack on a UN peacekeeper “may constitute a war crime,” implying potentially severe consequences for protesters identified in the demonstrations.

On Wednesday 27 July, Khassim Diagne, deputy head of MONUSCO, who is in charge of protection and operations at the mission, described the situation as “normal fragility”. He said: “With the advocacies we have made, there has been a reinforcement of national security forces on the ground securing our bases.”

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