At least five people have been killed and dozens injured during anti-UN protests in eastern DR Congo, a government spokesman said Tuesday as the unrest spread.
On Monday, hundreds of people blocked roads and chanted hostile slogans before storming the UN peacekeeping mission’s headquarters and a supply base in Goma, the main city in North Kivu province.
Protesters smashed windows and looted valuables, while helicopters airlifted UN staff from the premises and security forces fired teargas in a bid to push them back.
In a post on Twitter, government spokesman Patrick Muyaya said”at least five people (were) dead, about 50 wounded” in the unrest.
The security forces had fired “warning shots” at protesters to stop attacks on UN personnel, he said.
The unrest continued on Tuesday, with the fatal shooting of a man near the supplies base, an AFP correspondent saw.
The security forces were pushing back crowds outside the depot as protesters waved placards bearing slogans such as “bye bye MONUSCO”.
Anti-UN protesters also took to the streets in the North Kivu towns of Beni and Butembo, according to witnesses.
Soldiers were deployed on the road leading to the MONUSCO base in Beni, which lies about 350 kilometres (215) miles north of Goma, while protesters burned tyres.
Security forces also dispersed protesters who had gathered in front of a MONUSCO base in Butembo, another provincial hub, local sources said.
The UN mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo, known as MONUSCO, is one of the world’s biggest peacekeeping operations.
But it has regularly come under criticism in the troubled east, where many accuse it of failing to do enough to stem decades-long bloodshed.
More than 120 armed groups roam the volatile region, where civilian massacres are common and conflict has displaced millions of people.
The killings have continued despite the presence of thousands of UN peacekeepers, sparking bouts of anger among local people.
In late 2019, nine anti-UN protestors were killed as Beni and Butembo were terrorised by the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), which the Islamic State group describes as its central African affiliate.
In a statement on Monday, Khassim Diagne, the deputy special representative of the UN secretary general to MONUSCO, said the peacekeepers were there to protect civilians.
“The incidents in Goma are not only unacceptable but totally counterproductive,” he said.
The latest protests come after the president of the senate, Modeste Bahati, told supporters in Goma on July 15 that MONUSCO should “pack its bags.”
They coincide with the resurgence of the M23, a militia that lay mostly dormant for years before resuming fighting last November.
The rebels have since made significant advances in eastern Congo, including capturing the North Kivu town of Bunagana on the Ugandan border.
The UN first deployed an observer mission to eastern Congo in 1999.
In 2010, it became the peacekeeping mission MONUSCO — the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo — with a mandate to conduct offensive operations.
It has a current strength of about 16,300 uniformed personnel, according to the UN.
The peacekeepers have suffered 230 fatalities during the course of their mission.