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  • Demonstrations started last week in Beni as local people accuse the U.N. force MONUSCO of failing to protect them from deadly rebel attacks.

    Demonstrations started last week in Beni as local people accuse the U.N. force MONUSCO of failing to protect them from deadly rebel attacks. | Photo: Reuters

Published 2 December 2019

Protesters say both the country's security forces and the U.N. peacekeeping mission are unable to stop armed groups from attacking them.

One man was killed and five were wounded Monday in the eastern town of Beni in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where new protests broke out to demand the United Nations mission’s departure from the city.

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Police blocked hundreds of people from reaching the U.N. compound - one of two U.N. bases in the area - located inside the airport in the north of Beni. 

In its bid to disperse protesters, the police repeatedly fired shots, a reporter from AFP said, adding he then saw a corpse being taken by fellow protesters to the hospital where the morgue confirmed the body had been fatally shot.

Demonstrations started last week in Beni because local people accuse the U.N. force MONUSCO of failing to protect them from deadly rebel attacks, especially from the feared ​​​​​​Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) militia.

Eastern DRC has been troubled for decades by numerous armed groups, including the ADF, that control and exploit large parts of the mineral-rich region.

At the end of October, The DRC army launched operations against the ADF who carried out massacres in retaliation, apparently seeking to discourage civilians from helping the armed forces.

On Wednesday, another 27 people were hacked to death or beheaded, bringing the number of victims of militia violence in and around Beni to 107 since the beginning of November.

Demonstrators say both the DRC's security forces and MONUSCO - one of the biggest U.N. peacekeeping operations in the world - are “lethargic” and unable to stop armed groups from attacking them.

Four people were killed last Monday in clashes with security forces after furious demonstrators torched the mayor's office and attacked U.N. buildings in Beni.

On Monday, U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix said there was evidence that anti-MONUSCO protests and attacks on Ebola health workers had been “planned, organized and funded,” stirring controversy with these comments.

"When I say that, it's not to play down the frustrations of the public, who are suffering. We all understand this frustration," Lacroix told the French radio station RFI after he visited the region for three days.

"At the same time, there are acts which have been premeditated, organized and financed."

A prominent grassroots group, Lucha ("Struggle for Change"), said the protests are the consequence of  "MONUSCO's lethargy."

Lacroix's remarks "are a denial of responsibility and a contemptuous way to ignore the frustrations of the public," the group said on Twitter.

For its part, and in an attempt to defend itself, the MONUSCO said that the DRC army offensive was launched unilaterally, without the authority to do so.

The ADF's is a rebel group historically opposed to Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni although it has not carried out an attack on Uganda for years. It was originally based in the west of Uganda before expanding to DRC.

The group has plagued the North Kivu region since the Congo Wars in the 1990s. According to an independent non-profit organization called the Congo Research Group, it has killed more than 1,000 civilians since October 2014.

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