Two decades ago, a UN force landed in the Democratic Republic of Congo, DRC ,to keep the peace in a volatile territory almost overrun by armed militias. But with the insurgents still on the prowl, locals say the peacekeepers have outstayed their welcome.
Since July 25, anti-UN protests have raged on in the DRC’s eastern region, with 36 people — including four peacekeepers — dead and 170 wounded as of Wednesday, the DRC government told CNN.
Protesters are demanding the withdrawal of UN forces, MONUSCO – United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, from the central African country for failing to rein in rebel groups in the east who mastermind lethal attacks against civilians.
The DRC public has become disenchanted with the UN peacekeeping force for failing to secure the country.
At least 29 civilians have been killed by M23 between June and July this year, according to Human Rights Watch.
Reacting to the anti-UN protests, Khassim Diagne, a Deputy Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General, said in a series of tweets that the MONUSCO never said that it was the solution to the DRC’s security crises.
“The MONUSCO never claimed to be the panacea to the security problems of the DRC. We operate in support of the state to protect and bring stability,” Diagne wrote.
In another tweet, Diagne said a misunderstanding of the MONUSCO has led to “excessive expectations.”
Thomas Fessy, a senior DRC researcher for Human Rights Watch, told CNN that demonstrations against the UN mission have been taking place over the last decade, but have escalated due to an unending cycle of violence in eastern DRC.
“Attacks and killings are relentless, displacements of people higher than ever, so people are questioning MONUSCO’s ability to protect civilians and help defeat a myriad of armed groups,” Fessy added. “The frustration and anger of Congolese people at the UN mission shouldn’t be overlooked.”
In a June briefing, the representative of the UN Secretary-General in DRC and head of MONUSCO, Bintou Keita told the UN Security Council that the security situation in DRC’s eastern region had deteriorated due to intense attacks by M23 and other armed groups.
“Should the M23 continue its well-coordinated attacks against FARDC (DRC’s armed forces) and MONUSCO with increasing conventional capabilities, the Mission may find itself confronted by a threat that goes beyond its current capabilities,” she said.