Peacekeepers overwhelmed by rising terror in DRC

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From Jean Kassongo in Kinshasa, DRC

Following the killing 80 people by armed groups
in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) this month,
international peacekeepers have conceded they are struggling to end the
banditry in the volatile region.

Protests by angry residents over the alleged failure by the government
forces and peacekeepers to prevent a deadly weekend attack in the city
of Beni, in North Kivu, by the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) rebel group
have worsened matters.

Furious residents torched the local town hall and the United Nations
(UN) compound during the demonstrations.

Leila Zerrougui, head of the UN mission in DRC (MONUSCO), described the
skirmishes as “a very disturbing” situation.

“We are facing challenges which are very hard for a mission to deal with
because you have demonstrations from people frustrated with attacks from
armed groups; from ADF but other armed groups in the area,” she said.

“We are dealing in a very difficult context. We have spoilers. We also
have people that manipulate the suffering of the people and use it
either against the government or against MONUSCO,” the UN envoy added.

Zerrougui said the UN mission was wrongfully accused of incompetence.

“We are the scapegoat. We know that. We assume and accept because we
have no other option than to do our work and to try to mitigate the
attacks against the civilian population.”

More than 100 groups are operating in the eastern DRC, where MONUSCO was
deployed in 2000.

The military and UN troops are
accused of incompetence as rebel groups freely kill civilians in the
eastern DRC.

At least 70 civilians have been killed in the last two weeks, forcing
surviving residents staging protests over the insecurity and alleged
complicity by the army and the UN forces.

Police have also used excessive force, including live ammunition to
break up demonstrations. This has resulted in the death of a protester
in Beni, North Kivu Province.

Murder, abductions, rape and looting by rebel groups and state security
characterise the insecurity, mostly in Beni.

The surge in violence has led to suspension of aid agency efforts
against the Ebola and measles epidemics.

Seif Magango, Amnesty International's deputy regional director, urged
all entities charged with civilian protection, including the UN mission,
to fulfill their mandate and eliminate the killings.

“It is scandalous that civilians are dying day in, day out while local
police and nearby UN peacekeepers stay put in their camps,” Magango
fumed.

“At the moment, the security and UN forces are utterly failing in their
obligation to protect people living in Beni and other places.”

Some humanitarian organisations have halted their response to Ebola and
measles as a result of insurgency.

Helen Barclay-Hollands, World Vision regional director, said the
violence could not have come at a worse time as they were making
progress against the diseases that have killed over 2 000 and 4 000
respectively since late last year.

“Children will die from disease as a direct result of the insecurity if
work did not resume extremely quickly,” she warned.

– CAJ News

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