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Five killed during protests at UN mission in Congo

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Protesters run away after being confronted by riot police outside the UN compound in Goma yesterday. Photo: Esdras Tsongo/Reuters

Protesters run away after being confronted by riot police outside the UN compound in Goma yesterday. Photo: Esdras Tsongo/Reuters

Protesters run away after being confronted by riot police outside the UN compound in Goma yesterday. Photo: Esdras Tsongo/Reuters

At least five people were killed when United Nations peacekeepers opened fire on Congolese protesters after they stormed the mission’s headquarters in Goma yesterday.

Residents are angry that the UN mission has failed to protect the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) against M23, a brutal rebel group thought to be backed by Rwanda’s autocratic leader Paul Kagame, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s newest African ally.

Hundreds of demonstrators attacked and looted a UN warehouse in Goma on Monday, demanding that the mission leave the country.

Yesterday, a Reuters journalist witnessed peacekeepers shooting two demonstrators dead in a scuffle that left 50 people injured.

About 18,000 international troops and police have served on the UN peacekeeping mission across the DRC since 2010.

The troops are deeply unpopular with locals and have frequently been accused of cowardice, staggering inefficiency and the sexual abuse of local women and children.

Theirs is an almost impossible job. 

Often they are stationed in small hill fortresses in the middle of the Central African bush for months on end, surrounded by a dizzying array of machete-wielding militia groups.

Tensions have come to a head in Goma because of the return of the M23, but a decade ago, immense Western pressure – where the UK and the US withheld tens of millions of pounds of aid from Kigali – stopped the rebel group in its tracks.

Now M23 is back with a vengeance and experts suspect that Kigali is once again behind the violence.

The group is operating increasingly as “a conventional army, rather than an armed group”, Bintou Keita, head of the UN’s Congo mission, told the UN Security Council late last month.

“The M23 possesses firepower and equipment, which is increasingly sophisticated, specifically in terms of long-range fire capacities – mortars, machine guns, as well as precision fire against aircraft,” she continued, warning that the group would soon outgun UN forces.

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Rwanda used the old rebel group to wreak havoc across eastern Congo in 2012-13 and to strengthen its control over the lucrative coltan, tungsten and gold mines in the region.

Rwanda has always denied any links to M23.

In response to the growing number of Congolese deaths, the United States has frozen security aid to Rwanda and is reviewing a further $145m (€143.2m) in aid.

Mr Johnson’s administration, which has recently struck a deal to resettle asylum seekers in Rwanda, has remained relatively quiet on the issue.


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