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Anti-MONUC protest in Rutshuru turns violent

[DRC] A MONUC convoy on the way to Lake Albert in the northeastern district of Ituri, Orientale Province.
The blue helmets deployed after the withdrawal of government forces (IRIN)

At least one person was wounded and a UN vehicle damaged during a demonstration against peacekeepers in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo town of Rutshuru on 3 September.

“A MONUC [UN Mission in DRC] vehicle was set on fire and two civilian demonstrators wounded by bullets, one in both his feet, the other in his stomach,” Benjamin Mbusa, 36, a student in the North Kivu town, who witnessed the demonstration, told IRIN.

MONUC confirmed that one of its vehicles had been burnt but said only one civilian had been wounded and not necessarily by a bullet. This happened when “Indian blue helmets opened fire to defend themselves as per our mandate because the crowd did not want to obey warning shots fired in the air”, said Colonel Jean-Paul Dietrich, MONUC’s military spokesman.

He added that the crowd started to disperse once the army began firing heavier weapons into the air.

Dietrich also said stones had been thrown at MONUC vehicles in the previous four days. “Two Indian peacekeepers were wounded and one vehicle damaged.”

The unrest came five days after fierce fighting broke out between government forces and renegade troops led by dissident general Laurent Nkunda.

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the clashes prompted 8,000 civilians to flee to villages along the road to Goma.

“Many of the displaced are now staying with families or in public places such as schools. But we have to move them to allow schools to reopen as normal,” said Gloria Fernandez, head of OCHA in DRC, adding that food rations were being distributed to the displaced.

“People are protesting against MONUC because they want the army to advance and push the rebels right out of the country, rather than withdrawing to positions held previously,” said Mbusa.

MONUC’s civilian spokeswoman, Sylvie van Wildenberg, said: “It is clear that the population doesn’t seem to understand MONUC’s role in the Amani [peace] process” enshrined in a ceasefire deal signed in January.

Under this deal, the various armed groups active in eastern DRC are supposed to disengage, creating buffer zones that MONUC is meant to occupy.

National police and soldiers were guarding MONUC premises in Rutshuru on the morning of 3 September.

ei/am/mw


This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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