Protests spread in east DRC as fury against UN peacekeepers rises

Protests against United Nations peacekeepers in northeast Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have spread from Beni to other towns in the region, as anger mounts over the perceived failure to protect civilians from deadly rebel attacks.

On Wednesday, demonstrators in the city of Goma blocked the main road leading to Beni further south where the first protests against the UN mission in the DRC (MONUSCO) broke out on Sunday.

Al Jazeera’s Catherine Wambua-Soi, reporting from Goma, said demonstrators in the capital of North Kivu province used sticks and stones to block traffic on the city’s main thoroughfare.

“Police have been forced to use tear gas and to fire live bullets in the air,” Wambua-Soi said.

“Everybody here seems to be very angry, they are all saying that they do not want MONUSCO here, they want them gone,” she added.

Demonstrators on Tuesday attempted to find their way to a UN base near the Goma airport, before being driven back by government soldiers, but Wambua-Soi said protesters were determined to try again on Wednesday.

Protests also spread to Butembo, 57km (35 miles) south of Beni, where a protester was killed on Tuesday after clashes with security forces. The mostly young protesters on Tuesday tried to attack several UN staff at the Kikyo reception centre, according to Butembo Mayor Sylvain Kanyamanda. Police used tear gas and warning shots to disperse them.

Demonstrators accuse both the DRC’s security forces and MONUSCO – the world’s biggest peacekeeping mission that has operated in DRC for the past two decades – of not doing enough to stop rebel attacks on civilians.

In the latest incident, eight Beni residents were killed late on Sunday by fighters suspected of belonging to the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) rebel group, prompting protesters to take to the town’s streets.

On Monday, four people were killed in clashes with security forces after angry demonstrators torched the mayor’s office and attacked several UN buildings in Beni.

“We are aware of the demonstrators who are making their way and we are making every effort to continue the dialogue with these demonstrators and their leaders, as well as the national authorities … to ensure calm and return to peace and security,” Omar Aboud, the United Nations chief of military forces in Beni, told Al Jazeera on Tuesday. -Aljazeera

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