UN probes DRC peacekeepers killings

By JEAN KASSONGO in Kinshasa, DRC

KINSHASA – The United Nations (UN) has opened a special probe into the killing of 15 peacekeepers in restive eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in December.

Dozens of the ‘blue helmets’ were wounded in the deadliest single assault on a UN mission in nearly 25 years.

Dmitry Titov, the Russian veteran UN peacekeeping official, is leading the investigation into recent attacks on peacekeepers and bases in the Beni territory of the North Kivu Province.

The probe will include a focus on the December 7 attack by militia on a base of the UN Organisation Stabilisation Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO) in Semuliki that killed 15 Tanzanian peacekeepers and wounded 43 others. One peacekeeper remains missing.

“The special probe will examine the circumstances surrounding these attacks, evaluate MONUSCO’s overall preparedness and response to the events and provide recommendations on how to prevent such attacks from occurring in the future,” said a UN spokesperson.

The investigation team will also visit relevant countries in Africa’s Great Lakes region.

DRC, Africa’s second-largest country by area, is characterised by tensions after President Joseph Kabila failed to step down at the expiry of his two-year term at the end of 2016.

More than 4 million Congolese are displaced by conflict and hunger.

Meanwhile, the DRC government of President Joseph Kabila has been warned against using brutal force after at least five people were killed during recent public protests.

The United Nations (UN) human rights office believes the death toll and the number of injured people could be higher than 92 as its staff in DRC were denied access to morgues, hospitals and detention centres.

Some 180 people were arrested during the same anti-Kabila protests on the eve of the new year.

The security forces allegedly fired live ammunition, rubber bullets and tear gas grenades, in some cases at point blank range.

Security forces were also reported to have vandalised churches, stopped people attending religious services and stole their property.

Liz Throssell, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, decried the alarming development that impinged on freedom of religion or belief.

“We call on the authorities to ensure that the security forces do not resort to excessive force when policing demonstrations, and that protests are handled in line with international standards.”

Throssell called for investigations into alleged use of excessive force, and those responsible for human rights violations should be brought to justice.

“We once again urge the authorities to engage in a constructive dialogue with the opposition and to ensure that the right of all Congolese to participate in the public affairs of their country are respected.”

DRC is beset by tensions after Kabila, in power since 2001, failed to cede power at the lapse of his term in 2016.

Fresh polls are scheduled for the end of 2018. – CAJ News

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