In an interview with Deutsche Welle (DW), Martin Kobler, head of the UN peacekeeping force in the Democratic Republic of Congo, explained how recent unrest in the country has triggered mistrust towards the UN.
M23 rebels on Tuesday (August 27, 2013) resumed attacks on the Congolese army according to local media in eastern DRC. A few days ago, for the first time ever, UN mission MONUSCO actively fought against the rebel forces. Nonetheless, MONUSCO head Martin Kobler told DW that the primary responsibility to solve the conflict lies with the government of Congo.
Describing the events, Kobler said:
"We had an attack by the M23 from their positions in Goma and we reacted together with the Congolese army on those positions. But of course these kinds of events trigger a lot of unrest within the population, because the population is frustrated and impatient. This attack by the M23 on densely populated areas and on MONUSCO positions triggered a lot of unrest and demonstrations, that's why these demonstrations were directed against us, because the population is of the opinion that MONUSCO is not doing enough. Unfortunately during these demonstrations, two people were killed. We have launched an investigation in coordination with the Congolese government in order to find out the details."
During demonstrations two people were killed. Eyewitnesses blamed UN soldiers from Uruguay. Kobler responded to the accusations, saying:
"UN peacekeepers were attacked with Molotov cocktails, and the emotions went very high and the Congolese police are always around. I cannot say anything until the investigation is concluded. But if a base is attacked, the base must be defended by peacekeepers and in the primary instance by the police of the government of Congo."
Asked whether local residents could trust the UN under such circumstances, Kobler told DW:
"I was present during the demonstrations. I have seen very encouraging signs from the people of Goma. We are not their enemies. The attack came from the M23 and we fought back with everything we had together with the Congolese army, with attack helicopters, with artillery and also with our foot soldiers on the side of the Congolese army against the M23. We had our own injured in this fight. We are communicating this to the population of Goma and we had the visit of five ministers from Kinshasa to demonstrate their solidarity. The primary responsibility lies with the government of Congo. We as UN are not the magic solution to the problems of Congo, but we do everything in our power to assist the government in order to solve their problems."