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DR Congo wants to kick out UN spokesman after protests

August 3, 2022

Deadly anti-UN protests in the country have caused the Congolese to reexamine their relationship with the blue helmets.

A UN peacekeeper deployed near Kibumba, north of Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo.
UN peacekeepers have been deployed in the DRC for more than two decadesImage: Moses Sawasawa/AP Photo/picture alliance

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has asked the spokesman of the UN peacekeeping mission to leave the country as soon as possible.

Foreign Minister Christophe Lutundula said Mathias Gillman had made "indelicate and inappropriate" statements, contributing to the tensions between the population and the UN mission, known by its French acronym MONUSCO.

"The Congolese government considers that the presence of this official on the national territory is not likely to promote a climate of mutual trust and serenity so essential between the Congolese institutions and MONUSCO," the ministry said.

There was no immediate reaction from the UN to the request.

Lutundula did not mention any specific remarks by Gillman that the DRC found offensive.

Opposition to the UN presence grows

Last week, at least 36 people, including four UN peacekeepers and police personnel, died during anti-UN protests in the eastern cities of Goma and Butembo.

Demonstrators accused MONUSCO of failing to stop a resurgence of violence by rebels.

More than 120 armed groups operate in the region, including the so-called Islamic State and the M23 rebel movement.

Massacres of civilians are common and the number of displaced by the conflict is in the millions.

Demonstrators said they were protesting against the rise of insecurity and inaction of the MONUSCO in the DRC
Congolese protesters in Goma were angry that UN peacekeepers have been unable to protect them from a surge in violenceImage: Moses Sawasawa/AP/picture alliance

Following the protests, the DRC's government held a crisis meeting to reassess the peacekeepers' presence.

Then on Sunday, peacekeepers opened fire at a border crossing in Kasindi town, killing two people and injuring 15 others in a spasm of violence that underlined weeks of tensions.

Antonio Guterres, the UN secretary general, said he was "outraged" and "saddened" by the events and welcomed the decision to detain the peacekeeping officers who were involved.

Meanwhile, the DRC's government also announced this week that it would reassess the mission's withdrawal plan.

The mission, that's been deployed for over two decades, is due to withdraw by 2024, but DRC's foreign affairs minister said the government plans to speed up the departure.

lo/aw (AP, Reuters)