Eight DR Congo peacekeepers wounded in weekend firefights

11380

The tinderbox that is the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where a Southern African Development Community (SADC) mission and force is deploying, was again highlighted at the weekend when eight peacekeepers were wounded in encounters with the M23 rebel group.

Neither MONUSCO Head Bintou Keita nor the United Nations (UN) Secretary-General’s spokesman gave details of the wounded soldiers apart from saying they were deployed as part of Operation Springbok to protect civilians in North Kivu. The operation is a joint one between MONUSCO, where South Africa is among the top 10 troop contributing countries (TCCs), and FARDC (Forces Armees de la Republic Democratique du Congo), which was launched in November.

With the MONUSCO withdrawal from the central African country underway, Keita again re-affirmed the mission’s commitment to work alongside Congolese defence and security forces to “reinforce joint and unilateral patrols to protect civilians”.

The weekend attack happened in Saké, 23 km from the North Kivu capital Goma, where MONUSCO previously handed a forward operating base to DRC security forces.

Speaking for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, his deputy spokesman said attacks on UN peacekeepers “may constitute war crimes under international law”. He joined Bintou in calling for all “Congolese and foreign armed groups” to lay down arms and engage in the disarmament process. M23 is “urged to withdraw fully from all occupied areas and abide by the provisions of the Luanda communique (23 November 2022)”.

One of the eight wounded peacekeepers is reportedly in a serious condition. All have been evacuated from the area and are receiving “appropriate care”.