Peacekeepers from the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) conducted extensive patrols in the east of the country on Tuesday, a day after demonstrators set fire to buildings to protest lack of civilian protection in the face of attacks by armed groups.
Angry residents torched the town hall and the UN compound in Beni in North Kivu, protesting what they saw as the failure by government forces and peacekeepers to prevent a deadly weekend attack by the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) rebel group, according to media reports.
Leila Zerrougui, head of the UN mission MONUSCO, spoke to journalists in the DRC after briefing the UN Security Council via teleconference behind closed doors, on what she described as a “disturbing” situation.
“We face challenges which are hard for a mission to deal with because you have demonstrations from people frustrated by attacks from armed groups; from ADF and others in the area”, she said, speaking from Kinshasa.
There are more than 100 groups operating in eastern DRC.
Zerrougui said so far this month, there have been 14 attacks with 80 people killed in a region currently facing the worst Ebola outbreak in the nation’s history.
More than 2 000 people died from the disease since the outbreak was declared last August.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) said violence in Beni was not directed against its teams 49 of 120 staff will be relocated to the North Kivu capital, Goma.
MONUSCO took to Twitter to announce it will strengthen co-operation with partners and work closely with the Congolese authorities to find solutions for the people of Beni.
“We are dealing in a difficult context,” Zerrougui said. “We have spoilers. We also have people manipulating the suffering of people and using it either against government or MONUSCO.
“We are the scapegoat. We know that. We assume and accept because we have no other option than to do our work and mitigate attacks against the civilian population.”