BENI, Congo (TBEN) – UN peacekeepers returning from leave opened fire at a Congo-Uganda border post, killing at least two people and injuring at least 15 others, the UN mission and Congolese government officials said Sunday.
Tensions between the people of the troubled eastern Congo and the UN peacekeepers have risen dramatically over the past week, with nearly 20 dead in protests calling on troops to leave the region.
Bintou Keita, head of the UN mission in Congo and special representative of the UN Secretary-General, said he was deeply shocked by the shootings in Kasindi, the border town with Uganda in the Beni region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Kivu. She said it was not clear why the peacekeepers opened fire.
“This serious incident has resulted in loss of life and serious injuries,” Keita said. “Faced with this unspeakable and irresponsible behavior, the perpetrators of the shooting have been identified and arrested pending the conclusions of the investigation, which has already been launched in collaboration with the Congolese authorities.”
She said the soldiers’ home country has been contacted so that legal proceedings can begin. Their nationality was not given.
The Congolese government strongly condemned the shooting and confirmed a preliminary toll of two dead and 15 injured.
Joel Kithausa, vice president of Kasindi Civil Society, condemned what he called a “despicable act by UN soldiers” using live ammunition.
“It was around 11 a.m. local time when UN mission peacekeepers arrived in Congo from Uganda on their way to the city of Beni,” he said. “Customs officers already had instructions not to let them into Congo… but (they) destroyed the barrier and entered by force, firing everywhere.”
Protesters accuse peacekeepers of failing to protect civilians amid mounting violence. According to the UN, the mission has more than 16,000 uniformed personnel in Congo
The mineral-rich eastern Congo is home to numerous rebel groups. Security has deteriorated there despite a year of emergency operations by the armies of Congo and Uganda. Civilians in the east have also faced violence from jihadist rebels linked to the Islamic State group. Fighting between Congolese troops and M23 rebels has also escalated, forcing nearly 200,000 people to flee their homes.
Serges Mulimani, a resident of Kasindi, called on UN peacekeepers to better respect the residents.
“How is it that a peacekeeper shoots at a civilian who is not armed?” said Mulmani. “We are Congolese, they must respect us and respect our opinion of their services in the region.”
UN Undersecretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix met with Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi in Kinshasa on Saturday to discuss cooperation between the UN mission and the Congolese government. Three UN personnel were killed in Butembo early this week, including 15 others.
“It was an opportunity to talk about how we can learn from what’s happening and work together,” said Lacroix,
In a statement on Sunday, the Congolese government expressed its condolences and support to the bereaved families and urged North Kivu province to remain calm so that “such an incident does not happen again”.
Kamale message from Kinshasa, Congo.