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Police fire shots to disperse anti-UN protest in eastern Congo

By Reuters 8 April 2021
Caption
epa08891327 (18/39) An aerial photo taken with a drone shows the trade hub of Mambasa, in the Ituri Rainforest, an area of vast natural biodiversity and resources, Democratic Republic of the Congo, 19 October 2020. Mambasa lies on the road leading out from the rainforest towards Uganda, so it is a major way station for illegal animal trafficking, unregulated deforestation, and mining sites. A distinct risk for zoonotic spillover of viruses exists in a setting with exceptional governance challenges. Because economic forces and local governments are incentivized to collaborate, these factors have enabled a precarious situation where conservation is a losing battle and Congo's biodiversity posits a distinct likelihood for a new virus to jump from an animal to a human population. (Photo: EPA-EFE/Hugh Kinsella Cunningham ATTENTION EDITORS / MANDATORY CREDIT : This story was produced in partnership with the Pulitzer Center)

BENI, Democratic Republic of Congo, April 8 (Reuters) - C ongolese police fired live rounds on Thursday to disperse protesters demanding the departure of the United Nations peacekeeping mission from the city of Beni, its mayor and witnesses said.

(Corrects quote in paragraph 10 and number of MONUSCO personnel in paragraph 11)

By Erikas Mwisi Kambale

Hundreds of youths have been protesting in several cities in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo since Monday, angry that the U.N. mission, known as MONUSCO, has failed to prevent a wave of civilian killings by armed groups.

So far this year around 330 people have been killed in the violence, an unresolved legacy of a civil war that officially ended in 2003, according to the Kivu Security Tracker, which maps unrest in the region.

“Young people have barricaded almost all the roads to ask the U.N. mission to leave this region plagued by massacre,” Beni mayor Buhindo Bakwanamaha Modeste told Reuters.

“This morning the police are clearing the blocked roads, that’s why there is shooting all over the city,” he said.

A local police spokesman confirmed that they were clearing blocked roads and “re-establishing order”.

Heavy gunfire started around 7:00 am local time (0500 GMT) and was continuing three hours later, a Reuters witness said.

At least one protester was seriously injured by gunshot, said Clovis Mutsova, a member of youth activist group LUCHA.

“We only demand two things: for MONUSCO to leave and for the Congolese government to take its responsibility so that we can have peace,” Mutsova said.

Responding to the protests, MONUSCO spokesman Mathias Gillman said on Wednesday: “We are here at the invitation of the government. It is not us who decides that we stay.”

MONUSCO took over from an earlier peacekeeping mission in 2010 and has more than 12,000 troops deployed.

Congo’s mineral-rich east has been plagued by violence for decades but killings have more than doubled in the last year, the United Nations says. (Reporting by Erikas Mwisi Kambale; Writing by Nellie Peyton Editing by Gareth Jones)

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