Democratic Republic of Congo’s government will reevaluate the withdrawal plan of the United Nations peacekeeping mission after deadly anti-U.N. protests last week, it said late on Monday, suggesting it may ask the force to leave quicker than expected.
The government said 29 civilians and four MONUSCO peacekeepers were killed during demonstrations across east Congo. Protesters were demanding that peacekeepers leave the country for failing to protect civilians against militia groups that have wreaked havoc in the region for decades.
“Government has been instructed to expedite a meeting with MONUSCO in order to reevaluate its withdrawal plan,” the statement said, without elaborating.
MONUSCO, which took over from an earlier U.N. operation in 2010, has been gradually scaling down for years and its current mandate ends in December.
U.N. troops were accused of retaliating with force, and in some cases, live bullets, as hundreds of protesters threw rocks and petrol bombs, vandalised and set fire to U.N. buildings.
A government commission sent to assess the aftermath found that 13 people died in clashes in the town of Goma, another 13 – including four peacekeepers – in Butembo, and three in Kanyabayonga, Congo’s presidency said.
Four protesters were killed in the city of Uvira when troops fired shots which hit an electric cable that fell on them.
Three civilians died in a separate incident, reported on Sunday, during which soldiers returning from leave to a U.N. intervention brigade opened fire at a border post.
Around 170 people were wounded, the commission added, noting strong anti-U.N. sentiment among civil society representatives.
The U.N. has condemned the violence and vowed to investigate alleged abuses on both sides together with Congolese authorities.
MONUSCO had more than 12,000 troops and 1,600 police deployed in Congo as of November 2021, according to its website.
U.N. peacekeeping missions have been beset by accusations of abuse for years.
Frustrations against MONUSCO were stoked by a recent resurge in clashes between local troops and the M23 rebel group in eastern Congo that have displaced thousands.
Attacks by militants linked to Islamic State have also continued despite a year-long state of emergency and joint operations against them by the Congolese and Ugandan armies.