For the second time in a week United Nations personnel in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have become the target of angry civilians caught up in the continuing military standoff between government and rebel forces.
On Saturday, a UN patrol was obstructed by some 500 internally displaced persons (IDPs) near a cantonment site for recently disarmed fighters near the town of Rumangabo in North Kivu province, UN spokesperson Michele Montas told reporters in New York.
The protesters chanted anti-UN slogans and threw stones at the patrol. They also demanded that the peacekeepers take direct military action against dissident general Laurent Nkunda.
Both North Kivu and South Kivu provinces, which sit at the far eastern edge of the vast DRC, have been the scene of deadly clashes in recent months between Government forces – known as FARDC – and soldiers loyal to Gen. Nkunda.
The UN mission in the DRC (known as MONUC) estimates there are as many as 700,000 IDPs in North Kivu alone as a result of fighting this year.
Saturday’s incident is the latest of several hostile acts directed at blue helmets. Last week, locals in North Kivu threw stones at UN peacekeepers after they evacuated members of the FARDC during recent clashes.
There was also a report that FARDC soldiers arriving into Goma had a “less-than-friendly attitude” towards UN troops, according to MONUC Force Commander Gen. Babacar Gaye.
Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Gen. Gaye stressed that MONUC’s mandate is to help the Government restore its authority across the entire country, and that its priority is to ensure the security of the local population.
The mission also escorts humanitarian convoys in North Kivu and has deployed mobile operating bases to make it easier to reach people living in the displaced camps, the General added.
According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the humanitarian situation in North Kivu is precarious, with 143,000 people having been displaced just in the past four weeks due to insecurity in the province.