Protesters set fire to a United Nations military base and the town hall in Beni in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo on Monday after government troops and peacekeepers failed to prevent a deadly weekend attack by the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) rebel group, reported Reuters. At least four protesters were killed in the clashes.
The Islamist militant group had killed eight people during a raid on the town on Sunday night. The number of those killed by ADF in massacres has reached over seventy since the Congolese army launched an offensive against them this month. The militia, formed by Ugandan rebels, has been accused of widespread atrocities in the region. Last week, suspected ADF militants killed at least 19 people, kidnapped others and torched a Catholic church.
The angry demonstrators first torched the mayor’s office and then marched to the offices of the UN peacekeeping mission in Congo (MONUSCO). The local activists blamed military operations behind ADF fighters attacking civilians.
The DRC police force posted a picture on Twitter that showed flames shooting from the window and thick black smoke billowing above.
“Several offices at the MONUSCO headquarters were set on fire and looted,” said Teddy Kataliko, a civil society leader in Beni. “Residents are demanding the withdrawal of MONUSCO from Beni because of the inaction of UN forces.”
DR Congo President Felix Tshisekedi has responded to the protest by promising that UN and government troops would carry out joint operations to protect civilians in Beni.
In a statement, the Presidency said the DRC armed forces will set up an advance headquarters in Beni. There are currently no details as to when the operation would begin.
“We do understand the anger and frustration of the population but ask for understanding that attacking the UN or local facilities … actually weakens the Congolese army’s operations against the ADF,” said Matthias Gillman, a UN spokesman.