Eight people were killed on Sunday night in an attack by armed fighters in the northeastern city of Beni. At least two more were killed and several wounded after angry residents took to the streets and clashed with security forces.
Police said protesters also torched the mayor’s office in response to the overnight attack. A tweet by the police force showed flames shooting from the window and thick black smoke billowing above.
Demonstrators then marched to the offices of the UN peacekeeping mission in Congo (MONUSCO), said Teddy Kataliko, a civil society leader in Beni.
“Several offices at the MONUSCO headquarters were set on fire and looted,” Kataliko said. “Residents are demanding the withdrawal of MONUSCO from Beni because of the inaction of UN forces.”
the attacks on UN facilities began in the morning.
“The UN soldiers were trying to defend themselves but it was very difficult. Two people were killed around the demonstration around the UN camp, which destroyed half of the wall of the main UN building,” he said.
“The same protesters are now heading to the second military base of the UN located at the airport. This is a very, very difficult situation going on here in the town of Beni.”
While it was unclear who exactly carried out the assault late on Sunday, the city has repeatedly come under attack from the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), an armed group that operates in DRC and neighbouring Uganda.
“We are protesting because no one is doing anything to protect us. Everyone – the government soldiers and the UN soldiers – have failed to protect us,” Tony Mumbere, a demonstrator, said.
Thousands have fled Beni in raids attributed to ADF fighters. More than 60 people have been killed in the region since the Congolese army started a campaign against the armed group last month, according to officials.
On Monday, protesters continued to direct their anger at the United Nations.
During previous military operations against the ADF its fighters retaliated by attacking civilians, according to local activists.
No ‘offensive operations’
MONUSCO said its troops were not invited by officials in the capital Kinshasa to take part in fighting against the assailants after the attack on Sunday.
“We cannot impose ourselves in an operational situation for offensive operations. We came in support to evacuate the wounded, we came in support to share information when possible,” Francois Grignon, an acting deputy special representative at MONUSCO, said in tweets posted by the mission on Monday.
The DRC-based Center for Studies of Peace and Defense of Human Rights urged calm on Monday, condemning the assault on civilians as well as the attacks on UN facilities.
“While sharing the anger felt by the youth of Beni and the revolt that these terrorist acts provoke, [the center] asks all residents of Beni to remain calm, show restraint and a sense of responsibility so as not to fall into the trap of the enemy,” it said in a statement.
The ADF has been operating near the Ugandan border for more than two decades. Several ADF attacks have been claimed by Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS), but the extent of their relationship remains unclear.