Protests against the United Nations (UN) presence in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo have spread from the Ebola-affected town of Beni to other towns in the region over frustration among locals that blue helmets are failing to protect civilians.
Reports suggest that some eight people were killed late on Sunday by fighters aligned to the Allied Democratic Forces rebel group.
This follows reports of an earlier attack that claimed at least 13 lives.
UN facilities in the region have been torched and looted.
“What is happening in Beni is, of course, very disturbing. We are facing challenges that are very hard for a mission to deal with because you have demonstrations from people that are frustrated with attacks from armed groups. This area is the area affected by Ebola. This area went through hell for the last 20 years, so the population paid a very high price. You remember when we started the Ebola (treatment)… we faced a lot of resistance from the population and the attacks, and we have a doctor that was killed. So, this is something that we know, and we try to deal with and to address,” says the Head of the UN Peacekeeping Mission Leila Zerrougui.
The UN mission also announced it was launching a probe after gathering evidence that its troops may have killed a young demonstrator following a protest in the east of the country.
Zerrougui explained that the victim was reportedly killed in an exchange with blue helmets as he was about to throw a petrol bomb.
On the broader question of protection of civilians, she said it was not easy to achieve the desired results in such tough terrain.
“It’s a forest area, not easy to access, and population is living in many areas, many villages, not easy to protect every person. We have a responsibility to protect. We have a responsibility to work with the FRDC and try to make sure that these operations will not have the impact that they are having now. But, it’s not always easy to achieve results. Of course, when you put in a mandate that you have an offensive mandate, then people expect you to finish the enemy. But it’s not easy to finish the enemy because you are dealing with a terrorist group using subversive and terrorist tactics; attacking civilians in the middle of the night.”