Dozens of people were killed in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo this week during demonstrations against the United Nations’ mission in the country.
Protesters in the eastern city of Goma on Wednesday criticized the UN’s Stabilization Mission (MONUSCO), the East African Community and other international organizations operating in the country.
At least 43 people were killed and a further 53 were injured during the clashes with local authorities. Over 150 people were arrested, including the leader of the group which organized the protests, the government said.
The DRC government said that the protesters “carried out actions that undermined public order,” and and that law enforcement intervened to “restore tranquility and serenity in the city,” according to a statement Thursday.
According to a MONUSCO press release on Thursday, “Congolese defense and security forces tried to prevent the holding of this demonstration, which promised to be violent by the very admission of its organizers.”
“MONUSCO remains concerned about the threats of violence made before the demonstration and recalls the importance of the peaceful resolution of disputes and conflicts through inclusive dialogue,” the statement read.
Goma authorities have launched an inquiry into the incident and the justice ministry has been “instructed to gather evidence.”
Ravina Shamdasani, Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said Friday that the UN has received information “indicating that the death toll may be higher.”
Shamdasani also called for an independent investigation into the killings.
“We note the Government’s announcement that an investigation has been opened into this incident and call for it to be thorough, effective, and impartial. Such an investigation must also comprehensively examine the use force by the security forces. Those responsible for violations must be held to account, regardless of their affiliation,” Shamdasani said.
“People have a right to express themselves freely and to assemble peacefully, even if in protest at the United Nations and other actors. Authorities must facilitate the right to peaceful assembly,” she added.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk on Friday called for DRC authorities to ensure that “future law enforcement actions in the context of the policing of public assemblies fully adhere to international human rights norms and standards.”
Anti-UN protests in the DRC broke out in July and have since escalated. The UN has a longstanding and significant footprint in the country, which has been the object of local demonstrations for years. In 2017, a Congolese military court sentenced 49 people to death following an investigation into the murders of two UN experts in the country.