DRC expels Monusco spokesman over deadly anti-UN protests in eastern Kivu provinces

·2-min read
© Glody Murhabazi/Agence France-Presse

Kinshasa has asked the UN peacekeeping mission, Monusco, to withdraw spokesman Mathias Gillman over "indelicate and inappropriate remarks" he made in the wake of deadly mass protests in the eastern DRC, in which at least 36 people have died.

Citing recent tensions between the peacekeeping mission and locals, Kinshasa had said: "The government would very much appreciate that action be taken for Mr. Mathias Gillman to leave Congolese territory as soon as possible."

For its part, Monusco said in a statement, it had noted the request and that it "regrets the expulsion of its spokesman by the Congolese government".

"The mission is committed to continuing to work by the side of the Congolese population and authorities to implement the mandate entrusted to it by the [UN] Security Council," it added.

Monusco must build 'mutual trust and serenity'

The congolese government – through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs – reportedly blames the UN spokesman for having made "indelicate and inappropriate" comments about the root of the tensions that have caused 36 deaths, including 32 Congolese civilians and 4 Monusco peacekeepers

An additional 170 people were injured in the protests which took place in the eastern DRC's North and South Kivu provinces.

The government reportedly believes that Gillman's continued presence on Congolese territory is not likely to "foster a climate of mutual trust and serenity" between Congolese institutions and the UN mission.

Mathias Gillman's remarks date back to 13 July, when he told RFI that UN peacekeepers did not have the military means to defeat the notorious M23 armed group.

He reportedly said: "The M23 terrorists have more sophisticated weapons than they had a few months ago".

The government slammed the statement as "an admission of impotence for Monusco, which demotes the soldiers at the front and clearly demonstrates the state of mind of the blue helmets."

Resurgence of M23 militia in eastern DRC

The Jeune Afrique magazine has recently written of "the increasingly uncertain future of Monusco" in the DRC, explaining that "the return of tensions around the presence of Monusco marks a turning point.

"In difficulty under [former president] Joseph Kabila who, at the end of his mandate, had not ceased to call for [Monusco's] departure ... [however] the mission maintained with Félix Tshisekedi relations hitherto appeased."

All that has changed, according to Jeune Afrique.

The M23 militia has remained mostly dormant in recent years before resuming fighting last November.

It has since made significant gains, capturing the strategic town of Bunagana on the border with Uganda in June.

The group's resurgence has also damaged diplomatic relations between the DRC and its smaller neighbour Rwanda, which the Congolese government accuses of backing the M23.

The United Nations first deployed an observer mission to eastern Congo in 1999 and established Monusco in 2010 with a mandate to conduct offensive operations.

The peacekeeping operation is one of the largest and costliest in the world, with an annual budget of around $1 billion.

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