Violent protests rock Goma in DRC over UN peacekeepers

Wednesday August 30 2023

Protesters set fire in front of United Nations Mission for the Stabilisation of Congo Headquarters in Goma, DRC on July 25, 2022. PHOTO | AFP


Violent protests have rocked Goma, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo after a group of residents attacked stations manned by UN peacekeepers.

And in a show of continual anger against the UN Mission known as Monusco, gunfire could be heard for most of the morning following new demos against the Mission’s presence in North Kivu. Several sources, including the Kivu Security Barometer, an organisation that tracks conflict tolls in eastern DRC claimed at least 8 civilians were had been killed and 20 wounded during an assault by the security forces on a broadcasting base belonging to the Meciath Sect early on Wednesday in the Ndosho district, Goma.

Lt-Col Kaiko Njike, the spokesman for the Congolese army FARDC in North Kivu, said it is early to say how many people died. But few hours later, he said one policeman and six assailants had been killed.

"The Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo wishes to inform the people of Goma and its surroundings that a group of intoxicated and manipulated armed bandits, posing as the Wazalendo and belonging to a mystical- religious sect of the prophet Bisimwa Ephrem, premeditated and sowed chaos in our city starting from the night of Wednesday; with the demand of the departure of Monusco, the Regional Force of the Community of East African States as well as all Westerners, including their NGOs", Lt-Col Ndjike Kaiko said in a statement .

"Within the ranks of the defence and security Forces, one police officer was stoned to death and several others injured. In the ranks of the protesters, six died, some got injured and 158 others got arrested", the FARDC Spokesperson in North Kivu said.

Read: Goma residents protest ‘passive’ regional force


“The assailants were armed,” he added but said the situation had been put under control, including arrests of the ring leaders.

“The message that we, the FARDC, are sending to the population is that we are concerned about the security of our province, which is being attacked by the Rwandan army operating under the M23 label. There is therefore no question of tolerating anyone creating insecurity in the town of Goma.” warned Gen Kaiko Njike, continuing the official government line of accusing Rwanda of fomenting trouble in eastern DRC. Kigali denies the charge but last week the US sanctioned a Rwandese military officer, Brig-Gen Andrew Nyamvumba, among six individuals it accuses of helping rebel groups continue with violence in eastern DRC. On Tuesday, President Paul Kagame incidentally promoted Nyamvumba to be commander of a training college in Nyakinama.

The protests signal continual low public opinion for the Mission, which has been in the DRC for more than two decades. The demos erupted even after the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres announced their accelerated departure from the DRC beginning this December in what he said was a hostile environment.

Read: UN troops in DRC to 'accelerate' departure, says Guterres

According to initial reports on Wednesday in Goma, a crowd of young people inspired by the Wazalendo self-defence groups blocked certain roads in the town demanding Monusco's immediate departure.

Last week, the Principal Superior Commissioner of Goma Faustin Kapend, had indicated that the protesters “do not have the legitimacy of the competent authority in the province of North Kivu and in the town of Goma in particular.”

The call to demonstrate had been issued by a spiritual quasi-political organisation known as ‘la Foi Naturelle Judaïque Messianique vers les Nations’ (FNJMN) / Agano La Uwezo Wa Neno/Wazalendo’. The group is headed by Ephraim Bisimwa. Through various channels, including social networks and Radio Uwezo Wa Neno it owns in Goma, Bisimwa had called for a huge demonstration to demand the independence of Congo and Africa, and the unequivocal departure of Monusco. 

The demonstrators claim to be heirs to Patrice Lumumba's struggle.

Read: Students march in Goma in support of DRC army

The demonstrations come more than a year after violent protests in Goma and several other towns in the east of the DRC, demanding the departure of Monusco for its "passivity" in the face of violence perpetrated by armed groups. Monusco has already announced a transition to a gradual departure from the DRC. But Antonio Guterres had warned that a premature departure of Monusco could expose civilians to more violence.

Demonstrations is undergoing in Goma, where the East African regional force is also stationed. This force, deployed in the DRC to combat armed groups, could extend its stay in the DRC, even though its mandate is due to expire on 8 September.