TWO BSF personnel, who were part of the UN Peacekeeping Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo, were among five people killed during a protest in an eastern town near the border with Uganda on Tuesday.
“Deeply saddened at the loss of two brave Indian peacekeepers of BSF in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. They were part of Monaco. The perpetrators of these outrageous attacks must be held accountable and brought to justice. Deepest condolences to the bereaved families,” External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar posted on Twitter.
The two BSF jawans have been identified as Head Constable Shishupal Singh and Sanwala Ram Vishnoi.
“DG BSF and all ranks condole the tragic demise of HC Shishupal Singh and HC Sanwala Ram Vishnoi on 26 July 2022, who is posted with the United Nations Peace Keeping Force (@MONUSCO) in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Prahari family stands with their families in these difficult times,” a BSF tweet said on Wednesday.
According to the BSF, Tuesday’s protest in Butembo was part of a week-long call for demonstrations and agitation against UN Mission Monusco.
“Yesterday, the situation in Goma (about 350 km south of Beni and a large Monusco base) turned violent and there was looting and setting fire to UN property. Both Beni and Butembo (where two BSF platoons are stationed since June 2, 2022) were on high alert. Yesterday passed peacefully. However, today the situation in Butembo has turned violent.”
According to the force, a camp of the Moroccan Rapidly Deployable Battalion (MoRRDB), where BSF platoons are stationed, was surrounded by protesters. BSF officials said the Congolese Police (PNC) and Army (FARDC) could not control the crowd of over 500 people.
“Initially there was stone pelting by them. To control the situation, MoRRDB personnel opened fire in the air and BSF personnel fired tear smoke shells… but they (mob) managed to breach the perimeter wall at three different places. The crowd was dispersed but they regrouped.”
“The second attack was more fierce and was accompanied by small arms (automatic) fire. Moroccan and Indian soldiers fired in self-defence. Sporadic firing is still going on. Two seriously injured BSF jawans died. MORRDB also suffered one death… The strength of the UN force (a component of the Army) is on its way,” the spokesperson said.
According to the BSF, there were reports that armed insurgents had infiltrated the protesters.
The Associated Press reported that 50 people are estimated to have been injured in Tuesday’s protests. Protesters torched and forcibly entered the UN mission offices in Goma on Monday, accusing peacekeeping forces of failing to protect civilians amid escalating violence in the Congo’s eastern region. They have been in the Congo for years. Asking the nation’s army to leave,” the AP reported.
Congolese government spokesman Patrick Muayya said in a tweet: “#Goma At least 5 dead, fifty injured, we will be back during the day on the human and physical toll as well as its consequences. We will also take stock of it.” Will take the process of withdrawing @MONUSCO which has already started.”
In an official statement, MONUSCO said: “A blue helmet and two members of the United Nations Police were killed on Tuesday during an attack on MONUSCO’s base in the city of Butembo, North Kivu. Another was seriously injured. The attackers violently snatched weapons from elements of the National Police Congolese Army and fired directly at our peacekeeping forces.MONUSCO bows to the memory of these brave soldiers who fell in the field of honour and wishes the injured blue helmet a good and speedy recovery. He strongly condemns this attack.”
Pointing out that the agreement between DR Congo and the United Nations could violate its bases, it called the attack a “war crime”.
The DR Congo government spokesman did not specify what caused the deaths but described the response by security forces and peacekeepers as “warning shots to disperse the demonstrators and prevent any attack on the @MONUSCO base and installations”. “The government has instructed the security forces to take all measures to ensure a return to calm and the normal resumption of activities in Goma,” he said.
MONUSCO said its forces had exercised restraint in dealing with demonstrators. “Several reports of casualties among the attackers are circulating…the Mission has been subject to restraint in the management of assailants and violent assaults to which its bases and personnel were subjected. MONUSCO undertakes to cooperate with the competent authorities in any investigation they may wish diligently to establish the facts,” it said.
According to the UN, the mission has more than 16,000 uniformed personnel in Congo. AP reported that the protests are taking place as fighting has escalated between Congolese troops and the M23 rebels, forcing nearly 200,000 people to flee their homes.