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Africa

Goma residents protest after deadly attack on civilians

© Jeroen van Loon (compassmedia.nl)

Text by Thomas HUBERT

Latest update : 2013-08-25

Mobs burned tyres and stoned United Nations vehicles in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo Saturday after a shell struck the city of Goma and killed three people. Government forces and M23 rebels have blamed each other for the attack.

Scores of demonstrators took to the streets of Goma in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo on Saturday after three people were killed when a shell struck the city. 

Officials told FRANCE 24 that the artillery round struck a densely populated area of the city at 8am, killing three residents and wounding several others.

“The population has been very agitated since M23 [rebels] fired a bomb into Ndosho,” army spokesman Col Olivier Hamuli said from Goma. The UN peacekeeping mission Monusco also blamed the bombing on the militia holed up in the hills overlooking the city.

The United Nations mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo has called for an investigation after two protesters died of gunshot wounds near one of its bases.

"The head of MONUSCO deplores the death of two civilians who were killed in demonstrations in Goma on Saturday and has called for a joint inquiry by the DRC police and MONUSCO’s police cell," the UN said in a statement.

Witnesses told AFP that Uruguayan peacekeepers shot dead two people who were part of a crowd attempting to storm the mission's base near the airport during Saturday's protest.

Police firing into the air

Eyewitnesses told FRANCE 24 that angry protesters seized the bodies of civilians killed in the shelling and took them to the city centre, where large demonstrations continued throughout the morning. “The police have been firing into the air and using teargas, but there are too many people for them to control,” a Goma resident said.

Mobs set fire to tyres and set up barricades on several streets across the city, which borders Rwanda.

“They stoned UN vehicles and asked that Monusco either intervene or leave,” Sekombi Katondolo, head of the local radio station Mutaani, told FRANCE 24.

Monusco’s military spokesman Lt Col Félix Basse said that successive rotations of UN attack helicopters had been pounding M23 positions for a second day since early morning.

He added that the aim of the air bombardment was to push the M23 rebels beyond the Kibati hills north of Goma, and put their artillery out of range of the city.

UN representative Martin Kobler condemned the indiscriminate and unacceptable attacks against the civilian population, saying he had "ordered the MONUSCO force to react in the strongest terms possible to these horrifiying and unqualifiable crimes.”

Rwanda accusations

M23 spokesman Col Vianney Kazarama denied responsibility for Saturday’s attack on Goma, accusing government forces and UN peacekeepers instead.

In an open letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, M23 president Bertrand Bisimwa also blamed government forces for earlier shelling in which four Goma residents died on Thursday.

Map of the Democratic Republic of Congo
© FRANCE 24

On Friday, the Rwandan government accused the Congolese army of firing artillery rounds into its territory, without causing casualties.

“The nature and pattern of these shellings suggests that they are not occurring accidentally,” Rwanda’s defence spokesman Brig Gen Joseph Nzabamwita said in a statement.

DRC armed forces spokesman Col Olivier Hamuli rejected the accusation: “If it is proven  that rounds were fired into Rwanda, they must have come from M23,” he told FRANCE 24.

“M23 received reinforcements from Rwanda all night long,” he added.

United Nations inspectors and advocacy groups have documented extended Rwandan support for M23 since the rebellion started more than one year ago, but Kigali has always denied the charges.

On Thursday, Reuters reported that Rwandan diplomats had tried to water down a draft UN Security Council resolution condeming M23’s attacks on civilians by blaming the recent violence on both government and rebel forces. The planned resolution was then dropped.

Date created : 2013-08-24

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