People in the Democratic Republic of the Congo are demanding that the US and others leave the country for failing to stop rebels
Protesters in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DR Congo) have burned US and Belgian flags as they targeted foreign missions and UN offices in the capital, Kinshasa, accusing the Western governments of supporting rebels in the conflict-torn African nation.
On Monday, riot police in Kinshasa reportedly fired tear gas to disperse angry crowds that had set fire to tires near Western embassies. Videos posted on X (formerly Twitter) show a demonstrator removing the EU flag from the entrance of a large hotel in the capital, with onlookers applauding.
Some stone-throwing demonstrators attempted to break surveillance cameras at one of the US embassy offices, while others chanted, “Leave our country; we don’t want your hypocrisy,” Reuters reported.
The UN Organization Stabilization Mission (MONUSCO), which is set to begin withdrawing its 15,000 troops from the DR Congo in April, said several of its vehicles were set on fire by angry locals on Saturday. The peacekeeping mission has been in the troubled eastern Congo since 1999, but its forces are accused of failing to protect civilians while brutally suppressing local protesters who oppose its presence there.
Protests broke out in the former Belgian colony on Friday after the M23 rebel group, one of the most active militant coalitions in the country’s eastern region, launched fresh attacks that forced thousands of civilians to flee.
Locals say Western allies have failed to use their influence over neighboring Rwanda to prevent it from arming the M23 militants.
DR Congo: To denounce the silence of the international community in the face of the security & humanitarian drama in eastern DRC and Western support for #Rwanda_M23, the demonstrators do not want to see Western flags in Kinshasa. pic.twitter.com/itr68Uo6Tt
— African News feed. (@africansinnews) February 12, 2024
“The Westerners are behind the looting of our country, Rwanda doesn’t work alone, so they must leave our country,” one of the protesters told Reuters.
In a statement late on Sunday, the Congolese government “strongly” condemned the “unjustified acts of violence” by the protesters. It also announced a decision to strengthen security in foreign embassies as well as on the premises of the UN peacekeeping mission.
Tensions between the DR Congo and Rwanda have increased since the resurgence of the M23 militia in the volatile east in 2021. Western governments, including the US and Belgium, and a UN expert panel have endorsed allegations by DR Congo authorities that Kigali was funding the insurgents, who have seized vast swaths of land in North Kivu. The East African nation has repeatedly denied the accusations, claiming they are attempts to incite conflict in the region.
Renewed bombings in several cities by the M23 last week prompted Kinshasa to vow that it would not allow the group to regain control of Goma, the conflict-torn provincial capital near the Rwanda border. In response, the fighters said they had no intention of seizing the town, which they briefly captured in 2012, and that they were only conducting “defensive maneuvers.”
At least 150,000 people have reportedly been displaced from their homes in various areas of the troubled eastern North Kivu province, including Masisi and Sake, in recent weeks as a result of clashes between the state army and militants.
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