Indian soldiers from MONUSCO, the UN mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo, attend a ceremony honoring peacekeepers who died during violent protests against Monusco, in Goma, on Aug 1, 2022. (ALEXIS HUGUET / AFP)
KINSHASA – Democratic Republic of Congo has asked the spokesman of the UN peacekeeping mission, MONUSCO, to leave the country, blaming him for stoking tensions that led to deadly protests last week.
The Congolese government considers that the presence of this official (Mathias Gillmann) on the national territory is not likely to promote a climate of mutual trust and calm between Congolese institutions and MONUSCO.
Congo's foreign affairs ministry
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Thirty-six people, including four UN peacekeepers, were killed last week as hundreds of protesters vandalized and set fire to UN buildings in several cities in Congo's east.
Civilians accuse the mission, which has been active for more than a decade, of failing to protect them from militia violence that has long plagued the region.
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The government said that the spokesman, Mathias Gillmann, had made "indelicate and inappropriate" statements which contributed to the tensions between the population and MONUSCO.
"The Congolese government considers that the presence of this official on the national territory is not likely to promote a climate of mutual trust and calm between Congolese institutions and MONUSCO," according to the statement from the foreign affairs ministry dated July 28 and seen by Reuters on Wednesday.
Gillmann and MONUSCO's deputy spokesperson did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The Congolese government also said this week that it would reassess the mission's withdrawal plan in light of the protests, a decision which MONUSCO said it supported.
The mission is due to withdraw by 2024 according to a plan drawn up last year, but the g
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MONUSCO, which took over from an earlier UN operation in 2010, had more than 12,000 troops and 1,600 police deployed in Congo as of November 2021, according to its website.
Frustrations against the mission were stoked by the recent resurgence of the M23 rebel group, which has displaced thousands.
Attacks by militants linked to Islamic State have also continued despite a year-long state of emergency and joint operations against them by the Congolese and Ugandan armies.