BENI Democratic Republic of Congo (Reuters) - Congolese troops and United Nations peacekeepers fired live rounds to disperse hundreds of people protesting outside a U.N. base in the eastern Congolese town of Beni on Wednesday, a Reuters witness said.
Crowds gathered at the U.N. base calling for peacekeepers to leave the town after two people were shot dead on Tuesday during a protest over the U.N. mission’s failure to stem violence blamed on Ugandan rebels that has killed dozens of civilians in recent weeks.
A Reuters witness said peacekeepers and Congolese troops fired into the air to disperse crowds at Beni airport, where the U.N. force has a base. The reporter said there were a number of injuries.
A spokesman for the U.N. mission did not comment on the shooting at the base but said an enquiry had been opened into an incident involving a joint Congolese-U.N. patrol on Tuesday.
Congolese authorities were not available for comment.
Angelus Kavutirwaki, spokesman for local civil society groups in Beni, said youth had blocked the streets of the Mbaw neighbourhood on Tuesday night in frustration that peacekeepers had not done more to prevent recent killings by the rebels.
“The blue helmets fired in the crowd, killing two young people and gravely wounding one,” Kavutirwaki said of Tuesday’s incidents.
A police source, who asked not to be named, confirmed two people had been killed but said it was not clear if they had been shot by U.N. or Congolese forces.
Uganda’s ADF-NALU rebel group still operates in Congo’s east despite joint U.N.-Congolese operations against them over the last year and has been blamed for killing dozens of civilians in North Kivu province in recent weeks.
Earlier this week, Martin Kobler, head of the U.N. peacekeeping mission, called for a new military operation against the rebel group but no action has been taken yet.
ADF-NALU are one of a string of local and foreign armed groups still roaming Congo’s eastern border zone. Distant Kinshasa has struggled to stamp its authority over the mineral-rich region despite the presence of a 23,000-strong U.N. force.
Additional reporting by Aaron Ross in Kinshasa; Writing by David Lewis; Editing by Daniel Flynn