UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has strongly denounced a deadly attack, allegedly carried out by a Ugandan-based rebel group, against the world body’s peacekeepers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), which claimed the lives of over a dozen UN troops in the African country.
“These deliberate attacks against UN peacekeepers are unacceptable and constitute a war crime,” said Guterres in a statement on Friday, adding, “I condemn this attack unequivocally.”
Late on Thursday, suspected members of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) rebel group attacked the Company Operating Base, run by the MONUSCO (the UN Stabilization Mission in the DRC), at Semuliki in Beni territory, and engaged in a three-hour-long fierce gun battle with the peacekeepers at the base, killing at least 14 blue helmets and wounding more than 50 others, a number of them critically.
Most of the slain peacekeepers were from Tanzania while at least five of them were Congolese.
“These brave women and men are putting their lives on the line every day across the world to serve peace and to protect civilians,” Guterres added, extending condolences to the families and loved ones of those killed and wishing the injured a speedy recovery.
He also called on the DRC authorities to launch a probe into the brutal attack, which he described as the “worst attack” on UN peacekeepers in recent history, to swiftly bring the perpetrators to justice. “There must be no impunity for such assaults, here or anywhere else,” Guterres added.
The restive North Kivu region, situated in eastern Congo, has experienced a number of attacks on UN peacekeeping troops. Back in October, two UN blue helmets were killed and 18 others sustained injuries when their base was attacked by the ADF armed group.
The DRC had one of the most brutal colonial rules before undergoing decades of corrupt dictatorship and back-to-back civil wars that left the mineral-rich country poor and politically unstable.
In 2006, the UN mission helped carry out Congo’s first free and fair elections in 46 years, paving the way for President Joseph Kabila to be elected for a five-year term. Kabila, however, refused to step down after his second elected term officially expired on December 20, 2016, prompting deadly violence across the African state.