By Joe Sterling, Robyn Kriel and Eric Levenson….
A “deliberate attack” on United Nations peacekeepers in the Democratic Republic of Congo constitutes a “war crime” and was the worst attack on peacekeepers in the organization’s recent history, UN secretary general Antonio Guterres said Friday.
Fourteen peacekeepers were killed and 53 others were injured in the Thursday evening attack, the UN’s peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO) said in a statement. Mission officials believe the attack was carried out by the rebel group Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), according to the statement. At least five members of Congo’s armed forces also were slain, Guterres said.
“Attacks against those who are working in the service of peace and stability in the Democratic Republic of the Congo are cowardly and constitute serious violations,” said Maman Sidikou, the secretary general’s special representative in the DRC, who leads its mission there. “MONUSCO will take all actions to ensure that the perpetrators are held accountable and brought to justice.”
The attack took place in the eastern province of North Kivu, which borders Rwanda and Uganda, Guterres said.
Earlier, Guterres had said 12 UN peacekeepers, all of them Tanzanians, had been killed and at least 40 others injured. “I condemn this attack unequivocally,” he said. “These deliberate attacks against UN peacekeepers are unacceptable and constitute a war crime. I call on the DRC authorities to investigate this incident and swiftly bring the perpetrators to justice. There must be no impunity for such assaults, here or anywhere else.”
‘Worst attack … in recent history’
The largest of the UN’s 15 peacekeeping missions is in the Democratic Republic of Congo, with more than 22,000 personnel.
“This is the worst attack on UN peacekeepers in the organization’s recent history,” Guterres added. “It is another indication of the enormous sacrifices made by troop contributing countries in the service of global peace. These brave women and men are putting their lives on the line every day across the world to serve peace and to protect civilians.”
The eastern part of Congo has been embroiled in violence since 1994, when Hutu forces crossed the border from Rwanda fearing reprisals following the genocide there.
UK Ambassador to the UN Matthew Rycroft said he was “really shocked” by the attack — “not just on them as individuals but on the very essence of UN Peacekeeping.”
Earlier this year, two UN experts investigating human rights violations and their Congolese interpreter were found dead in the DRC. US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley visited a camp for displaced people in the Democratic Republic of Congo in October. The UN says nearly 4.5 million Congolese have been forced to flee from their homes, and many are living in displaced camps.