Khassim Diagne : "MONUSCO is not responsible for the death of the demonstrators who looted and vandalized its base in Goma”
"We have a duty of accountability. The Mission is committed to respect for human rights. I can confirm with certainty that MONUSCO is not responsible for the death of the demonstrators who looted and vandalized its base in Goma. The joint Government-MONUSCO investigations will prove this".
The Special Representative ad interim of the UN Secretary General in the DRC, Khassim Diagne, was answering questions from Congolese journalists during the joint Government-MONUSCO press conference broadcast live on Congolese National Radio and Television (RTNC) on the evening of Tuesday, July 27.
The Congolese Minister of Communication and spokesman for the Government, Patrick Muyaya, organized this exercise after two days of violent demonstrations by the populations of Goma and Butembo, in North Kivu, who are demanding the departure of MONUSCO from the DRC without delay, judging its track record to be mixed after its 20-year presence in the country.
Several media professionals who attended the conference wanted to know who was responsible for the death of five demonstrators who stormed the UN mission's base in Goma on Monday and Tuesday.
Khassim Diagne was clear on the subject: "The weapons and ammunition of our forces are traceable. The commanders of the UN Force and the UN Police have all assured me that no peacekeepers have opened fire on the civilian population".
He did say however that warning shots were fired to deter demonstrations.
Protection of Mission facilities and personnel
This encounter with the Congolese press was preceded by a working session between Prime Minister Sama Lukonde and Mission officials. Among the resolutions that came out of this tête-à-tête, the government reiterated its commitment to strengthen security and protect all UN Mission facilities as well as national and international staff who have been targeted in their homes by looters and angry assailants.
"It is the duty of the government to ensure the protection of the Mission and all its personnel," said Patrick Muyaya.
He added: "There have been several arrests and those who are found guilty will be held accountable and will face the full force of the law.
The minister warned those who have launched leaflets in other cities of the DRC calling for so-called dead cities and anti-MONUSCO demonstrations. "No demonstrations are allowed. Those who disregard this measure will face the law enforcement forces and will only have themselves to blame," he warned.
Call for peace and non-violence
The Congolese government spokesman also took the opportunity to send a message of peace and call on the Congolese people to show restraint. "Violence has never been an adequate response to solve problems. We understand your frustrations, dear compatriots, and I can assure you that the Mission is already in the process of withdrawing from the DRC," he said.
In the same vein, the second in command of MONUSCO, who is currently filling in for the head of the Mission, Bintou Keita, who is on mission, said it was time to move on to de-escalation. "Nothing can be solved by chaos and unrest," he said.
On the withdrawal of the Mission
The burning issue of the withdrawal of the Mission from the DRC, which is fuelling all Congolese debates and is at the root of the demonstrations, was also raised during the conference.
The head a.i. of MONUSCO was reassuring: "The Mission is in the process of withdrawal. We have just withdrawn from the province of Tanganyika since June 30, 2022. Our withdrawal from Tanganyika is part of a pilot project of the Mission's general exit plan".
MONUSCO is now only present in the three provinces of North Kivu, South Kivu and Ituri.
"With the government, we have already put in place a transition plan based on 18 milestones. We must make efforts to communicate on this plan so that the population can be at the same level of information and understand what exactly is involved in MONUSCO's departure," he said.
On the sustainability of MONUSCO-Government achievements
In his remarks, Khassim Diagne recalled that it is time to turn the page and consolidate the achievements and successes of the actions carried out by MONUSCO with the government, while improving what needs to be improved and addressing the weaknesses.
He recalled that MONUSCO came to the DRC at the invitation of the Government of the Republic. "We must part on a note of peace and not in turmoil," he said.
Finally, Mr. Diagne paid tribute to the memory of the Congolese and peacekeepers who lost their lives during the skirmishes. "We are committed to cooperating with the competent authorities in all investigations to establish responsibility.
Before closing his remarks, Khassim Diagne emphasized that MONUSCO has shown restraint in dealing with the assailants and the violent attacks on its bases and personnel.
As for the government spokesman, he called on journalists to be involved and committed in the fight against hate speech that causes unrest and breaks social cohesion in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
“The consequences of hate speech are harmful and very unfortunate for our society. It is your duty to sensitize the population," he insisted.