TWO BSF personnel, who were part of the UN Peacekeeping Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo, were among five people killed during a protest in an eastern town near the border with Uganda on Tuesday.
“Deeply grieved at the loss of lives of two valiant Indian peacekeepers of the BSF in the Democratic Republic of Congo. They were part of MONUSCO. The perpetrators of these outrageous attacks must be held accountable and brought to justice. Deepest condolences to the bereaved families,” External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar posted on Twitter.
The two BSF men have been identified as head constables Shishupal Singh and Sanwala Ram Vishnoi.
“DG BSF & all ranks express condolences on the sad demise of HC Shishupal Singh & HC Sanwala Ram Vishnoi on 26 Jul 2022, deployed with UN Peace Keeping Contingent (@MONUSCO) in Democratic Republic of Congo. Prahari Parivar stands by their families in these trying times,” a tweet by the BSF said on Wednesday.
According to the BSF, Tuesday’s protest in Butembo was part of a week-long call for demonstrations and agitations against the UN mission called MONUSCO.
“Yesterday, the situation turned violent in Goma (about 350 km south of Beni and a big MONUSCO base) with looting and UN property being set on fire. Both Beni and Butembo (where two BSF platoons are deployed since June 2, 2022) were on high alert. Yesterday passed peacefully. However, today the situation in Butembo turned violent,” a BSF spokesperson said.
According to the force, a camp of Moroccan Rapidly Deployable Battalion (MORRDB), where the BSF platoons are stationed, was surrounded by demonstrators. BSF officials said Congolese Police (PNC) and Army (FARDC) could not control the crowd of over 500 people.
“Initially stone pelting was done by them. To contain the situation, MORRDB troops fired in the air and BSF troops fired tear smoke ammunition… but they (the crowd) managed to breach the perimeter wall at three different places. The crowd was repelled but they gathered again,” the BSF spokesperson said.
“The second attack was more fierce and was accompanied by fire from small arms (automatics). Moroccan and Indian troops fired in self defence. Sporadic firing is still going on. Two BSF personnel succumbed to fatal injuries. MORRDB also suffered one fatality… Reinforcements of the UN Force (Army component) are on their way,” the spokesperson said.
According to BSF, there were reports that armed rebels had infiltrated the demonstrators.
The Associated Press reported that 50 people were estimated to have been injured in Tuesday’s protests. “Demonstrators on Monday had set fires and forced entry into the UN mission offices in Goma, accusing the peacekeeping forces of failing to protect civilians amid rising violence in Congo’s eastern region. They are calling for the UN forces, present in Congo for years, to leave,” the AP reported.
DG BSF & all ranks express condolences on the sad demise of HC Shishupal Singh & HC Sanwala Ram Vishnoi on 26 Jul 2022, deployed with UN Peace Keeping Contingent (@MONUSCO) in Democratic Republic of Congo.
Prahari Parivar stands by their families in these trying times.#JaiHind pic.twitter.com/HF8Sv5FS9w
— BSF (@BSF_India) July 27, 2022
Congo government spokesperson Patrick Muyaya said in a tweet: “#Goma at least 5 dead, fifty injured, we will come back during the day…on the human and material toll as well as the consequences to be drawn. We will also take stock of the process of withdrawing the @MONUSCO that has already begun.”
In an official statement, MONUSCO said: “A blue helmet and two members of the United Nations Police were killed on Tuesday in Butembo, North Kivu, during an attack at the base of MONUSCO in the city. Another was seriously injured. Attackers violently snatched weapons from elements of the National Police Congolese Army and fired point-blank at our peacekeeping forces. MONUSCO bows to the memory of these valiant soldiers who fell on the field of honor and wishes a good and speedy recovery to the injured blue helmet. It strongly condemns this attack.”
Pointing out that its bases are inviolable according to the agreement between DR Congo and the UN, it called the attack a “war crime”.
The DR Congo government spokesman did not specify what caused the deaths but described the response by security forces and peacekeepers as “warning shots to disperse the demonstrators and prevent any attack on the @MONUSCO base and installations”. “The government has instructed the security forces to take all measures to ensure a return to calm and the normal resumption of activities in Goma,” he said.
MONUSCO said its forces had exercised restraint in dealing with demonstrators. “Several reports of casualties among the attackers are circulating…the Mission has been subject to restraint in the management of assailants and violent assaults to which its bases and personnel were subjected. MONUSCO undertakes to cooperate with the competent authorities in any investigation they may wish diligently to establish the facts,” it said.
According to the UN, the mission has more than 16,000 uniformed personnel in Congo. AP reported that the protests are taking place as fighting has escalated between Congolese troops and the M23 rebels, forcing nearly 200,000 people to flee their homes.