KINSHASA, Congo (AP) — Congo’s government is reassessing the presence of United Nations peacekeepers after protests against the force in the country’s east have killed at least 36 people.
President Félix Tshisekedi chaired a crisis meeting as demonstrations escalated after U.N. peacekeepers opened fire on civilians, killing three, in Kasindi, an eastern border post with Uganda.
In addition to the deaths in Kasindi others have died in the eastern towns of Goma, Butembo, Uvira and Kanyabayonga, Congo’s government spokesman Patrick Muyaya said in a statement Tuesday.
He said the government had consulted civic groups in the affected areas and “the populations made a clear request: that of seeing (the U.N. peacekeepers) leave Congo,” he said.
At the crisis meeting, Congo’s president said that he spoke with U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who expressed deep condolences after the killings at the Kasindi post, according to the statement.
Tshisekedi said shared his total disapproval of the behavior of the U.N. peacekeepers and told the secretary-general that those guilty of the violence must be severely punished. Guterres had called for justice over the weekend.
The government will convene a meeting with the U.N. mission to discuss the possibility of its withdrawal, Muyaya said in the statement. No date has been set for the meeting.
The U.N. force in Congo, known as MONUSCO, has about 16,000 uniformed personnel but has not succeeded in stabilizing the country’s volatile east. Recently the M23 rebels have carried out numerous attacks.
The U.N. force has already withdrawn from two provinces of Congo, Kasai and Tanganyika.