International

United Nations, UN, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
Karel Prinsloo/AP
Indian United Nations soldiers drive past people fleeing fighting, Sunday, Oct. 26, 2008 near
Kibumba some 40 kilometers north of Goma in eastern Congo.

Congo Incident Latest Attack on UN

October 28, 2008 01:44 PM
by findingDulcinea Staff
An attack on the UN compounds in the Democratic Republic of Congo is the most recent evidence of an alarming increase in violent incidents against UN staffers worldwide.

Angry Civilians Stone UN Compounds

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One person was left dead after hundreds of angry protesters stoned the United Nations peacekeeping bases in the city of Goma in northeastern Congo, the Los Angeles Times reported on Monday. The protesters, which included mostly children, blame the agency for its failure to quell violence in the region.

“We were assaulted by a rain of stones,” said UN spokeswoman Sylvie van den Wildenberg, who said it was not known whether the victim was killed by a rock or a bullet. “We understand perfectly the frustration of the population. We understand they are panicking. But the violence of this morning was unacceptable.”

The UN announced on Monday the resignation of the newly appointed force commander for UN troops in Congo, Lt. Gen. Vicente Diaz de Villegas y Herreria. UN officials also met on Monday with local residents, who say that the 17,000-strong UN peacekeeping force is not committed to ending the violence.

“It’s not in their interest, because if there is no [fighting] then they won’t have a job,” Goma resident Joseph Mukulima said to the LAT. “What’s going to happen will happen and [the UN] presence won’t change anything. It’s better if they just leave.”

Tensions in the country have increased between government troops and rebels led by Gen. Laurent Nkunda, who plans to overthrow the government. On Tuesday, it was reported by Voice of America that government troops were in retreat against the rebels in eastern Congo, where the two sides clashed in Kibumba and Rutshuru, north of Goma.

Background: ‘UN Chief Says UN Staff Attacks at Alarming Level’

Attacks on United Nations and humanitarian field workers increased significantly last year, according to a report released by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Oct. 1, who called for member states to assist in punishing perpetrators.

“I’m gravely concerned by the wide scale of threats, the rise in deliberate targeting of humanitarian and U.N. personnel and their vulnerability worldwide,” Ban said in his report, according to the International Herald Tribune.

Twenty-five UN civilian staff members died in attacks in the year ending June 30, 2008, an increase of 36 percent from last year. There were also 490 nonfatal attacks on UN premises, installations and convoys, and numerous other incidents of harassment and intimidation, robberies, physical assaults and hijackings. That year was also “the worst in recorded history” for deaths of humanitarian and nongovernmental organization employees.
Most of the attacks took place in Africa. Sudan was the location of 297 incidents against UN personnel, including the killings of five drivers for the UN World Food program.

In his report, Ban made note of a Dec. 11, 2007, attack on the UN headquarters in the Algerian capital, Algiers, that resulted in the deaths of 17 UN staff members. A recent independent inquiry into the bombing placed blame on 10 staff members for “security failings” that made the offices vulnerable to attack. The probe was ordered by Ban, who said that a lack of resources, training, supervision and accountability were also to blame.

On Oct. 14, it was reported that Chadian refugees in Sudan’s Darfur region attacked a UN compound and beat its staff members. No one was seriously injured in the attack on the office and residential compound of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, or UNHCR, in the town of Mukjar in western Darfur.

Related Topic: Congo’s women speak up to protect others from rape

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