Congolese Police Suppress Protest Against Mercenaries and UN Troops.

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By Tonny Ingutia

On Wednesday, Police in Goma violently dispersed a protest against an East African force stationed in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, according to AFP correspondents.

About 100 demonstrators gathered near a roundabout to march against the East African Community (EAC) force, which they said was ineffective. 

Several thousand Kenyan and Burundian soldiers have recently been deployed to assist the Congolese army and UN peacekeepers in their fight against armed groups in eastern DRC. A contingent of 750 soldiers from South Sudan is expected to arrive soon.

“The population is tired of seeing this ineffective EAC force devolve into an observer mission that watches as they massacre us,” said Espoir Mwinuka, an activist with the Lucha, a group of young activists who co-organized the march.

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“On the ground, they’re doing nothing but acting as a shield for the enemy, so this force has no reason to be here,” said another Lucha activist, Josue Wallay.

On arrival in Goma city centre, the march was stopped by police who fired tear gas. 

Journalists were threatened by police and an officer threw a tear gas grenade at the group of reporters, hitting an AFP correspondent in the head. 

80 CIVILIANS KILLED

A journalist was injured while fleeing. Two others were arrested along with six protesters and released after three hours in custody. 

A historically Tutsi rebel group called the M23 took up arms again in North Kivu province in late 2021, notching up advances last year that led to the EAC’s decision to deploy the force.

The DRC government accuses Rwanda, the country’s smaller neighbor, of assisting the M23, which Kigali denies.

M23 has continued to clash with the Congolese army and other armed groups since the end of October, despite declarations of a ceasefire and troop withdrawals.

DRC Foreign Minister Christophe Lutundula on Wednesday accused the M23 “and the Rwandan government which supports them” of “once more failing to uphold their commitments.”

Scores of armed groups roam eastern DRC, many of them a legacy of two regional wars at the end of the 20th century that claimed millions of lives.

In neighbouring Ituri province, activists on Wednesday began a three-day protest aimed at shutting down the provincial capital Bunia over failures to tackle civilian deaths by armed groups.

“More than 80 civilians have been killed since the start of the year,” said Dieudonne Lossa, a spokesman for civil society groups.

Both Ituri and North Kivu have been under a so-called state of siege since May 2021 — an emergency measure under which senior civilian officials have been replaced by army or police officers to speed up action against armed groups.

Despite the initiative, massacres of civilians have continued unabated in the Congolese town.

Rishi Sunak. First UK Premier appointed by King Charles III.

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