Protester, policeman killed in new anti-UN demo in DR Congo

Map of Democratic Republic of Congo locating Beni. (AFP Photo/)

Beni (DR Congo) (AFP) - A young man and a policeman were killed and several others wounded Monday in a new protest against UN forces in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), a military prosecutor told AFP.

Demonstrations have erupted in the city of Beni, where local people accuse the UN force MONUSCO of failing to protect them against a notorious militia, the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF).

"A policeman, its seems, killed a demonstrator and the demonstrators killed a cop," military prosecutor Kumbu Ngoma told AFP.

The police meanwhile spoke of four deaths -- two killed by bullets and two others, a woman and a policeman, lynched by demonstrators.

The policeman was burnt alive during a raid at his home, a statement said, adding that 20 people -- 12 policemen and eight civilians -- "were wounded in the riots."

It said five police homes were torched.

An AFP reporter said police repeatedly fired warning shots in a bid to disperse a new protest attended by several dozen young people.

He then saw a corpse being taken to Beni hospital. The head of the hospital morgue confirmed that the body had been fatally wounded by gunfire.

Beni police chief Jean-Felix Kazingufu said police had been forced to open fire.

"There weren't just demonstrators who had to be dispersed, there were ill-intentioned people who absolutely had to be stopped," he said.

Eastern DRC has been troubled for years by militias that control swathes of territory and exploit its mineral wealth.

The Congolese army launched operations against the ADF at the end of October. In response the ADF has carried out massacres in an apparent bid to discourage civilians from helping the military.

Another 27 people were hacked to death on Wednesday, bringing the number of people killed in militia violence in and around Beni to 107 since November 5.

The mounting toll has sparked anger, which is being channelled especially against MONUSCO, one of the biggest UN peacekeeping operations in the world.

The force comprises more than 16,500 military personnel and observers, 1,300 police and at least 4,000 civilians.

But it has been struggling in a vast country beset by armed groups as well as an Ebola epidemic, poverty and poor governance.

Some 10 people have been killed in anti-MONUSCO demonstrations since November 23, according to an AFP toll.

A protest strike in Beni on Monday was widely observed. No shops opened for business and all other activities seemed to be paralysed.

On Saturday, a crowd in Beni lynched two people they suspected of being ADF members, a day after a soldier was killed in Oicha, 30 kilometres (20 miles) away by a mob who mistook him for an ADF fighter.

- 'Lethargy' -

On Monday, the overall head of UN peacekeeping operations, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, stirred controversy by saying there was evidence that anti-MONUSCO protests and attacks on Ebola healthworkers had been planned rather than spontaneous.

"When I say that, it's not to play down the frustrations of the public, who are suffering. We all understand this frustration," Lacroix told the French radio station RFI at the end of a three-day visit.

"At the same time, there are acts which have been premeditated, organised and financed."

A prominent grassroots group, Lucha (for "Struggle for Change"), said the protests had been spurred by "MONUSCO's lethargy."

Lacroix's remarks "are a denial of responsibility and a contemptuous way to ignore the frustrations of the public," it said on Twitter.

In its defence, MONUSCO has pointed out that the Congolese army offensive was ordered unilaterally, and that it has no authority to launch operations by itself.

Lacroix, speaking in Kinshasa later Monday after meeting with Defence Minister Sylvestre Ilunga, said there were "detailed planned joint operations with the Congolese army" and MONUSCO, and added that these had started in Beni a week ago.

The ADF's historical roots lie in Islamist Ugandans opposed to Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni.

The group has plagued the North Kivu region bordering Uganda since the Congo Wars in the 1990s, although its membership has since broadened to non-Ugandans and it has not carried out an attack on Uganda for years.