MONUSCO, the UN’s mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), has announced the evacuation of 1,000 refugees following an escalation of violence in the North Kivu province. The 1,000 refugees join the several million people displaced within the DRC, the majority of which are from the North and South Kivu provinces, as well as the Ituri province. As escalation of violence between the M23 rebels and the DRC government in recent years has seen this number again rise drastically.
#MONUSCO protège les civils fuyant les violents combats à #Mweso (Nord-Kivu).
Des Casques bleus ont été déployés pour sécuriser un corridor permettant d’évacuer les personnes déplacées. pic.twitter.com/vpl2szSmbO
— MONUSCO (@MONUSCO) January 27, 2024
The refugees hail primarily from Mweso, a town in North Kivu which suffered an attack on January 25th that left at least 19 civilians dead, and between 17-27 injured. The attack also reportedly damaged several buildings within Mweso. The DRC’s government has blamed the attack on the M23 rebels, who they say “indiscriminately dropped mortar bombs” on the town. The government stated that 19 were killed, with 27 injured.
The M23, however, instead turned blame towards the government, accused them of attacking the town using drones and mortars, and specifically targeting civilians after “failing” to remove the M23 from their defensive positions amidst renewed combat between the DRC’s military and the M23.
Le régime de Kinshasa, à travers le porte parole militaire du Nord kivu, s'est précipité à publier un communiqué laconique pour renier le carnage qu'il vient de perpétrer contre des populations de Mweso. Les populations victimes sont témoins oculaires des auteurs de ces crimes… pic.twitter.com/bWrDk7h40t
— Lawrence KANYUKA (@LawrenceKanyuka) January 26, 2024
The DRC has launched a wave of attacks against the M23 since they began joint combat operations with the Southern African Development Community (SADC) on January 16th, the same day that two M23 commanders were assassinated by a DRC drone attack.
Soon to Leave
Although they are still active and participating as their mandate demands, MONUSCO is preparing to exit the DRC by the end of the year. Following years long criticisms from the DRC’s government on what they claim is inability to end the conflict within the east, the DRC government has demanded MONUSCO leave the country. As such, they are planning to withdraw completely by December 31st, 2024, in three phases. The first phase will take place in April, with the departure of approximately 2,000 of MONUSCO’s 14,000 troops.
Prior to MONUSCO beginning to prepare for their withdrawal, they were the subject of significant protests in 2022 and 2023, which saw dozens of civilians and several UN Peacekeepers killed. The mission has grown unpopular with both citizenry and government not only because of their failure to quell the violence in the east following the UN’s 25 year deployment, but also after a series of abuses, including sexual ‘misconduct’.