In Congo, UN Denies Shooting at Protesters, Delays Copter Crash Benefits Answers

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis

UNITED NATIONS, September 3 -- In Rutshuru in Eastern Congo, the UN's own IRIN news service reported that UN peacekeepers fired bullets to disperse people protesting the UN Mission, MONUC. At Wednesday UN noon briefing in New York, Inner City Press asked

Inner City Press: There are reports of the MONUC peacekeepers in the Congo firing into the crowd of civilians in a demonstration at Rutshuru.  Can you confirm that that took place and what MONUC's rules of engagement with civilian demonstrators are?

Spokesperson:  As far as I know, I know only that UN peacekeepers dispersed the demonstrators.  I don't know whether they used, what type of intervention that was, but I can get more information for you.  The situation, as you know, is now calm.

Question:  Are they allowed to fire, I mean, are they supposed to fire live ammunition at civilians?

Spokesperson:  Not that I know of, no.

   Later, Inner City Press got an email from the spokesperson's office that "the mission categorically denies that any live munitions were used by UN peacekeepers in Rutshuru to disperse the rioting crowd. Congolese soldiers fired in the air, though the Mission is unsure what type of munitions were fired."

  Inner City Press has asked the Department of Peacekeeping Operations in New York about what munitions were used, without yet receiving an answer.

On patrol in North Kivu, shooting in the air not shown

Likewise, DPKO deflected a question about the helicopter crash in Bukavu over to "Funds, Programs and Specialized Agencies" --

"The individuals who died in the tragedy were not Peacekeeping personnel and as such we don't have information on their contractual status or the policies that the Agencies, Funds and Programmes concerned, although I imagine that their home Agencies would.  There is no difference in the amount of 'malicious acts' insurance that SRSGs and DSRSG receive.  Other benefits, such as a surviving spouse pension benefit and death benefit are paid on the basis of the staff member's salary and/or length of service."

  Inner City Press in turn asked the UN Development Program, but was told "there is no  way I can get answers on the DRC today." And so it goes at the UN.

  Last week on August 28, Inner City Press asked the UN

Inner City Press: there are reports of renewed fighting in eastern Congo involving General [Laurent] Nkunda as well as MONUC [United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo], and I wanted to know what MONUC's -- first of all, it said something about MONUC attack helicopters are ready.  What are MONUC's terms of engagement there, and have they in fact engaged with General Nkunda's forces?

Deputy Spokesperson:  What I have on this is not yet a complete picture but what I've just gotten:  fighting broke out in the early hours of Thursday between CNDP and Congolese Army units near Rumangabo in Rutshuru territory.  It's unclear who started the fighting or what provoked it.  The fighting has now ceased.  MONUC has not confirmed information regarding casualties or civilian victims.  MONUC has dispatched strong patrols to the area to ascertain the details and demand that both sides stop fighting and withdraw to their original positions.  UN humanitarian staff are meanwhile assessing the situation, and the Special Representative, Mr. Doss, has met at length with the Defence Minister, as well as with the Interior Minister; and the Force Commander has been in touch with the FARDC Commander; and MONUC is also in contact with the representative of the CNDP to the Mixed Technical Commission on Peace and Security.  And that's everything I have on this subject, and you can pick it up upstairs.

Inner City Press: Press accounts have said that MONUC was ready to intervene.  So this would have been on the side of the Government? 

Deputy Spokesperson:  MONUC is there under the mandate given to it [by the Security Council] and you know what that mandate is.

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