A total of 14 UN peacekeepers deployed in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have been killed following an assault launched by rebels belonging to Allied Democratic Forces (ADF).
The deadly attack which happened on Thursday is said to be the worst attack on a UN peacekeeping mission ever.
Five members of the Congolese air force were also killed, reports say, in the exchange of fire that lasted about four hours.
The 14 peacekeepers were serving under the United Nations peacekeepers under the MONUSCO (United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the DRC), established in 2010 to safeguard the fragile Eastern part of DRC from long standing insurgents including ADF rebels.
The ‘blue helmets’ as the UN peacekeepers are often referred to as, were killed in a fire exchange with suspected rebels of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF).
The UN said that at least 53 peacekeepers were also injured in the attack following a raid on the MONUSCO base in Beni Territory in the North Kivu Province.
United Nations (UN) Secretary General Antonio Guterres has since described the attack as “deliberate”, adding that it was the “worst attack on UN peacekeepers in organizations recent history.”
“I condemn this attack unequivocally. These deliberate attacks against UN peacekeepers are unacceptable and constitute a war crime,” Gueterres said.
The attack is a heavy blow to UN’s largest peacekeeping mission which was already relatively weakened by budget cuts when President Donald Trump assumed administration in the U.S, the biggest single financial contributor to UN peacekeeping.
In March, the size of the troops of MONUSCO was cut by 25% amid warnings that such reviews would undermine an already fragile mission.
Recent instability in DRC’s south-central part of the Kasai region further strained the UN peacekeepers since the already small number was redeployed from the East.
Commenting on the attack, the Uganda People’s Defense Forces (UPDF) Spokesperson Brig Richard Karemire said; “Elimination of these terrorists in Eastern DRC primarily rests on the Kinshasa government.UPDF will continue to protect our border against infiltration”.
He however said it is high time that parties to the Joint Following Up Mechanism under the International Conference for the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) honoured their commitments to make the Kasese Centre operational. The ADF remains a threat to regional peace and stability.
UN says that nearly 300 peacekeepers have been killed in DRC since the initial mission that preceded MONUSCO arrived in the country 1999.