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Business Paralyzed in Kasese As DRC Nationals Protest Against UN Mission

Some of the cross border traders stuck with their goods in Mpondwe on Thursday

Business in Mpondwe Town Council, Kasese District has been paralysed over the last two days as  Democratic Republic of Congo nationals  protested the presence of the United Nations peacekeeping mission in their country. 

The UN mission has more than 12,000 troops deployed, most in the vast country’s mineral-rich east, where killings more than doubled last year.

More than 330 people have been killed and 40,000 others displaced over the last three months alone as a result of the clashes, according to the Kivu Security Tracker, which maps unrest in the region.

But the locals accuse the international force of failing to protect the civilian population in the area and to stop the bloodshed in the region.

Hundreds of people have expressed anger that the mission, known as MONUSCO, has not prevented a wave of civilian killings by armed groups. They are now demanding their exit so that the DRC forces can take charge of the situation.

The protesters carried rudimentary weapons in areas near the border with Uganda to block the entry of UN security personnel and their vehicles, a move that has paralysed cross border business over the last two days. 

Silvester Mapozi, the LC-III chairperson of Mpondwe Town Council says  DRC army personnel have now offered security to truck drivers to enable them to cross through the protest zones to their destinations. However, he adds that local traders on both sides of the border are still stuck for fear of being attacked by the protesters.

Yesterday, the police in the city of Beni detained dozens of people and fired live bullets to disperse protesters who had barricaded almost all the roads to ask the UN mission to leave the region. Heavy gunfire was heard in the area almost throughout the day. The tense situation greatly affected business on the Ugandan side, according to traders. 

Many of the traders say that they have not been able to travel to Beni over the last two days for fear of being attacked, yet cross border businesses largely depend on the human movement across two countries which cannot be possible in the midst of the tension. 
The secretary-general traders at Mpondwe Market Elias Masereka Musanja told URN  that a number of Ugandan traders who had gone to DRC before the protests broke out are still stuck in the country. Musanja said they had received reports that two Ugandans had been killed during the same unrest. 

Samuel Lebisabo, one of the Congolese who managed to cross into Uganda with his family of six for asylum, told a URN reporter that locals in the country accuse United Nations forces of failing to repulse rebel activities, a result of which many of them are displaced, living in dire conditions, without shelter, food, water or health care. 

David Bwambale, a private lorry driver had acquired his COVID-19 certificate on Tuesday to take traders and their goods to Beni. However, he is worried that if the security situation is not improved, the test results could be declared invalid, and would therefore not be eligible to cross the border. 

Eastern DRC is home to more than 100 rebel groups including the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF).  UNHCR spokesman Babar Baloch had earlier told the media that in less than three months, the ADF-a Ugandan rebel outfit had repeatedly raided 25 villages, set fire to dozens of houses and kidnapped over 70 people.

In December 2019, several people were killed in Beni and Goma as angry protesters took to the streets to call for the withdrawal of UN peacekeepers who they accused of not protecting them against deadly rebel attacks.

Lt. Joe Walusimbi, the Kasese RDC warns traders to be responsible in their movements but hastens to add that there is no need for worry.


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