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UN Congo Mission to Determine If 28 Killed Were Civilians

UN Mission in Democratic Republic of Congno and DRC soldiers get ready to deploy from Gemena (2009 file photo)

An official with the U.N. Peacekeeping Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUC) said the group will be launching an investigation into the deaths of at least 28 people allegedly killed by the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo, or FARDC.

MONUC spokesman Madnoudje Mounoubai said fierce fighting between the national army and the rebel Democratic Liberation Forces of Rwanda (FDLR) group over the weekend contributed to the loss of life.

“There was confrontation between the FARDC and the FDLR. And, the information we receive [is that] 28 people were killed during this attack, none of them FARDC. So, supposedly, all of them should be FDLR. But, as usual, whenever we receive such information, we, as a routine, launch an investigation to determine if there is no civilian among the casualties,” he said.

But, Walikale residents in the restive north Kivu province blamed the national army for killing unarmed civilians.

MONUC spokesman Mounoubai said the investigation will ascertain whether those killed were rebels or ordinary unarmed civilians.

“That is what the investigation is for to determine exactly the identity of those who were killed. As you know, the FDLR doesn’t wear uniforms, so they usually are in civilian clothing. So, only [an] investigation will tell us if those people were FDLR or civilians,” Mounoubai said.

With about 20,000 peacekeepers in the D.R.C., MONUC is the largest U.N. mission to a single country with an estimated budget of more than $1 billion.

The U.N. Security Council mandated its peacekeepers “use all necessary measures” to protect Congo’s unarmed civilian population against violence perpetrated by various armed groups.

Mounoubai said MONUC will work closely with the government to investigate the allegations against the national army.

“As a matter of principle, we always work with the government and the FARDC to put together a joint team with the government. So, we have to do that first before the investigation itself starts,” Mounoubai said.