The Democratic Republic of the Congo has asked the spokesman of the United Nations peacekeeping mission, MONUSCO, to leave the country, blaming him for stoking tensions that led to deadly protests last week.
The decision was announced in a statement from the foreign affairs ministry dated July 28 and seen by the Reuters news agency on Wednesday.
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Thirty-six people, including four UN peacekeepers, were killed last week as hundreds of protesters vandalised and set fire to the mission’s buildings in several cities in the country’s east.
Civilians accuse the mission, which has been active for more than 10 years, of failing to protect them from armed gang violence that has long plagued the region.
The government said that the spokesman, Mathias Gillmann, had made “indelicate and inappropriate” statements which contributed to the tensions between the population and MONUSCO.
“The Congolese government considers that the presence of this official on the national territory is not likely to promote a climate of mutual trust and calm between Congolese institutions and MONUSCO,” said the statement.
Gillmann and MONUSCO’s deputy spokesperson did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The Congolese government also said this week that it would reassess the mission’s withdrawal plan in light of the protests, a decision which MONUSCO said it supported.
The mission is due to withdraw by 2024 according to a plan drawn up last year but the government aims to speed up its departure, said foreign affairs minister Christophe Lutundula.