The leaders of three African nations have called on the international community to classify as a terrorist group the Congolese rebel group responsible for one of the worst attacks on peacekeepers.
President Joseph Kabila of the Democratic Republic of Congo and heads of state from neighbouring Congo-Brazzaville and Angola want the international community to respond to attacks by the Allied Democratic Forces rebel group as terrorist attacks.
Kabila, Angola’s President Joao Lourenco and President Denis Sassou-Nguesso released a statement on Saturday while attending a summit with leaders from Africa’s central Great Lakes region, held in the city of Brazzaville over the weekend.
At least 15 UN peacekeepers were killed on Thursday by rebels in an attack on a base in Congo’s North Kivu region, the UN said. A further 53 others were wounded.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said “this is the worst attack on UN peacekeepers in the organisation’s recent history”.
Most of the peacekeepers killed were Tanzanian nationals.
Tanzania’s ambassador to the Congo and UN representatives arrived in the town of Beni yesterday to assess the situation.
The three presidents also want the Lord’s Resistance Army, the rebel group led Joseph Kony, to be declared a terrorist group.
Both groups operate between the porous borders of Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and other neighbouring East African states.
The bodies of 15 UN peacekeepers from Tanzania killed in the Democratic Republic of Congo will be repatriated in the coming days, the Tanzanian army said yesterday.
The soldiers were all members of the Tanzania People’s Defence Forces participating in a UN peacekeeping operation in the conflict-torn eastern region of the country.
Their base in North Kivu province came under attack by suspected Ugandan rebels on Thursday.
“We are working with the United Nations on this.
The bodies will be repatriated between Tuesday December 12 and Wednesday December 13,” Lieutenant General James Mwakibolwa, deputy head of the Tanzanian army, told reporters.
The UN has put the death toll from the attack at 15, with 53 wounded.
But Tanzania’s government continues to speak of 14 deaths, the original figure released by the UN.
Mwakibolwa said the soldiers were killed after 13 hours of clashes with fighters of the Allied Democratic Forces who attacked their positions.
The ADF is a shadowy rebel group dominated by hardline Ugandan Muslims and opposed to Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni, who has been in power for 31 years.
The attack is the worst loss of life to a UN peacekeeping force since 1993 when 24 Pakistani soldiers were killed in Somalia during clashes with a local warlord.
DR Congo’s huge eastern region has long been wracked by violence, but fighting between government soldiers and militia groups, as well as inter-ethnic clashes, has increased significantly this year.
UN chief Antonio Guterres led an outpouring of outrage over the deadly ambush, calling it a “heinous” act.
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