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Wounded from anti-UN protests flood DR Congo hospitals

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[FILES] A UN soldier escort a medical vehicle of the North Kivu hospital on a road on the edge of the Virunga National Park near the village of Kibumba, some 25km from Goma, where Italy’s ambassador to the Democratic Republic of Congo, his bodyguard and driver, were killed earlier when their car came under gunfire while he was on a field trip on February 22, 2021. (Photo by ALEXIS HUGUET / AFP)

Hospitals in DR Congo’s troubled North Kivu province have been overwhelmed by people wounded by weapons after violent protests over the UN’s perceived failure to stem civilian massacres, the international Red Cross said Saturday.

Anger at the country’s UN mission has built up over persistent deadly massacres by a local armed group, leading to protests — and even a general strike — since April 5 in which around 10 people have died.

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More than 120 wounded people were being treated at hospitals in the North Kivu capital Goma and in the city of Beni with the help of the International Committee of the Red Cross, it said in a statement.

As of April 14, medical teams in Beni were treating 51 people wounded by weapons, including “nine new cases linked to the recent demonstrations,” it said.

“Currently we have reached our limit in terms of reception capacity” in Beni, which has 43 beds, and the 74 beds in Goma’s hospitals were nearly full, Red Cross spokesman Kelnor Panglungtshang said.

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“Teams have been deployed for more than a week to respond to this influx,” he said.

He added that the numbers had soared following the violence in several parts of North Kivu since the start of the week.

The demonstrations — as well as a general strike in numerous cities including Beni, Goma and Butembo — were called by activist groups and citizen movements to condemn the alleged inaction of UN mission MONUSCO in the face of repeated civilian massacres in the Beni region. 

In response to the violence, earlier this week the provincial governor banned all protests in North Kivu.

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Doctors With Borders said that it had taken in “17 patients, the majority of them trauma cases” following clashes between armed groups in the Masisi territory on April 9 and 10.

Beni has seen more than 6,000 people, primarily civilians, killed since 2013, according to a recent tally by the Catholic Church. 

Authorities blame the massacres on an armed group, the Allied Democratic Forces, that the United States recently classified as a “terrorist” organisation affiliated with the Islamic State.

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