In a statement released on Monday, the government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo accused the M23 rebels of being responsible for the death of the UN peacekeeper.
A South African UN peacekeeper died on February 5, 2023, after the helicopter he was flying caught fire. The helicopter flew from the city of Beni and had an emergency landing in Goma.
Recently, the eastern city of Goma has been plagued with protests over escalating instability in the area.
For the past twenty years, militia brutality and violence have agonized the country’s eastern region, which has an abundance of minerals. The interventions and negotiations by the local military to restore peace have not been successful in the region. The UN peacekeeping efforts have also not been a success.
Following its takeoff from Beni, a helicopter operated by the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) came under fire. A South African peacekeeper has been killed, and another has been injured.
The South African government and MONUSCO did not provide any information as to the identity of the potential perpetrator or what weapon may have been used to target the helicopter.
An official statement released by the Kinshasa government blamed the M23. Last year, the group launched a major offensive.
M23 has denied the allegations.
The MONUSCO mission has been deployed in eastern Congo with around 18,200 personnel since it took over the former U.N. mission in 2010. Among its responsibilities is assisting the Congolese government in stabilizing the region.
Recently, several violent protests have broken out in and around Goma against insecurity.
Demonstrators accuse MONUSCO and a regional force established in April of last year of failing to protect civilians and put an end to the bloodshed.
In spite of a November truce and withdrawal from recently seized territory, hundreds protested on Monday against M23 advances in Goma.
Virunga National Park said in a statement that two rangers were killed and two others wounded on Monday by armed men suspected to be members of the local Mai-Mai militia.
There is a conflict between militias fighting for control over territory and natural resources in the Virunga area near Goma, a sanctuary for endangered mountain gorillas.
A number of rebel groups have been blamed for killing more than 200 rangers in past attacks.
Park officials said the frequency of such attacks had increased recently after dwindling in 2022.
During the 2002 Nyiragongo eruption and Rwanda Genocide, the Goma district grew in popularity because it was where the majority of the refugees fled, along with Uganda.
Call for an immediate ceasefire in Congo by the UN
Announcing his deepest condolences to the family of the fallen peacekeeper and to all South Africans following the dramatic helicopter landing, Mr. Antonio Guterres, Secretary General of the United Nations, wished a speedy recovery to those injured.
He urged the Congolese authorities to investigate the heinous attack and bring those responsible to justice as soon as possible. Such attacks against peacekeepers are “possible war crimes,” he noted.
Since last October, M23 has seized a number of areas in North Kivu province in eastern DRC, threatening to approach the provincial capital.
Several hundred thousand people have been displaced by fighting in the province since last March, and Pope Francis called for an end to violence during his first visit earlier this week. There was an agreement signed in November when rebels agreed to withdraw, but it failed to materialize.