Eight Peacekeepers Killed by Rebel Group in Region of Ebola Outbreak in Congo
The Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has now infected 352 people. The situation is slowly growing and poses a real threat to many countries in the region. Part of this is due to the widespread violence in the region, mainly concentrated around the city of Beni. Earlier this week tragedy struck the war-torn region once again as eight peacekeeping troops, and twelve Congolese troops were killed.
The peacekeepers hailed from Malawi and Tanzania. They gave their lives in defense of peace. A sense of peace that Beni has not seen for nearly two decades due to the constant attacks from militia groups. One of these militia groups, the Allied Democratic Forces(ADF), is one of the main culprits.
The ADF was founded in the 1990s in rebellion to the Ugandan government. However, they have since largely relocated to the Congolese region of North Kivu. They have, according to the Associated Press, killed 1,500 people in the region since October 2014. This new attack on the peacekeepers is following a string of large-scale targeting of UN Peacekeepers and civilians by the group. Additionally, there are reports that the group has recruited children as young as 10 to join their ranks. In a report published by the Congo Research Group, affiliated with the Center of International Cooperation at New York University, it shows that the group has ties with the ISIS. The group has long been characterized by a violent and radical interpretation of the Qur’an. They are being funded by similar radical groups in addition to their attempt at controlling the mineral deposit mines throughout the region.
Following the incident that took place in Beni, UN Secretary-General Antonio Gutuerres responded by “Calling on all armed groups to stop their destabilizing activities that continue to add to the population’s suffering and further complicate the Ebola response.” In the same response he also put emphasis on praising the bravery of the UN Peacekeepers that gave their lives and all those still serving in the region.
Unfortunately, as of Friday, the militia groups are ignoring the calls of the Secretary-General as Mortars were fired on a UN peacekeeping base. Following this, the Congolese military imposed a curfew on the city. Despite this a military spokesperson said, “Three houses and a car were burned.”
The instability is only feeding growing fears that the Ebola outbreak at the moment “may not be brought under control” as suggested by Robert Redfield, Director of the Center for Disease Control (CDC). This is mainly due to the inability of health officials to work in a safe environment or even reach patients due to the violence. However, on Wednesday a Trump administration official made it known that there are no plans for a United States redeployment of assets to help in quelling the outbreak. It is unclear whether or not a response involving US military officials will be utilized as the spokesperson said the following, “I’m not going to rule in or rule out anything.”
The complexities of the region could very well lead to a major crisis. In which as time goes on a response by the international community might get only more difficult. It is also concerning that the rebel groups are using the outbreak as a shield from which to launch attacks. The Ebola outbreak is correlated with the violence in the region and is intimately connected to it. Yet as a response is being together it seems as though the tragedy of those Peacekeepers will not be the last.