A military tribunal in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) put six soldiers of the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC) on trial on Tuesday following the deaths of 56 people at an anti-UN demonstration on August 30. The soldiers face multiple charges such as crimes against humanity and inciting military personnel to commit acts contrary to their official duties.Anti-UN demonstrations organized by a religious sect named Wazalendo broke out in Goma last week. The protestors were demonstrating in opposition to the UN peace keeping mission, the UN Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO), when they were met with violence by military forces. According to Colonel Michel Kachil, FARDC’s intervention resulted in the death of 56 people and wounded another 75 people.As a result of these events, six soldiers, including two senior officers, now face charges in a military tribunal in North Kivu. Among the defendants is Mike Mikombe, who is head of the elite Republican Guard. He and five others are accused of crimes against humanity by murder, wicked destruction, and inciting military personnel to commit acts contrary to duty and discipline. The court is yet to deliver any convictions.The response of the FARDC to the anti-UN demonstrations has been widely condemned by human rights organizations as well as the UN itself. Human Rights Watch (HRW) described the actions of the soldiers as “callous” and “unlawful” while UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ravina Shamdasani, commented that she was “extremely alarmed” by the deaths of protestors. She further stated that “People have a right to express themselves freely and to assemble peacefully, even if in protest at the United Nations.”MONUSCO is one of the largest peacekeeping missions in the world at present. It authorizes the UN to use all necessary means to “protect civilians, humanitarian personnel and human rights defenders under imminent threat of physical violence and to support the Government of the DRC in its stabilization and peace consolidation efforts.” Despite these peacekeeping attempts in the DRC, it remains a volatile environment, as conflict has been present for the last three decades.

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