A Monusco contingent in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The United Nations has come under fire for allowing the M23 rebels to sieze the important city of Goma., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
March 28, 2013
U.N. Approves New Force to Pursue Congo’s Rebels
UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The United Nations Security Council authorized a new “intervention brigade” for the Democratic Republic of Congo on Thursday with an unprecedented mandate to take military action against rebel groups to help bring peace to the eastern portion of the country.
The resolution, which the Council adopted unanimously, gives the brigade a mandate to carry out offensive operations alone or with Congolese Army troops to neutralize and disarm militant groups. The intervention brigade will be the first such unit created within a traditional United Nations peacekeeping force.
But the resolution states clearly that it will be established for one year “on an exceptional basis and without creating a precedent or any prejudice to the agreed principles of peacekeeping.”
The resolution, sponsored by France, the United States and Togo, says the “intervention brigade” must have “a clear exit strategy.” It says the Council will determine its continued presence based on its performance and according to whether Congo has made sufficient progress in improving its security sector and creating a Congolese “rapid reaction force” that can take over responsibility for neutralizing armed groups and reducing the threat they pose to civilians and the government’s authority.
A United States deputy ambassador to the United Nations, Jeffrey DeLaurentis, said coordination between the military and civilian sides of the United Nations mission remained crucial to ensuring the protection of women and children, and to preventing “the continuation of the horrible streak of sexual violence” in Congo.
The British ambassador, Sir Mark Lyall Grant, said he welcomed the resolution’s adoption as an important step toward peace and a time when the women of eastern Congo “no longer need to fear sexual violence and children are protected from the impact of conflict.”
The brigade will be part of the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Congo, within its troop ceiling of 19,815. The United Nations currently has more than 17,700 peacekeepers and more than 1,400 international police in Congo.
The resolution extends the mission’s mandate until March 31, 2014. The brigade’s headquarters will be in the eastern city of Goma. United Nations officials say it will probably include 2,000 to 3,000 troops.
Eastern Congo has been engulfed in fighting since the 1994 Rwanda genocide, in which at least 500,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were slaughtered by Hutu militias before a Tutsi-led rebel army took power in Rwanda. More than a million Rwandan Hutus fled across the border into Congo, and Rwanda has invaded Congo several times to take action against Hutu militias there.
The exploitation of Congo’s mineral resources continues to exacerbate conflict and instability on the ground.
In late February, the United Nations and 11 leaders from central Africa signed an agreement to try to establish peace in eastern Congo.
The resolution demands that Congo and the 10 other African nations carry out the peace accord “in good faith” and expresses the Council’s intention “to take appropriate measures as necessary” against any party that does not comply with its commitments.
Under the peace deal, the signers pledged not to interfere in the internal affairs of neighboring countries or provide any support to armed groups.
The Congolese government pledged to reform its army and police, consolidate its authority in the volatile east and promote reconciliation, tolerance and democratization.
The signers include Rwanda and Uganda, which were accused in a United Nations report last year of helping aid the March 23 Movement rebel group, or M23, which swept through eastern Congo in 2012 and captured Goma in November but pulled out under international pressure. Both countries denied the allegations.
United Nations peacekeepers were unable to protect civilians from the M23 rebels, whose movement began in April 2012 when hundreds of troops defected from Congo’s armed forces.