News / Africa

    Congo Rebels Prepare for Aggressive UN Force

    M23 soldiers demonstrate unarmed combat at Rumangabo military camp, North Kivu April 27, 2013. Rebels are honing their ambush skills to prepare to face a new United Nations force which has a mandate to go on the offensive.
    M23 soldiers demonstrate unarmed combat at Rumangabo military camp, North Kivu April 27, 2013. Rebels are honing their ambush skills to prepare to face a new United Nations force which has a mandate to go on the offensive.
    Reuters
    In forested hills in eastern Congo, rebels are honing their ambush skills to prepare to face a new United Nations force which has a mandate to go on the offensive.

    "Destroy the enemy. Cause fear and stop his patrols," a rebel officer wrote on a blackboard as he instructed uniformed M23 fighters at a camp seized from the government in Democratic Republic of Congo's eastern borderlands.

    In the latest effort to bring peace to a region riven for years by conflict over ethnic rivalry and mineral riches, the United Nations is deploying a 3,000-strong brigade of African troops with a mission of neutralizing armed groups such as M23.

    Approved by the Security Council in March for "targeted offensive operations," the brigade from South Africa, Tanzania and Malawi is the first to be created within a traditional peacekeeping force. A 17,000-strong existing U.N. force, MONUSCO, has struggled to maintain security in eastern Congo.

    If the M23 rebels, who emerged last year from a Tutsi-led rebellion in 2004-2009, fear the new U.N. Force Intervention Brigade, they are not showing it. They routed U.N.-backed Congolese troops and briefly seized the North Kivu provincial capital of Goma in November, an embarrassment for President Joseph Kabila and the United Nations.
            
    M23 spokesman Colonel Vianney Kazarama said the rebel group,which is demanding political concessions from Kabila's government, had no plans to attack U.N. peacekeepers. But if targeted, it would respond.

    "You'll see, we're going to capture them, destroy their equipment, march over their forces," Kazarama said.
            
    At the captured government camp, rebels paraded and put on a show of hand-to-hand combat in the bush grass.
            
    Military experts say the brigade could find itself severely stretched in its mission to neutralize and disarm the M23 and other armed groups.
            
    M23 is well-trained and well-armed. U.N. experts say it is backed by Rwanda and Uganda although both countries deny it.
            
    FDLR rebels, the remnants of Hutu killers who carried out the 1994 genocide of Tutsis in Rwanda, and other militias also roam the green hills and valleys of North Kivu.
            
    "It's a complex mission. From a tactical point of view this is a logistical nightmare because you don't know who's who in the zoo from one day to the next," said Helmoed Romer Heitman, a South African military analyst.
            
    He questioned whether the U.N. brigade, which will include about 1,000 South African troops and an equal number from Tanzania and Malawi, would big and strong enough.
            
    "The overall U.N. mission is not properly conceived. I think the force is too small and there is a certain amount of wishful thinking," Heitman told Reuters in Pretoria.
            
    South African military spokesman Xolani Mabanga said the numbers were in line with recommendations.
            
    "We are happy with the size of the force," he said.

    South Africa's armed forces are already smarting from the deaths of 13 soldiers in March in Central African Republic when anti-government rebels confronted a 200-strong South African contingent deployed there under a defense agreement.

    This has increased the political sensitivity of South Africa's participation in the Congo.
            
    M23 have shown signs of being rattled, appealing against South Africa's involvement with a mixture of threats and entreaties to pan-African solidarity.
           
    "They're scared of the brigade. They call meetings to tell the population to reject it," student Guillaume Muchuti told Reuters in the M23-held town of Rutshuru, north of Goma.
            
    Tanzania also brushed off threats from M23 that it will target its soldiers if they join the U.N. mission.
            
    "We are not going to Congo as lords of war, we are going there as advocates of peace to help our neighbors," Tanzanian Foreign Minister Bernard Membe told parliament.
        
    M23 officials privately admit their force's numbers have been reduced by months of infighting between rival factions. Congo's army estimates the rebels' strength at around 1,000. This led to one leader, Bosco Ntaganda, surrendering to the International Criminal Court to face war crimes charges.
            
    Despite seizing tons of ammunition and scores of vehicles when it occupied Goma, M23 is running short of cash to pay its fighters, rebel sources say. MONUSCO says it has received a steady stream of deserters.

    Kabila's government, whose weak and indisciplined army has struggled to contain rebels in the east and is accused by rights groups of rapes and abuses against civilians, welcomes the new U.N. brigade.

    Government spokesman Lambert Mende says Kinshasa would like a negotiated peace with M23, but, failing that, hopes the African peacekeepers' robust mandate can have a real impact. U.N. officials caution that while the intervention brigade is expected to be a deterrent to violence in North Kivu, it will not be a "magic wand" for bringing peace.
            
    "It's not as if they're going to come and start shooting on the first day. The objective is to contain and neutralize and disarm armed groups. If we can do that without firing a shot, everyone will be very happy," said Alex Queval, head of MONUSCO in North Kivu province.

    Former Irish president Mary Robinson, who was appointed U.N. special envoy to the Great Lakes region in March, toured last week to encourage implementation of a U.N.-mediated peace plan for the eastern Congo signed by 11 countries in February.
           
    "There's no doubt these armed groups need to be dealt with, but I think it's important that this does not become a focus on a military solution," she said in Goma.
            
    M23 was not part of the February pact and its own separate peace negotiations with the Congolese government have stalled, amid signs that Kinshasa is reluctant to implement vague promises of national political dialogue and decentralization.

    Maria Lange, country head of advocacy group International Alert, says that even if the U.N. brigade makes short-term gains, this may not guarantee lasting solutions. The brigade would allow the government to pursue a military solution.

    "They've been liberated from the obligation to actually conduct talks and address underlying governance problems," Lange told Reuters. "This brigade risks at best being ineffective, or at worst, will lead to an escalation of the situation."

    There are fears too the government will not carry out much-needed reforms of its security forces, Lange added. U.N. troops have faced protests in the past by Congolerse civilians angry about what they see as the peacekeepers' failure to protect them from abuses by armed groups.

    "The last hope we have is for this brigade, we're waiting for them. But I don't have much faith," said Innocent Bisimungu.
       
    His parents were hacked to death by Hutu rebels in 1998 and now he lives in a zone under the control of the Tutsi-led M23.

    "I was born in conflict and I grew up in conflict. We've never known anything else," he said wearily.

    You May Like

    Turkey, US Splits Deepen Over Support for Kurdish Militants

    Ankara summons American ambassador to protest remarks by State Department spokesman who said Washington does not consider Syria's Kurdish Democracy Union Party (PYD) a terrorist organization

    Obama Seeking $19 Billion for National Cybersecurity

    Move, touted as attempt to build broad, cohesive federal response to cyberthreats, calls for increase in cybersecurity spending across all government agencies

    Video Foreign Policy Weighs Heavy for Some US Voters

    VOA talks to protesters in Manchester, New Hampshire, who sound off on foreign policy issues such as the Guantanamo Bay prison, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the wars in Iraq, Syria and Yemen

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Beka Wagari from: Addis Ababa
    May 07, 2013 4:03 AM
    It is very best if this force come to Ethiopia, Addis Ababa
    In Response

    by: bizimana frank from: rwanda
    May 22, 2013 3:08 PM
    ok surely, i just want to make logic what are they doing papersly for what.so what i rialise they lucking wisdom. cause they are genelleting problems

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clownsi
    X
    February 09, 2016 8:04 PM
    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clowns

    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Rocky Year Ahead for Nigeria Amid Oil Price Crash

    The global fall in the price of oil has rattled the economies of many petroleum exporters, and Africa’s oil king Nigeria is no exception. As Chris Stein reports from Lagos, analysts are predicting a rough year ahead for the continent’s top producer of crude.
    Video

    Video Foreign Policy Weighs Heavy for Some US Voters

    VOA talks to protesters in Manchester, New Hampshire who sound off on foreign policy issues such as the Guantanamo Bay Prison, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Middle East Affairs and national security.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.