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

    Video How Aleppo Rebels Plan to Withstand Assad's Siege

    Rebels in Aleppo are laying plans to withstand a siege by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces in likelihood the regime cuts a final main supply line running west of city

    Scientists Detect Gravitational Waves in Landmark Discovery

    Researchers likened discovery to difference between looking at piece of music on paper and then hearing it in real life

    Prince Ali: FIFA Politics Affected International Fixtures

    Some countries faced unfavorable treatment for not toeing political line inside soccer world body, Jordanian candidate to head FIFA says

    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.
    NATO to Target Migrant Smugglersi
    X
    Jeff Custer
    February 11, 2016 4:35 PM
    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video How Aleppo Rebels Plan to Withstand Assad's Siege

    Rebels in Aleppo are laying plans to withstand a siege by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces in the likelihood the regime cuts a final main supply line running west of the city. They vow a siege will not be over quickly. But their plans are not being helped by squabbles breaking out among insurgent commanders.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video Co-Ed Selective Service Stirs Controversy

    Young women may soon be required to register with the U.S. Selective Service System, the U.S. government agency charged with implementing a draft in a national emergency. Top Army and Marine Corps commanders told the Senate Armed Services Committee recently that women should register, and a bill has been introduced in Congress requiring eligible women to sign up for the military draft. The issue is stirring some controversy, as VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports from New York.
    Video

    Video Lessons Learned From Ebola Might Help Fight Zika

    Now that the Ebola epidemic has ended in West Africa, Zika has the world's focus. And, as Carol Pearson reports, health experts and governments are applying some of the lessons learned during the Ebola crisis in Africa to fight the Zika virus in Latin America and the Caribbean.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Illinois Voters Have Mixed Emotions on Obama’s Return to Springfield

    On the ninth anniversary of the launch of his quest for national office, President Barack Obama returned to Springfield, Illinois, to speak to the Illinois General Assembly, where he once served as state senator. His visit was met with mixed emotions by those with a front-row seat on his journey to the White House. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Heated Immigration Debate Limits Britain’s Refugee Response

    Compared to many other European states, Britain has agreed to accept a relatively small number of Syrian refugees. Just over a thousand have arrived so far -- and some are being resettled in remote corners of the country. Henry Ridgwell reports on why Britain’s response has lagged behind its neighbors.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Jordanian Theater Group Stages Anti-Terrorism Message

    The lure of the self-styled “Islamic State” has many parents worried about their children who may be susceptible to the organization’s online propaganda. Dozens of Muslim communities in the Middle East are fighting back -- giving young adults alternatives to violence. One group in Jordan is using dramatic expression a send a family message. Mideast Broadcasting Network correspondent Haider Al Abdali shared this report with VOA. It’s narrated by Bronwyn Benito
    Video

    Video Civil Rights Pioneer Remembers Struggle for Voting Rights

    February is Black History Month in the United States. The annual, month-long national observance pays tribute to important people and events that shaped the history of African Americans. VOA's Chris Simkins reports how one man fought against discrimination to help millions of blacks obtain the right to vote
    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.