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

Tired of Waiting, South Africans Demand Change ‘Now’

With chronic poverty and lack of basic services largely fueling recent xenophobic attacks, many in Rainbow Nation say it’s time for government to act More

Challenges Ahead for China's Development Plans in Pakistan

Planned $46 billion in energy and infrastructure investments in Pakistan are aimed at transforming the country into a regional hub for trade and investment More

'Forbidden City' Revisits Little Known Era of Asian-American Entertainment

Little-known chapter of entertainment history captured in 80s documentary is revisited in new digitally remastered format and book More

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

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festivali
X
April 24, 2015 4:09 AM
Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Keeping Washington Airspace Safe Is Tall Order

Being the home of all three branches of the U.S. federal government makes Washington, D.C. the prime target for those who want to make their messages and ideas heard. Unfortunately, many of them choose to deliver them in unorthodox ways, including from the air, as a recent incident clearly showed involving a gyrocopter landing on the Capitol’s West Lawn. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.
Video

Video Hope, Prayer Enter Fight Against S. Africa Xenophobia

South Africa has been swept by disturbing attacks on foreign nationals. Some blame the attacks on a legacy of colonialism, while others say the economy is to blame. Whatever the cause, ordinary South Africans - and South African residents from around the world - say they're praying for the siege of violence to end. Anita Powell reports from Johannesburg.

VOA Blogs