News / Africa

DRC: High Hopes for New Intervention Brigade

FILE - M23 rebels near the town of Bunagana, Democratic Republic of the Congo. (Nicolas Pinault/VOA)
FILE - M23 rebels near the town of Bunagana, Democratic Republic of the Congo. (Nicolas Pinault/VOA)
Nick Long
Troops from Tanzania, South Africa and Malawi are starting to arrive in the Democratic Republic of Congo to reinforce the U.N. stabilization mission MONUSCO.  Many observers are wondering if the new force can tip the balance against the rebels.

The Tanzanian general commanding the intervention brigade arrived in Goma last week with some of his headquarters staff.  The rest of the brigade is expected to arrive in June or July.

A spokesman for a civil society group in Goma, Goyon Milemba, told VOA the brigade’s arrival was welcome news.

"For the first time people feel they can look forward to a better future - because the new force has a mission to put an end to the armed groups," said Milemba.

The U.N. mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo, MONUSCO, has had 16,000 to 17,000 peacekeepers here for the past eight years, so the arrival of another 3,000 might not look like a game changer.

But Congo expert Jason Stearns, who worked for the United Nations in its previous incarnaton as MONUC, says the brigade will be a force with a difference.

"They will bring with them additional weapons - for example they will have additional attack helicopters," said Stearns. "But they do not bring an enormous amount of logistics.  They bring with them most importantly, I think, a new mandate.  It is a very aggressive mandate.  I would say it is almost an historic mandate for this kind of conflict that allows for aggressive pursuit of armed groups in eastern Congo."

The acting head of MONUSCO for North Kivu province, Alex Queval, puts it slightly differently.  He says it is the first time a U.N. peacekeeping force has deployed a brigade tasked with carrying out targeted attacks to neutralize and disarm armed groups.  

The U.N. peacekeepers already in the DRC will be mainly protecting civilians, Queval says.

"These troops are spread out on the ground in 36 or 37 different camps," said Queval. "Their aim is to protect civilians, not to attack armed groups.  The brigade on the other hand will be concentrated in just two locations.  They will be highly mobile and their job will be trying to persuade the armed groups to disarm.  They are not here to wage war.  They are here to contain, neutralize and disarm the armed groups, so if this can be done without firing a shot everyone will be very pleased.  They can shoot if necessary."

Stearns suggests the brigade’s troops have, in a sense, another weapon - their nationalities.  The troop contributing countries, particularly South Africa and Tanzania have links with the countries of the Great Lakes region.

"Remember the countries currently participating in the UN peacekeeping force - none of them are from the region," he said. "They’re mostly South Asian, actually Indians, Bangladeshi, Pakistanis some Uruguayans. So their states have no involvement in the conflict."

This, he suggests, means there would be a heavy political fallout if the brigade is targeted by rebel groups, such as M23.

"If 10 South African soldiers die, South Africa will be on the phone to leaders in the region, particularly with regard to the M23, they will be putting pressure on Rwanda to bring an end to their support for the M23," said Stearns.

Rwanda has persistently denied accusations it has been supporting the M23.

Several Congolese observers have asked whether MONUSCO can continue its existing mission if the brigade starts targeting rebels.  They suggest the rebels might retaliate against the spread out groups of blue helmets from Asian countries, who could be vulnerable and might even be taken hostage.

Quevel dismisses the idea that the brigade's tasks might become impossible.

"All the necessary precautions will be taken, but I cannot go into military details," he said.

There is broad support for the new brigade from opposition and ruling parties in DRC and from the population, but civil society activist Milemba says they should not be expected to pacify eastern Congo all on their own.

"This mission can only be successful if it is well supported by the Congolese actors," he said. "On its own it would not achieve anything."

Queval says the force is not going to wave a magic wand, a hint perhaps that the United Nations might want to renew the Brigades’ mandate when it runs out in a year’s time.

You May Like

Polls Open in Scotland Independence Vote

As race to persuade undecided voters continues, 'No' voters say they believe life in Scotland will slowly improve, 'Yes' vote not worth the risk More

China-India Border Standoff Continues as Leaders Hold Summit

New Delhi accuses hundreds of Chinese soldiers of illegally entering Indian territory in disputed region of Ladakh More

Ukrainian Activist in Despair About Future of Her Country

IrIna Dovgan, accused of being a spy and tortured by pro-Russian separatists, is appealing to UN Human Rights Council to support her country More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Wateri
X
September 17, 2014 8:44 PM
Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid