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

Video On the Scene: In Gaza, Darkness Brings Dread and Death

Palestinians fear nighttime raids, many feel abandoned by outside world, VOA's Scott Bobb reports More

African Small Farmers Could Be Key to Ending Food Insecurity

Experts say providing access to microloans, crop insurance, better storage facilities, irrigation, road systems and market information could enable greater production More

University of Michigan Wins Solar Car Race

Squad guided its student-designed solar-powered vehicle to fifth consecutive time victory in eight-day bi-annual American Solar Challenge More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid