News / Africa

Expanded Role for UN Troops in DRC

FILE - UN peacekeepers from Tanzania hold their weapons as they patrol outside Goma.
FILE - UN peacekeepers from Tanzania hold their weapons as they patrol outside Goma.
Nick Long
The United Nations Intervention Brigade (MONUSCO) in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) was given an expanded mandate that went beyond peacekeeping - allowing offensive operations to support the Congolese Army against M23 rebels. It was a pivotal move in defeating M23, and what it could mean for continuing operations against other rebel groups in the region, and for other peacekeeping operations in Africa.  

After years of disappointing performances by the UN mission in Congo, MONUSCO, against a variety of rebel groups, the Congolese were not sure what to expect of the 3,000 strong UN intervention brigade from Tanzania, South Africa and Malawi that went on the offensive against the M23 rebels in August.

The brigade has long range artillery and its Tanzanian commander is an artillery expert. Its South African snipers have also proved their worth, and the force’s willingness to give the Congolese army, the FARDC, close support, and to take casualties, has impressed local and international observers.

Security expert Nicholas Garrett has studied armed groups in the Congo and its military situation. "Yes, in my opinion the Intervention Brigade and the rest of MONUSCO, particularly with the new robust mandate, has made a significant contribution to the recent offensive and engagement of the M23. I believe it’s been absolutely key to provide the Intervention Brigade in that context and then to provide a more robust mandate, as we’ve seen in the past the FARDC has had very little success in engaging the armed groups," he stated.

That’s a view shared by many Congolese, like Bovicky Mumbere, a lorry driver in Goma.

Mumbere said he wants to thank the MONUSCO soldiers, especially those from Tanzania. Because were it not for the Tanzanians he does not know how the DRC forces would have won the war.

The Tanzanian battalion with MONUSCO suffered several casualties in the fighting, including an officer killed.

Nevertheless, experts agree that the Congolese army also put up a much better performance under new commanders and with its best units deployed to the front-line.

International Crisis Group analyst Thierry Vircoulon’s assessment is that MONUSCO gave the Congolese army important logistical and tactical support.

He said there was a real tactical working partnership between the Congolese army and the UN force. They planned their military operations together.

This was different from last year, he said, when the UN mission gave fire support to the Congolese army but did not plan operations together.

Vircoulon expects the partnership to continue.  

He said we know that both Congolese army officers and MONUSCO have said their next target will be the Rwandan rebel FDLR. But he asked if they are going to change their strategy and adapt it to a new enemy.

Security expert Garrett thinks the partnership’s tactical approach may have to change to deal with some of the rebel groups. "It depends on the armed group we’re talking about. If we are talking about the FDLR for example, that operates in a far greater geographical area and also in dispersed pockets, the same tactics might not yield the same results. At the same time though it’s important to have an actor with a robust mandate in the region," he said. "And even incremental success with this strategy, complemented by other measures might yield success certainly in particular cases."

In Vircoulon’s view, the close partnership between the Intervention Brigade and the Congolese army sets important precedents for future UN military operations.

He said it is shown that Africanizing MONUSCO allowed a shift from peacekeeping to peace enforcement, because the African countries contributing troops were willing to commit them to close combat.

And he believes it has also shown the effectiveness of close cooperation between a UN force and a national army.
 
But Vircoulon and Garret both commented that this partnership is conditional on the national army avoiding human rights violations.

You May Like

Tunnel Bombs Highlight Savagery of Aleppo Fight

Rebels have used tunneling tactic near government buildings, command posts or supply routes to set off explosives; they detonated their largest bomb this week under Syria's intelligence headquarters More

Sierra Leone Launches New Initiative to Stop Ebola Spread

Government hopes Infection and Prevention Control Units, IPC, will help protect patients and healthcare workers More

UN Official: Fight Against Terrorism Must Not Violate Human Rights

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights says efforts by states to combat terrorism are resulting in large scale rights violations against the very citizens they claim to defend More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boyi
X
Jeff Seldin
March 05, 2015 2:36 AM
A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Ukrainian Authorities Struggle to Secure a Divided Mariupol

Since last month's cease-fire went into effect, shelling around the port city of Mariupol has decreased, but it is thought pro-Russian separatists remain poised to attack. For the city’s authorities, a major challenge is gaining the trust of residents, while at the same time rooting out informants who are passing sensitive information to the rebels. Patrick Wells reports for VOA.
Video

Video Volunteer Gauge-Watchers Help Fine-Tune Weather Science

An observation system called CoCoRaHS is working to improve weather science, thanks to thousands of volunteers across the country who measure precipitation in their own backyards, then share their data through the Internet. VOA's Shelley Schlender reports.
Video

Video NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planet

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Muslims Radicalized Online

Young Muslims are being radicalized ‘in their bedrooms’ through direct contact with Islamic State or ISIL fighters via the Internet, according to terror experts. There are growing concerns that authorities and Internet providers are not doing enough to counter online extremism - which analysts say is spread by a prolific network of online supporters around the world. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video African Americans Recall 1960s Fight For Voting Rights

U.S. President Barack Obama and thousands of people will gather in the small southern U.S. city of Selma, Alabama, Saturday, March 7 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of a historic voting rights march that became known as “Bloody Sunday." VOA’s Chris Simkins traveled to Alabama and introduces us to some of the foot soldiers of the voting rights struggles of the 1960s.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Cyber War Rages Between Iran, US

A newly published report indicates Iran and the United States have increased their cyber attacks on each other, even as their top diplomats are working toward an agreement to guarantee Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon and to free Iran from international sanctions. The development is part of a growing global trend. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More