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

Bleak China Economic Outlook Rattles Markets

Several key European stock indexes were down nearly three percent, while US market indexes were off around two percent in early trading More

DRC Tries Mega-Farms to Feed Population

Park at Boukanga Lonzo currently has 5,000 hectares under cultivation, crops stretching as far as eye can see, and is start of ambitious large-scale agriculture plan More

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Areas are spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, source of livelihood for fishermen and herders who have called the marshes home for generations More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs