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UN Seeking Stronger Mandate for Congo Force

Combatants from Nyatura armed group at ceasefire talks in Lushebere, eastern DRC, December 26, 2012 (N. Long/VOA)
Combatants from Nyatura armed group at ceasefire talks in Lushebere, eastern DRC, December 26, 2012 (N. Long/VOA)
The United Nations says it wants to set up a peacekeeping unit in the Democratic Republic of Congo that will have a stronger mandate to take on armed groups.

U.N. officials say the force, which they refer to as an "intervention brigade," would number about 2,550 soldiers and aim to prevent armed groups from expanding their territory.

A U.N. peacekeeping official, who declined to be named, said the troops would be able to do more than simply protect civilians. He said they also would have quick reaction capabilities to take on rebels and eventually disarm them.

The brigade would be part of the larger U.N. mission in Congo which numbers about 17,000 peacekeepers. That mission faced criticism in November when it did not intervene to stop the advance of M23 rebels who took control of Congo's eastern city of Goma. The rebels later withdrew from the city.

U.N. officials say they are expecting a regional agreement on Congo to be signed Monday on the sidelines of an African Union summit in Addis Ababa. They say the deal will be signed by the presidents of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi, Angola, the Republic of Congo, South Africa and Tanzania.

A panel of United Nations experts has accused Uganda and Rwanda of supporting the M23 rebel group in Congo, something that both countries have denied.

M23 is made up of former rebels who were integrated into the Congolese army in a 2009 peace agreement. The rebels deserted the army last year, complaining of discrimination and poor treatment.

The fighting in eastern Congo has displaced more than 100,000 people in the country's North Kivu province, aggravating an already serious humanitarian situation in the region.
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