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Posts Tagged ‘United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’

There is concern about new DRC Intervention Brigade

Posted by African Press International on June 1, 2013

Photo: MONUSCO
Tanzanian UN Intervention Brigade commander Brig-Gen James Makibolwa shakes hands with Tanzanian troops

GOMA,  – Nineteen international NGOs have sent a joint letter to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to express concern over the peace process in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and future military operations by a new UN Intervention Brigade.

The letter, dated 23 May and made public this week, asks the secretary-general to call on the 11 African states that signed the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework (PSCF) in Addis Ababa in February to implement the agreement, and to work with UN Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Mary Robinson.

The letter also recommends that the UN Security Council “should seriously consider suspension of the [UN Intervention] Brigade if it does not perform well or if the Congolese government does not make sufficient progress in implementing its commitments under the PSCF” agreement.

The brigade of 3,069 troops from Tanzania, South Africa and Malawi, which the UN peacekeeping department says should be operational by mid-July, has been given a more offensive mandate than any previous contingent with a UN peacekeeping mission. UN Security Council Resolution 2098 empowers it to carry out “targeted and robust offensives… with a view to neutralizing and disarming armed groups”, whilst “taking into account the necessity to protect civilians and reduce risks”.

The NGOs’ letter asks Ban for his leadership “in ensuring that the operations of the Brigade… are clearly linked to the realization of the PSCF” and that it “is part of a broad, comprehensive approach to achieve long-term peace and stability”.

The NGOs also call on Ban to ensure that “planning and conduct of the Brigade’s operations prioritize mitigation of harm to civilians” and to urge “the Congolese government… to put in place a fully independent national oversight mechanism to oversee the implementation of its commitments outlined in the PSCF”.

Dialogue and DDR

Under this heading, the letter says “this should include local level dialogue to address the local causes of conflict and community grievances, as well as comprehensive Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) options for combatants, irrespective of nationality.”

During his visit to the North Kivu provincial capital Goma on 23 May Ban made it clear that the UN does not see the Brigade as the sole solution to eastern DRC’s conflicts.

“The Intervention Brigade will address all this violence” he told local media, “and will try their best to protect human lives, human rights and human dignity – but you should also know that this is only one element of a much larger process. I think a peace deal must deliver a peace dividend, health, education, jobs and opportunity.”

NGOs fear being linked with military action

One of the concerns that prompted NGOs to write the letter was the possible impact on their own work of future operations by the Brigade, said Frances Charles, advocacy manager for NGO World Vision (which sent the letter on behalf of the signatories).

“The issue of how the Brigade is related to the rest of the integrated mission and how independent humanitarian actors such as NGOs relate to MONUSCO is, I think, a very big issue.

“We need a lasting peace and that peace will have to be imposed by striking hard against negative forces”

“We have to preserve independent humanitarian access. MONUSCO needs to make clear to communities how all the different parts of the (UN) mission work together.

“One thing we are very concerned about, as World Vision, is being linked to any military action. We are independent and we want to make sure that our access to communities is maintained.”

Peacekeeping versus offensive action

Several observers have questioned whether MONUSCO’s existing role of protecting civilians, particularly in displaced peoples’ camps, will be possible in areas where the Brigade attacks armed groups, as this could result in retaliation against all UN military and civilian personnel as well as against other aid workers and civilians.

The interim head of MONUSCO’s office in Goma, Alex Queval, told journalists that all necessary precautions would be taken to ensure that peacekeepers continue all their existing work, but he did not go into details.

For its part the M23 rebel group has suggested that the Brigade will need to work in different areas to the other peacekeepers.

“It’s a very complicated situation for us,” M23 spokesman Rene Abandi told IRIN this week. “Blue helmets come with an offensive mandate while others are deployed in the same areas with a peacekeepers’ mandate. They have really to separate areas so that we can make the distinction.”

Speaking to the UN News Centre on 29 May, the commander of the Intervention Brigade, Tanzanian Brig-Gen James Aloizi Mwakibolwa, acknowledged there are fears among some observers that the Brigade will exacerbate tensions.

“Perhaps they expect collateral damage to the extent that several people are not positive about the Brigade,” he said.

“It should be understood that our first concern should be the protection of civilians as we take on the armed groups,” he added. “A UN peacekeeper is a person who must protect UN staff and UN property but, above all, he must protect the civilians.”

The brigadier stressed that while he heads the brigade, he is not the head of the UN force in the country. “We are part of MONUSCO and our instructions come from the force commander of MONUSCO,” he said.

Goma groups support Brigade

Civil society groups in Goma are generally supportive of the Intervention Brigade and its offensive mandate.

“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 Goyon Milemba, team leader of the North Kivu civil society association’s working group on security issues, after the arrival of the Brigade’s headquarters staff in Goma last month.

“If people think you can protect civilians by stopping attacks on armed groups, they are wrong. We need a lasting peace and that peace will have to be imposed by striking hard against negative forces,” the president of the North Kivu civil society association, Thomas d’Aquin Muiti, told IRIN.

He acknowledged there would be collateral damage but said the situation for the people in displaced camps is intolerable.

“This does not mean MONUSCO should stop protecting displaced people,” he said. “Rather it should reinforce protection.”

He added that the government should recognize it will have an additional responsibility for protection as the Brigade starts offensive operations.

nl/cb source http://www.irinnews.org

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Pretoria-based think tank the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) estimates there are more than 33 armed groups currently operating in eastern DRC.

Posted by African Press International on May 11, 2013

JOHANNESBURG,  – The imminent deployment of a UN-backed 3,000-strong international force mandated to “neutralize… and disarm” all armed groups in the ea stern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) marks a switch to a more belligerent international stance towards rebel militia, but has met with scepticism in some quarters.

The deployment of this “international brigade” made up of troops from Malawi, South Africa and Tanzania will complement the existing UN Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO) and is designed to help quell M23 and other rebel militias.When an intervention force was first mooted by the African Union (AU) last year, Sivuyile Bam, AU head of Peace and Support Operations Division (PSOD), told IRIN the plan was to “deal specifically with M23, and when M23 go away, they [the intervention force] go away”. That has since evolved into preventing the expansion of all armed groups, and neutralizing and disarming them by deploying an “offensive” military force, said a UN Security Council resolution.

Pretoria-based think tank the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) estimates there are more than 33 armed groups currently operating in eastern DRC. They are variously involved in mineral extraction and self-defence through to acting as proxies for the strategic interests of neighbouring states.

The intervention force, known as SADCBrig (Southern African Development Community Brigade), will “carry out targeted offensive operations… either unilaterally or jointly with the FARDC [DRC national army], in a robust, highly mobile and versatile manner and in strict compliance with international law,” says UN resolution 2098.

It will consist “inter alia of three infantry battalions, one artillery and one Special force and Reconnaissance company with headquarters in Goma,” the UN resolution adds.

Since the first deployment of “blue helmets” to the DRC in 1999, first as the UN Mission in the DRC (MONUC) and then as MONUSCO, troop numbers have increased more than three-fold from the original 5,000-odd uniformed soldiers. There have been supplementary ad hoc military missions, such as the 2003 European Union (EU) military intervention in Bunia during the Ituri ethnic-based conflict dubbed Operation Artemis, and the 2009 operations Umoja Wetu (Our Unity) and Kimia II, a joint military offensive of DRC and Rwandan security forces against the armed group Forces Démocratiques pour la Libération de Rwanda (FDLR).

A military analyst serving with the South African National Defence Force (SANDF), who declined to be identified, said the Security Council resolution was “a massive expansion of the task” first envisaged by the AU, but the mandate had to be “wider than M23” if the ambition was to protect civilians.

Zuma doctrine

The analyst told IRIN the intervention force was expected “to have initial capability by end of May and operational capability by end of June [2013]”.

The deployment of South African troops in CAR and their participation in SADCBrig is being viewed by analysts as a departure from South Africa’s previous military ventures, with a more aggressive stance towards resolving the continent’s conflicts. It has been dubbed the [President Jacob] Zuma doctrine by analysts.

South African Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane told a media briefing on 29 April 2013 her country was in favour of “preventative diplomacy, intervening when there are situations of strife. When we are called upon to do that, we will always be there, we will never say no.”

In a statement adjoining the UN resolution, Rwanda’s Eugene-Richard Gasana hoped the force would tackle the “FDLR, which had sparked the 1994 [Rwandan] genocide”. Rwanda, which is suspected of supporting M23, sees it as a bulwark against the FDLR.

The military analyst said MONUSCO had been “hesitant” to use force beyond self-defence – something for which the UN’s largest peacekeeping operation was roundly condemned when M23 walked into Goma unopposed, despite the presence of more than 1,500 armed peacekeepers in the town and nearly 6,000 in North Kivu Province.

Ahead of the deployment of SADCBrig, and in the wake of 13 South African soldiers having been killed recently in the Central African Republic trying to prevent the rebel coup by the Séléka alliance, M23 taunted SANDF on social media saying it was “corrupt” and “old”.

Critiques

Meanwhile, some doubt the new force can achieve its objective.

“Armed (DRC) groups are seen as a military threat but most of them are not. The military option against the armed groups has failed repeatedly and some [armed groups] deserve a small dose of military pressure but [also] a lot of police work in order to be neutralized. The intervention brigade in particular and the UN [MONUSCO] in general are not equipped for this,” International Crisis Group (ICG) analyst Thierry Vircoulon told IRIN.

He said SADCBrig deployment was “security by substitution”, and would delay reforms of the DRC national army (FARDC), which has been accused of being a serial human rights abuser by rights organizations. SADCBrig’s more offensive posture would lead to “retaliations against civilians [by armed groups] and worsening of the humanitarian situation”, unless stringent measures were put in place to protect civilians in the areas of operation.

Liam Mahony, author of a recent report commissioned by the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) entitled Non-military strategies for civilian protection in the DRC, said: “The international community continues to believe that military protection of civilians in the DRC may succeed, if there are only enough soldiers or a sufficiently strong mandate.

“Faith in military solutions is exaggerated by the mistaken belief that violence can only be met with more violence”

“However, there is little if any empirical evidence for this. Faith in military solutions is exaggerated by the mistaken belief that violence can only be met with more violence…

“The humanitarian service machinery has become a virtually permanent fixture in the region, serving victims of multiple displacements and repeating cycles of violence for two decades, while efforts to change the underlying dynamics of conflict have been insufficient and ineffective.”

He told IRIN the approach by policymakers to armed groups in the DRC was “one size fits all… People tend to oversimplify or choose extreme interpretations of armed groups… People assume they are unreasonable and not open to negotiation and communication… This is not specific to DRC. It is true everywhere.”

“I would not categorically dismiss the possibility that there may be armed groups with whom such approaches would fail, and there may be armed groups who would be more deterred from human rights abuse by an effective military counter-force. It is conceivable, but it must be the result of a very specific detailed analysis, not a generic knee-jerk approach.”

Operational difficulties

Andre Roux, author of a recent ISS briefing on SADCBrig’s deployment, said: “The realities of conducting operations in this remote and complex environment have been underestimated in the rush to put solutions on the table.”

Roux said the capabilities of SADCBrig “to effectively conduct `war fighting’ operations in an integrated manner, are questionable. With different operational doctrines, a variety of tactical deployment techniques and military equipment that is often not interoperable, the battalions can fight as individual units, but questions arise about whether they can or must fight as a cohesive brigade.”

“Is this again a peacekeeping band-aid that will struggle to meet the high expectations that do not consider the difficult realities of the situation?”

SANDF is expected to transfer its troops serving with MONUSCO to SADCBrig, which is supposed to operate in conjunction with FARDC, though past experiences of cooperation between SANDF and FARDC appear to have been problematical. “Members of the local army [FARDC] did not share information and they would steal anything without blinking an eye,” said a June 2012 ISS report on relations between the two.

Roux noted that apart from the challenges of integrating military “tactics and doctrines”, there was also the risk of “a protracted counter-insurgency-type scenario characterized by atrocities in which entire villages are wiped out by rebel forces in order to divert the attention of the brigade into a defensive mind-set focused on the difficult task of protecting civilians rather than neutralizing illegal armed groups…

“Is this again a peacekeeping band-aid that will struggle to meet the high expectations that do not consider the difficult realities of the situation?” he asks.

go/cb  source http://www.irinnews.org

 

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