After an aggressive new U.N. brigade in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo scored a military victory over M23 rebels.
After an aggressive new U.N. brigade in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo scored a military victory over M23 rebels and forced them back to peace talks, U.N. peacekeepers are now turning their focus to two other equally dangerous armed groups.
During a visit by U.N. Security Council ambassadors to the eastern capital of Goma on Sunday, U.N. officials said that while M23 had garnered global headlines, just as great a threat was posed by the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) and the Islamist group Allied Democratic Forces (ADF).
"If we do not manage by one way or another to neutralize, disarm, demobilize those groups, we are not very hopeful (for sustainable peace)," said Ray Torres, head of the U.N. peacekeeping mission, known as MONUSCO, in North Kivu province.
He said that many of the other 39 armed groups in eastern Congo had justified their existence as rivals to M23 and FDLR.
Millions of people have died from violence, disease and hunger since the 1990s as rebel groups have fought for control of eastern Congo's rich deposits of gold, diamonds, copper, cobalt and uranium.
The Security Council earlier this year created the so-called Intervention Brigade within MONUSCO, an assertive new step for U.N. peacekeeping, which for years has been criticized in the region for inaction and failing to protect civilians.
Malawian troops started deploying last week to join South African and Tanzanian soldiers in the 3,000-strong Intervention Brigade, officials said. MONUSCO has a total of about 20,000 troops spread across the vast Central African state.
Standing on a hilltop - known as Kibati Three Towers - just north of Goma, Torres told the 15 Security Council envoys that was where Congolese troops, aided by the Intervention Brigade for the first time, had beaten back M23 rebels in August.
"The operations that took place here changed substantially the situation and the set up in North Kivu," said Torres. Not only had M23 returned to peace talks with the Congolese government, but defections had increased and the operation had sparked a number of peace initiatives with other armed groups, he said.
Despite the initial success of the Intervention Brigade, however, Security Council envoys came up against what they called "excessive expectations" for the force during talks with Congolese officials in Kinshasa on Saturday and with civil society leaders in Goma on Sunday.
"I'm sure they're expecting too much (of the brigade)," said British Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant. "It's been a good start, it was an experiment the Security Council decided to take because of our concerns to protect civilians in a place and at a time when they hadn't been protected for a very long period." Reuters
U.N. peacekeepers in Congo focus on new armed groups