UN warns DR Congo rebels it will intervene


Goma, eastern Congo

The United Nations Secretary General has warned armed rebels in Eastern Congo that the organisation's new “intervention brigade” would prevent any repeat of the fighting which has driven thousands of refugees out of camps this week. In a visit to the embattled lakeside city of Goma, Ban Ki-moon said the 3,000-strong force which has begun deployment will “enforce the peace”.

Fighting between Congolese government forces and the M23 rebel group has reached the outskirts of the eastern trading hub, putting Mr Ban's visit in jeopardy. The UN and the Congolese government suffered a major reverse in November when the rebels, who are accused of being backed by neighbouring Rwanda, overran the largest city in the east of the country.

They later withdrew and a tense ceasefire held for six months until this week's clashes erupted. As well as sparking a humanitarian crisis, the November setback forced a major rethink of the UN's peacekeeping operations. The result was a new mandate for an intervention brigade to be equipped with attack helicopters, surveillance drones and a mandate to engage and fight armed rebel groups.

The UN's mission in Congo is already has the world's largest peacekeeping operation in Congo, with 17,000 personnel. But in a country the size of Western Europe they have been overstretched. Blue-helmeted forces in Eastern Congo have been frequently outmatched by “superior rebel forces” said Mr Ban, who successfully sued the Security Council for a tougher mandate and more funding.

This week's high-level visit, which went ahead despite the fighting, included the president of the World Bank, Jim Yong Kim, who committed $1bn in development funding to back a new peace effort across the region.

“The UN is bringing troops and we're bringing dollars” said Mr Kim, a Korean American doctor who argued that new roads, jobs and healthcare would create the space for peaceful reconciliation in the region.

At Goma's Heal Africa hospital which has treated tens of thousands of victims of the sexual violence that has marked this conflict, demonstrators called for more help from the UN.

“We're tired with this war, the UN intervention needs to come,” said Beth Mapendo a women's rights activist.

Mr Ban indicated that the UN brigade would have engaged with M23 rebels during recent fighting had it already been in position.

“It would have been different (this week),” he told The Independent. “And had there been an intervention brigade in November it would have been much different.”

The Secretary General hailed the new force as “unprecedented in the history of UN peacekeeping”. But it remains unclear when it will be fully deployed with only 100 personnel so far on the ground. Troops from South Africa and Tanzanian will be in position from mid-June but Malawian forces are not expected until late July. A £10m fleet of drones, which will be used in a peacekeeping operation for the first time, are still caught up in the red-tape of UN procurement, an official said.

Diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis in Eastern Congo, where a string of conflicts dating back to the aftermath of the Rwanda genocide in 1994 have left more than one million people in refugee camps, centre on a new agreement signed in February. Dubbed the “framework of hope” by former Irish premier Mary Robinson, who is the UN's special envoy to the region, it hinges on persuading Congo and its neighbours Rwanda and Uganda to unravel their conflicting interests in Eastern Congo.

A senior diplomat involved in the peace process described the framework as “thin and fragile” and much hope for it rests on donors' promises of a “peace dividend” and Mrs Robinson's personal history with the countries' three presidents - Rwanda's Paul Kagame, Uganda's Yoweri Museveni and the DRC's Joseph Kabila.

With a weak and corrupt central government, based a continent away in Kinshasa, the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo has become a theatre for armed groups and proxy forces from neighbouring countries. Rwanda and Uganda were found by a UN group of experts to be supporting the M23 rebels, who are led by Tutsis, the same ethnic group as President Kagame. The dossier led to Western donors and multilateral lenders cutting funding to Rwanda which is dependant on aid for 40 percent of its budget.

Meanwhile, the Congolese army, where it has been deployed, has been ineffectual as a fighting force and found guilty of horrendous human rights abuses including mass rape. Mr Ban said he had warned Mr Kabila that his troops must protect civilians and observe humanitarian laws or be held accountable.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine