UN increases commitment to the Democratic Republic of the Congo
January 29, 2013
The commitment of more United Nations troops, together with the stricter observation of the border region, will put March 23 under additional pressure
On 25 January 2013, the United Nations have agreed to add another 2 000 soldiers to its peace keeping mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The “intervention brigade,” together with new reconnaissance drones shall help to tackle armed groups prolonging conflicts in the eastern part of the DRC.
Last year, members of a rebel group called March 23 seized the capital of the North Kivu province in a surprise attack, frightening away the official army forces, themselves under-gunned against the rebel fighters who were allegedly supported by Rwandan troops. Within a day, rebels took over the city, while the United Nation’s largest peacekeeping mission, with approximately 17 000 troops, did little more than watch, referring to their mandate restraints. The rebels’ hasty victory has done little for international community’s confidence in the UN troops.
The United Nations has responded by implementing measures with the apparent aim of supporting of the Congolese army. Within three months, the intervention troops and drones could be in operation. While the additional forces will help to restrain rebel violence, the drones will mainly monitor the Rwandan border – UN experts insist Rwanda has been arming and financing the M23 rebellion against the Congolese government, despite Rwanda’s denial.
Recently, it was reported that March 23 rebels were starting to levy taxes on the local population to feed their war coffers. The commitment of more United Nations troops, together with the stricter observation of the border region, will put March 23 under additional pressure, and Rwanda will have fewer opportunities to secretly support the rebel group. Currently, the accusations of the United Nations of Rwanda being the initiator and backer of the rebellion in Congo have lacked substantiated evidence, but such proof would be fatal to the image of Rwanda.
The international machinery is slow to gain momentum, but once it does, it tends to be effective. While the peace talks between rebel representatives and Congolese officials, mediated in Uganda, have not yet shown any fruits, the international measures may pressure March 23 into a cessation of their activity. It still remains unclear, however, why the deal between the involved countries, aiming for stabilization of the region, was cancelled half an hour before it should have been signed at the African Union summit on 28 January 2013. It seems perhaps that Uganda and Rwanda, who held a discreet meeting on the sidelines of the summit, are undecided on how to approach the issue which has cost them millions in development aid, as many countries suspended their payments after the UN allegations.
The worst case scenario would be a renewed flare-up of violence, but this time the international community, particularly the United Nations, would be better prepared. Fortunately though, the evidence has not pointed to that scenario. However, if March 23 is to be dissolved and reintegrated into the official army, the stability of the peace would not be foreseeable. The Congolese military is not a particularly attractive employer -many soldiers hardly earn enough to feed their families.