United Nations Says Intervention Brigade to Fight Rwandan RebelsMichael J. Kavanagh
A new brigade of United Nations peacekeepers in the Democratic Republic of Congo will fight all illegal armed groups in the eastern region, including Rwandan rebels with links to that country’s 1994 genocide, the UN said.
Peacekeepers are currently supporting Congo’s army on two fronts in North Kivu province against M23 insurgents and a Ugandan rebel group. Yesterday, M23 accused the UN and the Congolese army of working with rebels from the Democratic Forces of the Liberation of Rwanda, or FDLR, which opposes the government in neighboring Rwanda.
“You will see in the coming weeks that the actions of the intervention brigade will be against the FDLR,” General Abdallah Wafy, the UN mission’s deputy special representative of the secretary-general for the rule of law, told reporters in today Congo’s capital, Kinshasa.
The UN and Congo’s army have struggled to subdue dozens of rebel groups based in the mineral-rich region since the official end of a series of wars in 2003. Conflict began in eastern Congo in the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide, leading to fighting that eventually involved more than half a dozen African countries.
The UN Security Council in March approved the new intervention brigade with a strengthened mandate to attack armed groups. It will eventually include three infantry battalions, one artillery and one special-forces unit and a reconnaissance company. South Africa, Tanzania and Malawi will provide troops, and some have already deployed in support roles to help Congolese army operations in North Kivu, Wafy said.
“We have a mandate to impose peace, but we still privilege peaceful negotiations,” he said. The UN mission has more than 23,000 personnel in Congo currently.
Combat with the M23 resumed on July 14 when the rebels, who defected from the army last year, attacked the village of Mutaho, 8 kilometers (5 miles) north of the trading hub of Goma. The army repelled the attack and pushed the M23 back using attack helicopters, the UN said today.
More than 120 rebels and a dozen Congolese soldiers died in the fighting, according to the government. The rebels dispute the figure and the UN hasn’t confirmed the death toll.
Congo accuses Rwanda of supporting the M23, which Rwanda denies. The two countries have traded accusations during the recent battles. Today, the UN urged Rwanda to cooperate with an investigation after the country said Congo’s army intentionally fired mortars into Rwanda during clashes with the M23.
Members of the UN’s intervention brigade are also supporting Congo’s army in a counterinsurgency campaign against the Ugandan rebel Allied Democratic Forces, or ADF, near the town of Beni in northern North Kivu, Wafy said. More than 66,000 Congolese fled into Uganda after the ADF attacked a Congolese army detachment near the border between the two countries on July 11, according to the UN.
UN peacekeepers killed 10 ADF rebels on July 14 after 100 members of the group ambushed its troops near the village of Mbau, the UN said today. Two peacekeepers suffered minor injuries, the UN said.
Uganda says the ADF has links to Somalia’s al-Shabaab Islamist rebels. The group crossed into Congo in 1990s after defeat by the Ugandan army.