Another year of MONUSCO operations approved

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The United Nations’ largest peacekeeping mission – MONUSCO in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) – has had its mandate extended for another year by the Security Council.

South Africa features strongly in the mission with Lieutenant General Derrick Mgwebi taking over as force commander at the start of February and SA Air Force and SA Army elements forming an important part of the MONUSCO Force Intervention Brigade (FIB), the first UN force ever to be given an offensive mandate to protect civilians.

In its statement announcing the extension of MONUSCO, the Security Council warned the humanitarian situation in the massive Central African country remained a great concern along with delays in preparation for planned presidential elections in November.

The 15 member Security Council also urged the DRC government to “hold accountable those responsible for violations of international humanitarian law or violations and abuses of human rights, in particular those that may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity, including those committed in the context of the electoral process”.

On the issue of armed groups in the DRC, the Security Council called for the urgent resumption of joint operations by FARDC, the DRC military, and MONUSCO to “ensure all efforts possible are being made to neutralise the FDLR (Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda) and other armed groups”.

Regarding protection of civilians, the Security Council resolution called on MONUSCO to enhance its interaction with civilians to raise awareness about its mandate and activities through outreach programmes, to strengthen its early warning mechanism and to increase its efforts to monitor and document violations of international humanitarian law.

The South African Rooivalk combat support helicopter operated by 16 Squadron has been a successful part of FIB operations and Oryx medium transport helicopters from 15, 17 and 19 Squadrons have all been deployed to MONUSCO at various times and performed well while being shot at by ground-based small-arms fire on a number of occasions.

MONUSCO should maintain an authorised troop ceiling of 19 815 military personnel, 760 military observers and staff officers, 391 police personnel and 1 050 personnel of formed police units, while taking note of recommendations from the Secretary-General to reduce the Force by 1 700 troops.

At the time of publication no confirmation of continued South African participation in the DRC mission had been issued by President Jacob Zuma, Commander-in-Chief of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF). South Africa’s current commitment to the world body as far as MONUSCO is concerned expires at midnight tonight.

South Africa’s commitment to the three-nation Southern African Development Community (SADC) anti-piracy tasking in the Mozambique channel – Operation Copper – is also due to expire today. Again at the time of publication no extension announcement was forthcoming from the Presidency.