The man many in South African military circles rate as the epitome of both a professional soldier and officer, Lieutenant General Derrick Mgwebi, has completed a two year term as force commander of the largest United Nations peacekeeping mission in the world.
The man who headed up the Joint Operations Division of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) prior to being selected as MONUSCO force commander, a post he took up in January 2015, is according to the MONUSCO strategic communication and public information division, “already back in South Africa”.
Prior to leaving the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Mgwebi was the review officer at two farewell parades. The first was in Goma where he was based and the second at MONUSCO headquarters in the DRC capital Kinshasa. The parades were held last week after which, according to MONUSCO strategic communications chief Charles Bambara, he returned to South Africa.
According to the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) MONUSCO’s mandate is to protect civilians and consolidate peace in the DRC. This mandate was extended to include the use of force by UN Resolution 2098, passed in March 2013, which saw the establishment of the first ever Force Intervention Brigade (FIB) under the UN flag. The FIB is staffed by Malawian, South African and Tanzanian soldiers and includes an aviation detachment with South African Rooivalk combat support and Oryx medium transport helicopters as major contributors to successful operations and sorties against various rebel forces.
Mgwebi, well-known for speaking his mind, last year said a major obstacle for him as force commander was positioning the FIB in eastern DRC.
“The FIB can know the base, for example, of one armed grouping is about 10 km away, but they cannot attack because that would be called targeted operations and this is not allowed because they can only protect civilians.
“This is frustrating. The Security Council, when they renewed our mandate, was informed by us of the clause that said the FIB will neutralise armed groupings. It should rather say the MONUSCO force will neutralise and conduct targeted and offensive operations”.