Hostilities break out again in DRC ahead of UN intervention brigade deployment


A renewal of hostilities between the M23 rebel group and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) armed forces earlier this week outside Goma serves as a reminder that the UN intervention brigade will have to apply the “offensive tactics” part of its rules of engagement if it is to be successful.

SA National Defence Force (SANDF) soldiers are currently training ahead of movement to the DRC where they will, along with Malawian and Tanzanian soldiers, comprise the first ever UN peacekeeping force given an offensive mandate.

The UN peacekeeping mission in the strife-torn central African country has voiced “concern” about renewed clashes between M23 rebels and DRC national armed forces outside the eastern city of Goma.

Fighting broke out on Monday in Kibati and Rusayo, about 12 km from Goma, the capital of North Kivu province. UN spokesman Eduardo del Buey said initial skirmishes escalated and saw heavy calibre weapons, mortars and rocket launchers employed.

According to Reuters, FARDC (the DRC national armed forces) employed attack helicopters to support ground positions.

Reinforcements were called in and heavy weapons used to protect Goma “at all costs,” FARDC Colonel Olivier Hamuli said.

Government spokesman Lambert Mende accused M23 of trying to disrupt the deployment of the 3 000-plus UN intervention brigade charged with neutralising armed groups in the mineral-rich region.

Tensions heightened in the region recently when M23 publicly decried the deployment of the intervention brigade and broke off the so-called Kampala peace talks with the DRC government.

The latest clashes come just weeks after the UN Envoy for Africa’s Great Lakes Region, Mary Robinson, reported “encouraging signs” that the new push for peace in the DRC can succeed.
“There is a fresh chance to do more than just attend to the consequences of conflict or to manage crises of the kind seen again most recently last November. There is a chance to resolve its underlying causes and to stop it for good,” she told a closed door session of the Security Council earlier this month via video teleconference.

Robinson cautioned that success was not guaranteed saying “we can be sure if it fails, the consequences will be grave.” The briefing followed a week-long visit to the region to follow up on the UN-brokered Peace, Security and Co-operation Framework for the DRC and the region.

A contingent of Tanzanian soldiers is already in the DRC in preparation for the formative part of brigade establishment. Tanzanian Brigadier General James Mwakibolwa has been given command of the brigade.

No date has yet been given by either the UN or MONUSCO for the brigade to start operations.