A bigger effort will be expected of South African airmen and soldiers in the MONUSCO Force Intervention Brigade (FIB) following a rise in attacks on DR Congo civilians.
This follows an independent assessment into attacks, apparently by the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) armed group, which the UN maintains sparked violent protests against the DRC government and the world body in the form of MONUSCO.
The FIB is a Southern African Development Community (SADC) force with troop and other contributions from Malawi, South Africa and Tanzania. It is currently under the command of South African Brigadier General Patrick Dube.
The South African contingent of the FIB currently is Zeerust-headquartered 2 SA Infantry Battalion with an airborne component in the form of a composite helicopter unit (CHU). This comprises three Rooivalk combat support helicopters from 16 Squadron at AFB Bloemspruit and five Oryx medium transport helicopters, drawn from either 17, 19 and 22 Squadrons or 87 Helicopter Flying School.
The UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations is developing an action plan to implement key recommendations of the assessment. One is to develop a joint government/MONUSCO strategy to address insecurity in Beni territory.
The assessment team which included political, military and logistics specialists, sought to establish circumstances surrounding attacks in Beni in North Kivu, as well as assaults in Mambasa territory in neighbouring Ituri province targeting the national and international response to the Ebola virus outbreak.
Team members evaluated the FIB’s ability to deliver on mandated tasks including civilian protection, neutralising armed groups and providing a secure environment for those tackling the Ebola outbreak.
They found presumed ADF combatants killed more than 260 people, mostly women and children in November and December. Most attacks were at night.
“The high number of civilian casualties was the trigger of violent demonstrations against MONUSCO in North Kivu, including destruction and looting of a MONUSCO Office in Beni in November,” the team said.
“Attacks against civilians occurred against the backdrop of a major offensive the Congolese Army launched against ADF in October. Since 2014 ADF systematically retaliated against civilians to thwart Congolese army operations.”
In addition to the joint strategy, the assessment team recommended the UN and troop providing countries co-ordinate action to support the FIB in better addressing the “unconventional threat” posed by the ADF.
Strengthened co-operation between entire UN mission, including the FIB, and the Congolese Army and police is “critical” to sustain gains made by Congolese in offensives against the rebel group according to a UN statement.