In reviewing UN work over the past year, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has pointed out that the multi-national Force Intervention Brigade (FIB) in the DRC under the auspices of MONUSCO is an appropriate tool to bring stability to the region.
“The FIB can conduct targeted offensive operations with the aim of neutralising and disarming rebel groups,” he wrote in a report to the world body’s General Assembly.
The first action seen by the FIB, until now comprising only South African and Tanzanian soldiers with a Malawian contingent still to arrive, was in support of FARDC’s (the DRC Armed Forces) push to move M23 rebels from strategic, high-ground positions outside Goma. This was successfully achieved, but with the loss of one Tanzanian soldier.
The action led Mary Robinson, the UN special envoy for the Great Lakes Region, to call for a resumption of peace talks in Kampala, Uganda. She said the military success should serve as an impetus for talks to get back on track.
The FIB is the first of its kind in the history of UN peacekeeping.
“Fighting a constant pessimism in South Africa on the fighting abilities of SA National Defence Force (SANDF) soldiers, the country’s battalion involved in fighting have by all accounts fought with a high level of professionalism and expertise. With a South African sniper unofficially scoring one of the longest range kills against an M23 machine gun position, it is difficult to argue against the capability of South Africa’s soldiers. Beyond this the direction of counter mortar fire against M23 positions and general conduct while under attack cannot be faulted.
“Unofficial reports from the region indicate FARDC officers are specifically requesting SANDF units to conduct operations alongside them rather than general FIB support,” one observer noted.
Ban’s report to the UN General Assembly said of peacekeeping: “In the DRC, Mali and elsewhere the core principles of peacekeeping will continue to apply on the understanding that impartiality does not mean neutrality in the face of atrocities and that maintaining consent does not mean spoilers can prevent UN missions from implementing their mandates”.
“Moreover, as UN peacekeeping deploys into new contexts, appropriate tools are needed to address new or intensified threats, including force enablers and multipliers, improved command and control and more effective information and analysis tools,” according to the UN.