The success achieved by the UN’s first ever peacekeeping force with an offensive mandate looks set to be repeated in the strife-torn Central African Republic (CAR).
At the weekend the UN Force Intervention Brigade (FIB) component of MONUSCO in the DRC attacked an Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) base in North Kivu province with SA Air Force 16 Squadron Rooivalk combat support helicopters.
The success of this sortie saw MONUSCO head Martin Kobler say the precision mission was part of an overall objective to end recurrent attacks against civilians by rebel groups.
On Monday the UN proposed a 12 000 strong peacekeeping force for the conflict ravaged CAR with a “robust mandate” and an initial focus on protecting civilians. This is the same mandate that was given to the three-nation FIB when it was brought into being just on 11 months ago.
Since it became operational the FIB has assisted FARDC (the DRC military) in forcing the M23 rebel group to relinquish positions it held in the eastern DRC and retreat into Uganda via a series of well-executed missions. The weekend’s action against ADF is a continuation of the stated MONUSCO objective to keep civilians safe.
Kobler added that Saturday’s action was another affirmation of MONUSCO’s determination to use all means at its disposal to provide protection to “all populations living under the oppression of armed groups in the DRC”.
Two Rooivalk combat support helicopters were the mainstays of the weekend attack on the ADF base at Saha Sitisa in the Mbau area of North Kivu using 20 mm cannons and 70mm FFAR unguided rockets.
Last March the Security Council authorised the deployment of the FIB in the eastern region of the DRC, based in the North Kivu province.
Its 3 069 peacekeepers have been tasked with carrying out targeted offensive operations against armed groups threatening peace in eastern DRC. The FIB’s mandate is due to expire at the end of this month and, at the time of publication, there was no indication from the UN whether it would be extended.
The need to keep civilians safe from armed rebel groups in the CAR was also emphasised by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in his report to the Security Council on the CAR.
“The key focus of the UN mission in the initial stage must be the protection of civilians. More troops are needed in the CAR to address the situation in the initial phase of peacekeeping operations,” he said.
The proposed CAR peacekeeping force would consist of 10 000 soldiers and 1 820 police. The European Union has approved deployment of 1 000 soldiers to join 6 000 African and 2 000 French troops, who have struggled to stop fighting sparked when the mostly Muslim Seleka rebels seized power a year ago in the majority Christian state.
But Ki-moon is not convinced a military response will be the solution saying “the current situation of violence and impunity” would make it insufficient. He said this made it necessary for “a large number” of UN police to be moved into the CAR.
Indications are the AU peacekeeping mission in the CAR (MISCA) would have to remain on the ground for at least the next six months until the new UN force can be deployed with “a robust mandate and adequate resources,” Ban said.
He hopes to transfer authority from the AU force to the UN force by mid-September at the latest.