There is at present no indication of exactly when Lieutenant General Derrick Mgwebi will take over command of the United Nations’ MONUSCO mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
The man who heads up the SA National Defence Force’s (SANDF) Joint Operations Division was named as successor to Brazilian Lieutenant General Carlos Alberto dos Santos Cruz by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon last month.
UN spokesman Douglas Coffman told defenceWeb the position of any UN mission commander was “for a year and is usually extended for a second”.
“It normally takes one to two months from the announcement of the appointment to the arrival in country and assumption of command,” he said.
This was confirmed by SANDF Corporate Communications with acting director, Colonel Louis Kirstein, saying: “The UN has not indicated when Mgwebi’s appointment as MONUSCO Force Commander will commence”.
“Until further notice from the UN or higher headquarters in South Africa, Mgwebi remains the Chief of Joint Operations.”
He also pointed out there is a Deputy Chief of Joint Operations (Major General Ephraim Phako) who will act as chief in situations where Mgwebi is not in South Africa.
Indications are Phako will become Acting Chief Joint Operations when Mgwebi leaves to take up the UN posting but reliable sources said the possibility of SANDF Chief General Solly Shoke appointing a new Joint Operations Chief “cannot be discounted”. This, one source told defenceWeb, could increase if Mgwebi’s term in the DRC is extended to two years.
One of his first tasks will be finding out how to continue all the taskings currently undertaken by MOUNUSCO, including the Force Intervention Brigade (FIB), in the light of a possible reduction in the Mission’s military personnel. This point is made by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in his December report on MONUSCO. He said that transformation of the MONUSCO force will enable the Mission to deliver on its protection of civilians mandate in “a more dynamic fashion, with gradually reduced but more appropriate resources”.
Mgwebi has more than 35 years of national and international military experience and his current position is Chief: Joint Operations of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF).
He has previously been Director: Special Forces of the SANDF as well as being Director of Training and Operations. He held the post of Military Secretary at the Ministry of Defence (1995-1997) and he served at Mpumalanga Command (1997-2002), after which he was appointed Director of the SA Army Infantry Formation. From 2004 to 2006, he served as Force Commander of the United Nations Operation in Burundi (ONUB). From 2007 to 2011 Mgwebi was the Chief of Human Resources of the SANDF.