When the M23 rebels marched into the city Goma in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo last year, many were shocked that the UN peacekeeping force (MONUSCO) just stood by and watched. So far, UN peacekeeping missions were essentially defensive and not allowed to directly interfere. This changed yesterday, when the UN Security Council passed Resolution 2098.
This resolution established the “Intervention Brigade” as part of the existing MONUSCO peacekeeping efforts. The force will be made up of slightly more than 3,000 troops with the task of “neutralizing armed groups, reducing the threat they posed to State authority and civilian security and making space for stabilization activities.” The majority of troops contributions will come from Tanzania, South Africa, Malawi and Mozambique. The Intervention Brigade is said to launch in July of this year.
The decision to respond with an offensive force for the first time in UN peacekeeping history comes after calls for action from the African Union, specifically from countries in the Great Lakes Region. The situation in the DRC is highly complex, partially also because it involves a multitude of actors, such as the M23, FDLR and other rebel groups.
Past efforts – locally and internationally – to stabilize the region have failed. The responses on social media platforms have generally been very positive towards the Intervention Brigade. There is definitely potential in sending this offensive force to the DRC. However, if one expects that this measure would finally solve the crisis, disappointment will likely follow soon.
Furthermore, there are numerous concerns connected with the deployment of an offensive UN peacekeeping mission. For example, Refugees International estimates that the number of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) will increase and further pressurize the already overburdened humanitarian network dealing with the forced migration crisis in the DRC.
Some crucial concerns have also been addressed by members of the UN Security Council, where the resolution was passed unanimously.
“Despite the unanimous approval, several speakers expressed reservations about the text, with Guatemala’s representative questioning Council actions that could involve the United Nations in “peace-enforcement” activities. Such a move might compromise the neutrality and impartiality so essential to peacekeeping work, he cautioned. Indeed, the Organization should always be seen as an “honest broker”, he said, adding that, while he understood the logic behind the proposed deployment, he would have preferred the brigade to be a self-standing unit with specific duties distinguishable from those of MONUSCO’s other brigades.
Echoing the warning that MONUSCO now risked indirect conversion into a peace-enforcement mission, Argentina’s representative said that although the text stated clearly that the brigade would not set a precedent, the idea of “enforcing peace rather than keeping it” required deep reflection, certainly more than a week of negotiations. Negotiations on the text had not been as broad as Argentina would have hoped, she said, adding that the resolution should have included a broader complement of troop contributors so that they could be better apprised of all the new brigade’s activities. [emphasis added]”
AfricaCanada.org definitely sees potential for this Intervention Brigade to be part of a stabilizing process. However, it is too early to praise or endorse this step as positive, since it remains to be seen what effects this will have on the local population and the dynamics of this multifaceted conflict situation.