The UN's Unprecedented Gamble in the Democratic Republic of Congo

From the Ethics & International Affairs Blog

October 18, 2013

CREDIT: United Nations Photo (CC)

by Laurie Mincieli

The UN Forward Intervention Brigade has now been on the ground in the conflict-ridden eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) for nearly five months, acquiring combat experience fighting rebels and bolstering the efforts of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO). Conceived as the UN's first combat force, the Forward Intervention Brigade fundamentally challenges the traditional tenets of peacekeeping but may be the UN's best chance at ending the cycle of violence in the Eastern DRC.

Although most of the DRC remains stable since the 2006 national elections, peace within its eastern region has proven elusive, despite the 13-year presence of one of the UN's largest peacekeeping operations. As many as a dozen foreign and local armed groups continue to threaten civilians in the region every year including former Rwandan Hutu genocidaires in the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), the Ugandan rebel group the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), and local militia groups known as Mai-Mai.

Though currently inactive due to on-going peace negotiations with the Congolese government, the M23 rebel group has been a particular concern over the past year due to their strength and brutality. The M23 defected from the national army in April 2012, citing the government's failure to incorporate them into state political institutions, which was a requirement of a previous peace agreement between the government and the earlier incarnation of the M23 known as the National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP). The M23 is widely believed to be supported by the ethnically aligned Tutsi Rwandan government. Their success in capturing the city of Goma in November 2012 spurred the Security Council to create the Forward Intervention Brigade and authorize it to take offensive action and neutralize all armed groups in the Eastern DRC—the most aggressive mandate given to a peacekeeping operation in UN history.

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