DR Congo intervention brigade must be 'limited', UN envoy
8/17/2012 8:30:02 PM -
UNITED NATIONS (AFP) - A new UN intervention brigade to be deployed in conflict-stricken eastern Democratic Republic of Congo must carry out only "limited" strike operations, the new UN peace envoy for the region said Monday.
Mary Robinson, UN special envoy for the Great Lakes Region, expressed concern to the UN Security Council about fallout from the brigade's operations on humanitarian operations in a region rife with rival rebel groups.
Speaking after a tour of countries in the region, the former Irish president expressed optimism however that the conflict can be ended after 11 countries signed an accord this year.
The DR Congo government is eager to see the UN force in action against M23 and other armed groups that have battled the national army in recent months, causing hundreds of thousands to flee their homes.
But Robinson said the brigade "should act mostly preventively, as a deterrent, with limited strategic military operations."
She told the Security Council action had to be taken to "minimize potential adverse impacts."
"Many in the humanitarian community, and officials in Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi, expressed concerns about the need to manage the potential consequences of the military operations."
She said the UN mission in DR Congo, MONUSCO, was already "undertaking mitigating measures."
The United Nations created the intervention brigade of more than 2,500 troops after an offensive by M23 last November which saw the regional capital, Goma, briefly fall into rebel hands.
The government and M23 have since held peace talks but M23 says it is bolstering its forces to counter the intervention brigade, whose first troops will come from South Africa, Malawi and Tanzania.
"In Kinshasa and Goma, the overwhelming majority of the Congolese I spoke to were enthusiastic about the deployment of the brigade, a feeling that is understandable," said Robinson.
But she added that the brigade, "while an important tool, should be seen as one element of a much larger political process aimed at finding a comprehensive solution to the crisis" in eastern DR Congo.
M23 has said it will return to peace talks with the DR Congo government only if a full ceasefire accord is reached.
Robinson acknowledged there was "an apparent stalemate" and called on the DR Congo government "to remain committed to this process."
UN experts have said Rwanda and Uganda have backed M23 in the past but Robinson. Both countries deny the charge and Robinson said that the presidents of both countries had been among leaders who "stated their readiness to implement their commitments" under the accord sealed in March.
"There is a fresh chance to do more than just attend to the consequences of conflict, or to manage crises of the kind seen again most recently last November," Robinson said. She cautioned that while there are no guarantees of success, "we can be sure that if it fails, the consequences will be grave."