The UN’s turning point

Long a passive body, the UN heads into the battlefield in the DRC



There is good news coming out of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), a result of an unprecedented decision made by the United Nations to go on the offensive in the fight against armed groups. For the first time, the UN has created an offensive combat intervention brigade, a 3,000-strong force authorized to use “all necessary measures” to prevent the expansion of armed groups by neutralizing and disarming them. “It is high time to try another option,” says Thierry Vircoulon, Central Africa director at the International Crisis Group, a non-profit organization dedicated to ending conflict. “I don’t think we created the UN to be a passive observer in the middle of the battlefield.”

The UN has been in the DRC for 14 years, where approximately 20,000 military personnel are stationed, with an annual budget of $1.5 billion devoted to peacekeeping operations. After an embarrassing rebel takeover of Goma, a lakeside city near the border of Rwanda, in November 2012, the UN’s credibility in the country was called into question. “There was a lot of frustration and protests against the UN,” says Joseph Kay, an English freelance journalist living in Goma. “Everything was incredibly tense.” The takeover, which saw Congolese and blue-hatted UN troops watch helplessly as rebels rolled into town, demanded a radical change in strategic tack. In March, the UN Security Council authorized an all-African intervention brigade, made up of troops from South Africa, Malawi and Tanzania. Five months later, the brigade saw action just outside Goma.

“Bombs were landing at the airport and in the town,” said Lt.-Gen. Derrick Mgwebi, a South African defence force official on Aug. 30 at a media briefing. “Bombs were falling left and right.” The brigade retook territory, a ceasefire was declared, and peace talks that had been held in Kampala, the capital of Uganda, resumed between the M23 rebels and the DRC government. “We’re trying to send a message to the M23 [March 23 Movement, a notorious rebel group] that, this time around, you’re not going to see Goma,” threatened Mgwebi. “Don’t venture in ideas of taking over again.”

Analysts say the early battles are encouraging. “The August and September engagements, and subsequent forcing of M23 out of Kibati heights, was an important victory, and ensured a blanket of security was thrown over Goma and surrounding areas,” says John Stupart, managing editor of the African Defence Review, a news organization focused on security. “If the brigade can secure and hold the eastern DRC against rebels indefinitely, with minimum casualties to civilians and its own forces, this creates a great model for the UN to build upon.”

It is too early to say whether the intervention brigade can live up to its mandate, which expires in March 2014. Not only are they fighting the M23, but a collection of other armed groups, some supported by neighbouring Rwanda and Uganda. “Any sort of inactivity or military loss against M23 or any other group would be close to a worst-case scenario,” says Christoph Vogel, a DRC analyst affiliated with the University of Zurich, in Switzerland. Even if the mission goes as planned, Vogel points out there are ethical problems with peacekeepers having an offensive mandate in countries where no side is more legitimate than the other. (For example, the Congolese troops the UN is supporting are also known as perpetrators of human rights abuses.) “The offensive mandate counters the peacekeeping pillar of impartiality,” says Vogel, “it’s a very thin line on which the brigade is walking right now.”

Still, he says, the UN has few options. “This is a shift in peacekeeping doctrine,” he says. “This could be a turning point where the UN sees that more robust action is needed to address conflicts.” Vircoulon agrees. “Depending on the final results, the brigade may bring an interesting alternative to the passive and expensive UN missions,” he says. However, he cautions, “there is no magic bullet.”

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The UN’s turning point

  1. Good….about time. First make the peace. Then keep the peace. Finally, observe the peace. Then exit.

    And to do that the UN needs their own military.

    I suggest a revamped NATO.

    • Make peace means some really ugly killing Em – easy to say when you sit in your comfortable home and drink coffee at your computer.

      When they start bring home dead “angry white men” in bags and boxes and you see Canadian moms and das with tears in their eyes – are you still going to be so cavalier?

      When was tha last time YOU picked up body pieces and tried to sort out who was who in the mess so you got all the parts in the right bag so the families could have as much back as you could find?

      When was the last time you watched someone bleed out and there was EFF all you could do but watch?

      Do not make light of this. That part of the world is an actual cesspool and life is so cheap over there you can have someone killed for an empty plastic water bottle.

      You probably think family, province and country.

      They think family and tribe.

      NATO is only as successful as it is because they are a western military. Put in those third world despots and it will fail due to tribal politics – yeah, real tribes.

      Allowing it to be revamped and perhaps being molded into a UN style military means it is doomed to failure.

      In fact NATO could literally take on the world if it was forced to – as it has done on the past.

      The UN is run by politically correct undereducated people from third world countries – many of who purchased their degrees in education vai connected family members – a huge corrupt mass of people who want nothing more than the good life and none of the responsibilities that come with it.

      Ask your buddy and Canadian darling – retired General Dallaire if I am wrong – bet he would agree with me.

      A weak individual in my mind but the media loves him and he too has no time for the UN

      • You’ve watched too many John Wayne movies.

        • No Em – my sweet little old lady – I have well and truly and actually lived them. Compliments of your beloved Liberals who sent me over a couple of times and then the Conservatives who sent me over even more times.

          May you never have to see it for yourself

          I have the T-shirt – as do many, many of my friends.

          • I was in the air force for 5 years….so stop thumping your chest before you hurt yourself.

            Pongos brag a lot.

          • Cook or admin clerk?

          • I’m sure you’ve saluted many women whether you liked it or not.

          • Clerk, it is….

          • Well if you salute clerks, you’re not too bright.

          • 5 years in?



          • 5 years in….at Cold Lake in the 60s.

          • FIVE whole years….


            That’s adorable.

            As a clerk.

        • Answer his question.

          • Watch your mouth, soldier.

          • Answer. The. Question…..

          • This comment was deleted.

          • BUSTED!

            You’re a wanna-be.

            That’s sad.

          • You’re an ankle biter….sod off sonny.

          • Make me.

            Typical reaction from an wannabe that’s exposed.

            You’ve posted NOTHING to dispute the accusations, nor have you answered, the original, questions….


          • This comment was deleted.

          • A confirmed wannabe poser.

          • A confirmed ‘angry white guy’ from another article…trying to bully regular posters on here. Especially women.

            Go ‘way kid. You’re boring.

          • BUSTED!

            You fakes are predictable.
            You get caught out in your lies.
            You can’t get out of them.
            You post childish insults in a vain effort to deflect from the fact you’ve been exposed.


  2. The UN is so corrupt as to not be trustworthy.

    Evidence of that is to be found by visiting the various department and seeing who heads them up – most from dictatorship countries.

    The UN will not manage to win any battles unless they send in some “angry white men” to sort it out.

    The average African soldier is so far behind that it is common in the Congo for soldiers to believe the cure for aids is to have sex with a virgin (true – seen it myself) – hence the high rape rate of children (ugly).

    Be wary of a world body that has so many despots within the organization AND is given a vast military.

    Some day that military might be coming down YOUR street.

    • Whose military? What, now you think the UN will attack us?

      • Do not change the subject Em My sweet – the UN is not to be trusted

        • The UN is all the countries in the world….and the security council is in charge.

          If you think the US and the UK are going to attack us….just surrender now and be done with it.

          • Looks like the moderator agrees with me, about your comments.

            What is the security council ‘in charge’ of?
            They’re useless.

            Didn’t help in Syria or Somalia did they?

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