U.N. launches review of Congo force with battered reputation

Thu Dec 13, 2012 2:57pm EST
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By Louis Charbonneau

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The United Nations said on Thursday it had launched a comprehensive review of its Congo peacekeeping mission, which suffered a severe blow to its image last month after it stood aside and let rebels seize control of a major eastern city.

But U.N. Security Council diplomats and officials said any changes in the U.N.'s largest peacekeeping force would matter little if authorities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo did not improve their own army, and neighboring Rwanda and Uganda continued to finance, equip and train rebel groups in mineral-rich eastern Congo.

U.N. officials have defended the U.N. Congo force, MONUSCO, for not preventing the well-equipped M23 rebels from taking the eastern city of Goma last month.

They said any attempt to have done so would have put Goma's civilian population at risk. But they are painfully aware of the damage to the image of the mission, which U.N. officials say has been quite effective over the years, in Congo and across Africa.

"MONUSCO's reputation has been severely damaged in the DRC and the region," a U.N. diplomat told Reuters on condition of anonymity. "The U.N. is looking closely at MONUSCO now to consider whether there can be changes."

U.N. peacekeeping spokesman Kieran Dwyer said the United Nations was launching a comprehensive assessment of MONUSCO, and diplomats said U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon would present the results to the Security Council early next year.

"The United Nations is starting a strategic review of the organization's engagement in the DRC, including MONUSCO's configuration," Dwyer said. "Our objective is to determine how we can better assist the Congolese people to avoid the recurring cycles of violence in the East."

He said that the United Nations would be looking at the idea of an "international neutral force" to be deployed along the border with Rwanda. That proposal has been discussed within the African Union and regional African organizations.   Continued...