U.N. chief to recommend intervention troops for Congo: official

Fri Jan 25, 2013 10:26pm EST
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By Michelle Nichols

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will recommend to the U.N. Security Council that a peace enforcement unit be deployed in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo to take on the M23 rebels and other armed groups, a senior U.N. official said on Friday.

The intervention unit of a few thousand troops would aim to prevent armed groups from expanding territory in the resource-rich region by overpowering and disarming them. The unit would be contained within the existing U.N. force, known as MONUSCO.

"It is not simply peacekeeping, this is peace enforcement. It's a much more robust stance," said the official, who declined to be named. "It will be a deterrent against the armed groups."

Diplomats and U.N. officials say that peace enforcement missions allow the use of lethal force in serious combat situations, while peacekeeping operations are intended to support and monitor an already existing ceasefire.

The Congolese army has failed to quell a growing nine-month insurgency by M23, which has dragged Congo's eastern region back toward war and has received cross-border support from Rwanda and Uganda, according to independent U.N. experts. Both governments strongly deny the accusations.

MONUSCO, which has a mandate to protect civilians, suffered a severe blow to its image after it chose not to intervene as well-armed M23 rebels seized control of the eastern city of Goma in November. The rebels withdrew after 11 days.

A peace enforcement brigade within MONUSCO would be able to quickly respond to such operations by armed groups in the future and the official said it was hoped that the force could be on the ground in three months.

The official said one battalion already operating within MONUSCO would become part of the intervention unit along with two new battalions. The new troops would not increase the total MONUSCO force beyond its authorized mandate of about 22,000.   Continued...

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon addresses delegates during the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos January 25, 2013. REUTERS/Pascal Lauener