U.N. chief calls for special force to combat Congo rebels

Mon Feb 25, 2013 4:28pm EST
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By Michelle Nichols and Louis Charbonneau

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon will urge the Security Council to approve a force to fight rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo, according to a draft report seen on Monday, which also applauded suspension of aid to Rwanda over claims it backs the insurgents.

In the draft of a special report to the 15-member council, Ban said a brigade of several thousand soldiers should be created within the existing U.N. peacekeeping force in Congo, known as MONUSCO, and be deployed initially for one year.

"The intervention brigade would carry out targeted offensive operations, either on its own or jointly with the FARDC (Congolese army), in a robust, highly mobile and versatile manner," Ban said in a copy of the draft obtained by Reuters.

He added that the intervention brigade would focus on preventing the expansion of armed groups, "neutralizing" and disarming them. Such peace enforcement missions allow the use of lethal force in serious combat situations.

In practical terms, U.N. diplomats say, troops in the brigade will have more freedom to open fire without having to wait until they are attacked first, a limitation that is standard for U.N. peacekeepers deployed around the world.

Ban warned that ongoing support to armed groups in Congo by "neighboring countries continued to be a source of serious instability, and should have tangible consequences for perpetrators." He did not name any countries in the draft.

Some sections of the draft report could be changed before it is approved by Ban's office and given to the Security Council. He is due to brief the council on his proposals next week.

African leaders signed a U.N.-mediated deal on Sunday aimed at ending two decades of conflict in Congo's east and paving the way for the intervention brigade. The 15-member U.N. Security Council will now need to pass a new resolution authorizing the force and diplomats have said it will likely be supported.   Continued...

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon addresses participants during the signing ceremony of the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Great Lakes, at the African Union headquarters in Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa Feburary 24, 2013. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri