UN to expand DR Congo peacekeeping mission

Existing peace mission to be enhanced with addition of at least 2,000 ‘intervention’ troops and use of drone aircraft.

The United Nations is set to expand its peace mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo, creating a new special force to work alongside existing peacekeeping troops, diplomats have told Al Jazeera.

DR Congo has been in crisis since M23 rebels took control of large parts of the country’s east.

The proposed plan, currently being finalised, will create a new special intervention brigade, comprising between 2,000 and 2,500 troops, to be deployed to that area.

The troops will operate under the overall UN umbrella, but will likely have more robust rules of engagement, Al Jazeera Diplomatic Editor James Bays reported on Friday.

Relaunching peace talks

Tanzania and South Africa are leading contenders to provide the first special force to bolster the UN mission, diplomats said.

Meanwhile, the presidents of DR Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, Angola, Republic of Congo, South Africa and Tanzania are set to sign a UN-brokered accord relaunching political efforts to bring peace to the region on the sidelines of the African Union summit in Addis Ababa on Monday, officials said.

“We have been told that the agreement is still vague, just two pages long, and does not include the specifics like the disbanding of the M23,” Al Jazeera’s Bays reported from the conference.

As part of the agreement, the UN will name a special envoy to the great lakes region, to assist with its implementation, our correspondent said.

The UN mission in DR Congo, MONUSCO, is the global body’s biggest peacekeeping force. It currently has about 17,000 troops and under its UN Security Council mandate is allowed to have up to 19,800 troops.

UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon proposed in December that the UN peacekeeping force in Congo be supplied with “intervention” troops, night-vision equipment, surveillance drones with cameras and enhanced river patrols.

Surveillance drones authorised

The UN Security Council on Thursday also authorised the use of surveillance drones in eastern DR Congo, where the M23 rebel group briefly took the provincial capital of Goma in late November.

The intervention brigade and the drones could be in operation within three months, a UN official told the AFP news agency on condition of anonymity.

The drones will mainly monitor the border with Rwanda, which UN officials accuse of arming and financing the M23 rebellion against the government. Rwanda denies the charge.

A letter released on Thursday from the president of the Security Council to Ban Ki-moon said that the council members note the robot spy planes will be used “on a case-by-case basis” and will not set a precedent for the UN’s general consideration of “legal, financial and technical implications of the use of unmanned aerial systems”.

The letter from Masood Khan, Pakistan’s UN ambassador, who holds the rotating Security Council presidency, was released as a UN expert launched a special investigation into drone warfare and targeted killings.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies