Africa

Tanzanian troops arrive in eastern DRC

Sapa-AP

A contingent of about 100 Tanzanian troops arrived in eastern DRC on Saturday, a first step in assembling the new United Nations intervention brigade.

A file photograph of M23 rebels in the DRC. (AFP)

The Tanzanian troops are the first batch to form the UN intervention brigade to be deployed in eastern DRC following a Security Council resolution in March, said peacekeeping mission spokesperson Lieutenant-Colonel Felix Basse.

On March 28th, the UN Security Council voted for a resolution that renewed the mandate of the UN peacekeeping mission in the DRC for one year, and created a special intervention brigade that has an aggressive mandate that allows it to fight armed groups, rather than merely defend civilians.

The intervention brigade commander arrived in Goma on April 23, but troops meant to arrive by the end of April have only just started arriving. The rest of the troops will arrive in stages, but no clear deadline has been given so far.

Malawi and South Africa have also pledged to contribute troops to the UN force.

The need for an intervention force became clear in November, when the UN peacekeepers stood by as M23 rebels took the provincial capital of Goma. The rebels eventually withdrew from the city two weeks later, but the fall of Goma convinced the international community to create a brigade with a more assertive mandate to try to put an end to the turmoil which has plagued the region for years.

But with just over 3 000 special troops to battle more than 25 armed groups in the Kivu region alone, the new UN brigade risks being spread too thin, say military experts. Already M23 rebels are training fighters in guerrilla tactics to fight the UN troops.

The Congolese army, with poor discipline and lacking resources, has been unable to contain the rebels maintain order in the region. DRC's authorities have put a lot of hope that the new UN brigade will help solve the security crisis in the east.

"With the first Tanzanian troops landing, a new dynamic will emerge in the east. Security problems cannot be solved in one day," said DRC's prime minister, Augustin Matata Ponyo, to the Associated Press from his office in Kinshasa. "The most important thing is that the government is aware of this problem and is working to solve it." - Sapa-AP

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