The United Nations on Friday, October 25 ruled out giving any support to countries neighboring the Democratic Republic of Congo if they intervene militarily in the violence-plagued east of the country.
The prospect of joint military intervention by DR Congo and its neighbors has surfaced in the light of a meeting of senior military officials from five Great Lakes nations.
According to a letter seen by AFP, the DRC has been floating joint military operations to “eradicate armed groups.”
But Leila Zerrougui, the head of the U.N.’s DR Congo peacekeeping mission MONUSCO, said the organization could not lend support to foreign forces intervening in the country.
“We have no mandate to support foreign forces who enter the DRC,” she said on the U.N. station Radio Okapi.
“Our mandate is to support the Congolese army.”
“The best way to protect the civilian population is to restore state authority, to restore justice, the police and the army,” she said, adding that rights had to be respected.
MONUSCO is one of the largest U.N. peacekeeping deployments, with around 17,000 blue helmets in the country.
The meeting in the eastern DRC city of Beni, which continued on Friday for a second day, gathered military chiefs from Burundi, the DRC, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda.
MONUSCO spokesperson Florence Marchal said MONUSCO and U.S. Africa Command were taking part as “guests and observers.”
Update, October 28: A spokesperson for AFRICOM told The Defense Post on Monday that the U.S. Defense Attaché to U.S. Embassy Kinshasa attended the regional security summit “on behalf of AFRICOM to better understand how stakeholders intend to provide peace and security in the region.”
“AFRICOM supports U.N. peacekeeping and military-to-military engagements that enhance the security capabilities of our partners in the African Great Lakes,” the spokesperson said.
Among the militias troubling the Kivu area are the Allied Democratic Forces, an Islamist-rooted Ugandan armed group that has been linked to Islamic State Central Africa Province, and the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR).
Both groups have been blamed for a string of atrocities in eastern DRC, but they are also a source of political friction between the DRC and its neighbors because of their cross-border nature.
The Congolese army has in recent weeks been significantly increasing the number of personnel in the Beni region. Earlier this month, the government said there were 21,000 soldiers in Beni, almost doubling the forces deployed. President Felix Tshisekedi ordered the increase “to launch a final assault against all national and foreign armed groups with a view to restoring total peace in the Far North.”
DR Congo’s government has in the past accused neighboring governments of seeking to destabilize the country, while those accused have in turn have said DRC is a haven for groups that oppose them.
With reporting from AFP