Congo War 2013: UN Security Council Authorizes 'Intervention Brigade'

The United Nations Security Council just passed Resolution 2098, authorizing the use of an "intervention brigade" in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the New York Times reported on March 28. This is an unprecedented mandate to take military action against rebel forces to bring peace to the eastern portion of the country. The Security Council has never used a Chapter 7 solution in such a way. The military force actually comes from NATO, example Libya; or a coalition of regional forces, example resolution 2093 (2012) on Mali, through ECOWAS and the AU. Not surprisingly, the authors of this resolution are the United States and France, traditional champions of the Responsibility to Protect Principle (although, infamous for lacking altruism driven by economic or political interest).

Eastern Congo has been engulfed in fighting since the 1994 Rwandan genocide, in which 500,000 Tutsis were slaughtered; before a Tutsi-led rebel army took power, and more than a million Rwandan people, including militia, fled across the border into the Congo. In a situation bearing parallels to the holocaust, the Tutsi's want revenge. The existence of mineral resources in Congo is exacerbating the instability on the group. The statistic paints a bone-chilling image of Congo: more than 5.4 million people have died; 2.7 million of those were children. The UN Human development Index report ranks the Congo 176th of out 182 countries, Can you imagine living in this cyclical state of hate and war?

There are over 10,000 peacekeeping troops deployed, but peacekeeping troops cannot make the peace without the ability to defend themselves. The Department of peacekeeping troops is made up of 113,000 of troops volunteered from many member states but as per the DPKO mandate they are composed of very few armed troops, and generally cannot fire first.

The international community military heavyweights United States and France are spread thin and weak, and are unwilling to take action. They are too preoccupied in current wars and possible future ones (Syria, Iran…). China and Russia, the other two military heavyweights in the Security Council, traditionally abide by principles of respecting sovereignty and non-intervention. They would never lead a military coalition of their own unless their own security is at risk. The only way in which the international community can take an offensive and attempt to make the peace is through an "intervention brigade" to carry out unilateral action if needed or coordinate with local Congolese forces to make the peace. The UN is taking unprecedented attempts are trying to make the peace, and this is a good thing.

The world is no longer state centric, and while international organizations are still far from globally representative (exemplified best by the UNSC itself), a greater ability to act means violence is not perpetuated by a states unwillingness or inability to act. International regimes and organizations are becoming more powerful. Recent EU reforms, a stronger WTO, a global arms control treaty nearing completion, the announcement by the BRICS of the creation of a development bank in the recently concluded March Summit in Durban, South Africa; to name developments that highlight this trend.

Such change can certainly bring about dangerous new situations. Utilizing UN peacekeeping troops for selfish interest such as bringing about regime change, under the banner of peace and security is an obvious one. More importantly, can we innocent civilians loss part of collateral on the hands of the United Nations? It will be up to the members of the Security Council to remain just and fair. Current foreign policy gridlock within the Security Council can provide necessary checks and balances. Granted, it is easier to take such an action in Congo rather than Syria, but at least this will mean the international community makes a more forceful attempt to find peace in one of the world's largest war zones. In Syria any military solution mooted has been via NATO as in Libya. Perhaps, the gradual expansion of the UNSC mandate will mean in the future a UN peacekeeping force will be more amenable to all member states, and in circumstances like Syria, increasingly able to take action to make the peace. 

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Dev Lewis

Outreach Associate at Gateway House ICGR. I write on geopolitics and foreign policy issues in Asia, keep a special eye on India-China relations.

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