The United Nations is establishing a dangerous precedent within the jungles of East Congo. Earlier this year, the United Nations Security Council approved an Offensive Peacekeeping Force to deploy into Eastern Congo to engage M23 rebels. This offensive peacekeeping force is the first of its kind for the United Nations and raises multiple concerns over the future of the world's largest peacekeeping organization.
The offensive operation is in response to a nearly 14-year-old civil war that erupted in Eastern DRC, as a result of spillovers from the Rwandan genocide. Today, individuals use rape as a tool of war and pillage resource rich lands with many precious minerals. The rest of the world has stood by in silence as the DRC has suffered and struggled for years to establish control over the vast swaths of jungle that span throughout its borders.
The United Nations Security Force is comprised of 3,000 soldiers from South Africa, Tanzania, and Malawi, countries whose soldiers do not necessarily have extensive military training. The growing concern is that these United Nations "Blue Helmets" could do more to prolong the conflict rather than end it. Already the United Nations force is facing difficulties due to the local airport in Goma being subject to regular rebel attacks. These attacks led to only a third of the troops being deployed at the beginning of the operation, leading to delays.
The offensive force has currently been patrolling Goma in order to create a feeling of security as well as to allow troops to become comfortable with the terrain in which they are deployed. Members of the Northern Kivu province have shown a cautious optimism toward the recent deployment of UN troops to the region. The general sentiment among members of the Goma community is that anything is better than the government in Kinshasa or the ongoing peace talks in Kampala, Uganda which appear to be going nowhere.
The M23 rebels, who are former Congolese soldiers, mutinied back in 2012 when they were founded, due to poor pay and conditions. They have been terrorizing the Northern Kivu province with the help of former Hutu rebels as well as former members of The Lord's Resistance Army. They know the jungles of East Congo well and are hoping to exploit the disadvantages and ill-preparedness the UN force will be facing. In addition to this the Congolese army is not innocent of committing the same crimes as the M23 rebels. Due to this fact, the UN force will not only have to wage guerrilla warfare, it will also have to train Congolese forces in human rights.
Yet despite all of this there is one huge elephant in the room. The United Nations Security Council has established an extremely dangerous precedent. The United Nations has now shown the world that it has the power to intervene within any country it deems worthy, with offensive force. Never before has the United Nations acted in such a way. This action calls into question basic rights of sovereignty as well as the "right to protect."
The United Nations has long been deemed as ineffective by the rest of the Western world. The actions of this United Nations force could put such prejudice to the test. The largest peacekeeping organization in the world has decided to roll up its sleeves, and pray that the world is prepared for the consequences.