19 November 2013
A piece in the New York Times draws attention to the risks raised by the decision of the Security Council to authorise the United Nations Force Intervention Brigade in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to ‘neutralize armed groups’, contrary to prior passive peacekeeping forces. This brigade is comprised of 3,000 soldiers from South Africa, Tanzania, and Malawi.
It notes that the Congolese government walked out on peace talks with rebels, as a result of such one-sided support from the UN. Additionally, this authorisation could affect peacekeeping operations worldwide, as there are almost 100,000 peacekeepers stationed from the Western Sahara and Haiti, to Cyprus and Kashmir. Humanitarian aid organisations are considered such operations will put their workers at risk because armed groups will no longer distinguish soldiers and those that provide food and shelter to civilians during war. Furthermore, countries which traditionally send many troops to serve as peacekeepers, such as India and Uruguay, feel uneasy about this new direction, as prior peacekeeping posed little risk of casualties. A UN official, speaking anonymously, was concerned about the precedent which would be set by this authorisation and stated that the Security Council was ‘careful to say it was not a precedent, but every time you say that that’s exactly what you’re making.’