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Doubts loom over new UN Congo peace plan

UN to create 'intervention brigade' to limit M23
Last modified: 26 Jan 2013 11:03

Addis Ababa - The United Nations is days away from announcing a new peace plan aimed at resolving the conflict in the Eastern Congo.

The initiative, still being negotiated between the UN and regional countries, would create a “Special Intervention Brigade” of up to 2,500 African soldiers to take aggressive action in parts of the country.

The force would fall under the mandate of the current UN peacekeeping mission MONUSCO. It would have robust rules of engagement and be considered “peace enforcers,” according to a UN peacekeeping official.

The Congolese Army has been unable to stop an armed opposition by M23 fighters, which has received support from Uganda and Rwanda, according to a group of UN experts.

UN peacekeeping officials are calling the initiative a “new approach” after years of failed efforts. They are hoping for it to be signed off by heads of state and Ban Ki-moon, secretary general of the United Nations, on the sidelines of the African Union summit in the Ethiopian capital on Monday.

But many questions remain about the effectiveness of the agreement, or whether it will join the list of the many failed peace efforts in the region.

“The proposed framework agreement is an ambitious agenda for a political process in the Great Lakes region,” said Jason Stearns, an expert on the region. “[But] the current version is very vague, and a lot of details remain to be filled out.”

These details include how exactly to demobilise M23 fighters, who have been responsible for the majority of the recent violence. The M23 are not specifically named in the current version of the two-page document.

As part of the plan, regional countries, including Congo -Brazzaville, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, South Africa, Angola, Tanzania, agree principle to non-interference in each other’s affairs.

The government of the DRC will also agree to a series of reforms, including in the army and police force.

The United Nations will also name a Special Envoy to the Great Lakes Region to oversee the implementation of the agreement. Regional countries will meet twice a year, at the AU conference here in Addis, and at the UN General Assembly in New York, to assess progress.