DRC peacekeeping forces prepare for a worsening 2018, UN's Lacroix says

Jean-Pierre Lacroix, under-secretary-general for peacekeeping operations, visits the military base on the banks of the Semliki river in Northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo where 14 Tanzanian peacekeepers of the MONUSCO were killed in an attacked on Dec. 7, 2017. Photo by: Kevin Jordan / U.N.

UNITED NATIONS  — The United Nations is preparing for a worsening of the humanitarian situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo and strengthening its armed forces there, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, the head of U.N. peacekeeping operations, told the Security Council on Tuesday.

The U.N. Organization Stabilization Mission in DRC is launching a new Rapidly Deployable Battalion, trained to work in remote areas of the country that have increasingly come under siege by rebel groups in the huge Central African country.

The new RDB battalion, to be joined by two additional ones later this year, will be trained in jungle warfare and the “asymmetric environment” they work in, Lacroix said.

U.N. announced late last week that it was launching an investigation into the attacks on 15 U.N. Tanzanian peacekeepers who were killed in December, Lacroix said. Dozens more were injured in the hours-long battle with the rebel group Allied Democratic Forces. The attack occurred in the resource-rich region of North Kivu.

“It underscores the volatility of the security situation in parts of DRC,” Lacroix said, noting that the impact of ongoing political violence has had a “severe” impact on the country’s civilian population.

There are more than 4 million displaced people within DRC. Humanitarian groups such as CARE expect that humanitarian needs will grow this year, and the number of people in need of humanitarian assistance — approximately 8.5 million — could rise to 13.1 million.

Long-delayed elections to replace President Joseph Kabila, in power since 2001, have also resulted in frustrations and tensions, Lacroix said, resulting in violent protests, arrests of citizens and a government-ordered shutdown of internet services late last year. Elections are now scheduled for December 2018.

MONUSCO is the U.N.’s largest and most costly peacekeeping mission, with about 19,000 military personnel. It will be subject to cuts this year, however, as part of broader cuts to U.N. peacekeeping work.

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  • Amy Lieberman

    Amy Lieberman is the U.N. Correspondent for Devex. She covers the United Nations and reports on global development and politics. Amy previously worked as a freelance reporter, covering the environment, human rights, immigration, and health across the U.S. and in more than 10 countries, including Colombia, Mexico, Nepal, and Cambodia. Her coverage has appeared in the Guardian, the Atlantic, Slate, and the Los Angeles Times. A native New Yorker, Amy received her master’s degree in politics and government from Columbia’s School of Journalism.