New York – The head of United Nations peacekeeping today highlighted the role being played by “blue helmets” in a variety of hotspots worldwide, including the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Sudan, and told journalists that a UN mission in Mali looks increasingly likely.
“All indications are that this is the way this is heading, and we are getting ready for that,” Hervé Ladsous, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, stated at a news conference at UN Headquarters, referring to a possible UN operation in Mali.
He added that, following yesterday’s meeting in Brussels with the African Union (AU) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), there was a shared desire in the international community to do what needed to be done in Mali and that the matter would be decided by the UN Security Council once the Government of Mali made the official request.
In December 2012, the Council authorized the deployment of an African-led International Support Mission in Mali, known as AFISMA, to support efforts by national authorities to recover the north, which had been occupied by radical Islamists last year. Some Council members have recently raised the possibility of a UN peacekeeping operation in the country.
“Clearly these troops would not be in Mali without the consent of the Government of Mali,” Mr. Ladsous added. “As you know for any peacekeeping operation we need the consent, the actual request of the host country. So this is all being worked upon.”
In contrast, Mr. Ladsous said a peacekeeping operation in Syria might not be possible in light of the inordinate level of violence in the country. At the same time, “we have to consider the possibility that in certain scenarios we will be called to help in participating in the stabilization of the country and support the political process and what will be possible to do to give a greater sense of security to some groups that may feel threatened.”
If some political process under the auspices of the Joint Special Representative of the UN and the Arab League on Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, materialized, then longer-term challenges would have to be faced, he added.
In the DRC, Mr. Ladsous said a possible intervention brigade is being discussed with the neighbouring Great Lakes countries and with the Security Council. The brigade would be based within the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the DRC – known by its French acronym MONUSCO – one of the largest peacekeeping forces in the world.
“The brigade would have a specific mandate to prevent the expansion of armed groups and to neutralize and disarm them,” he explained.
“The global aim was to have a political process with a balance of commitments from the Congo, its regional partners, and a renewed and strengthened tool exemplified by MONUSCO to show that we are trying really to address all the root causes of instability for the Congo and for the whole region,” he added.
Recent clashes between the fighters from the 23 March Movement (M23) and the DRC’s national army have displaced nearly a million people in North Kivu.
To improve the protection of civilians in North and South Kivu provinces, Mr. Ladsous said the UN for the first time has been using unarmed aerial vehicles to collect information for the force commander and promote deterrence to those who “move around with bad intentions” in the area.
“A flying camera,” Mr. Ladsous reiterated, as opposed to a “drone” which he said is associated with launching missiles. The move has been done with approval by the Security Council and neighbouring countries.
Asked about alleged rapes committed by Congolese national forces in and around Minova, a town near the North Kivu capital of Goma last November, Mr. Ladsous confirmed that the perpetrators of the 126 acts of rape had been identified.
“We are pushing for the perpetrators to be acted upon through the judiciary and we take it totally into account into our due diligence,” Mr. Ladsous said.
Mr. Ladsous also noted that much more needed to be done for Sudan and South Sudan to “live in good company,” particularly on the issues of security and the disputed area of Abyei, as well as regarding the ongoing fighting in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states where civilians have been caught up in the fighting.
Agreements made had not been implemented and that fact needed to be faced “very solidly and rapidly by the two countries,” Mr. Ladsous said, adding that the most recent summit between the two countries was unsuccessful.
Noting the financial austerity around the world, Mr. Ladsous reiterated that innovative methods are being used whenever possible, including inter-mission cooperation and the creation of a common squadron of helicopters, “to make more nimble the way assets were deployed and new and unexpected needs were met” as part of the UN’s effort to do more and better with less.