UN missions in Africa making progress on new challenges, says UN peacekeeping chief

Head of UN peacekeeping Hervé Ladsous (centre) speaks to journalists during a visit to Goma, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in September 2012.
MONUSCO/Sylvain Liechti
Head of UN peacekeeping Hervé Ladsous (centre) speaks to journalists during a visit to Goma, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in September 2012.

UN missions in Africa making progress on new challenges, says UN peacekeeping chief

The head of United Nations peacekeeping operations today highlighted the important progress being made since the beginning of the year on tackling major challenges in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Mali, Sudan and South Sudan.

Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hervé Ladsous opened a press briefing at Headquarters with comments on the DRC where he said national forces (FARDC), with support from the UN peacekeeping mission MONUSCO and its intervention brigade, were able to push the M23 rebel group towards the north so it no longer presented a direct threat to the city of Goma, in the vast country’s eastern region, the surrounding camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) or on the mission’s positions.

“The M23 has suffered casualties and that is the reason why they pushed back to, presumably, lick their wounds,” Mr. Ladsous said. “MONUSCO has firmly strengthened its positions to be in a better position to defend Goma and all the population in and around the area.”

He stressed, however, that the underlying causes of the conflict in the country, and the Great Lakes overall, necessitates a political solution.

Special Envoy of the Secretary-General to the Great Lakes Region, Mary Robinson, and Martin Kobler, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in the DRC and head of MONSUCO, spent about a week in the region earlier this month to participate in the so-called Kampala talks which have led to a resumption of talks between the M23 and the Government.

Joined by their counterparts from the African Union, European Union and the United States, the UN envoys also stressed the urgency of steps forward in the implementation of the 11-nation Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework signed earlier this year under UN auspices.

Mr. Ladsous also highlighted that the UN, through MONUSCO, is now a full fledged member of the Expanded Joint Verification Mechanism (EJVM), a technical body, comprising experts from both DRC and Rwanda and those of the UN and African Union (AU), to address DRC-Rwanda border security issues.

“I think we will be able to get a much clearer picture of what is happening,” the UN peacekeeping chief said in reference to accusations of shellings across the border.

He also noted that unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) would be used for observation purposes over the Kivus by the end of the year.

The progress being made in the DRC is due to be discussed at a special event on the sidelines of the high-level opening of the General Assembly on 23 September in New York, Mr. Ladsous said.

Turning to Mali, he said the phrase remains “so far, so good”.

“We remain more than ever in full support of the efforts the Government of Mali has announced whilst we are strengthening MINUSMA,” Mr. Ladsous said using the acronym for the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the country.

The Mission is currently at a strength of 5,201 soldiers on the ground plus a little over 800 police officers with additional contingents due to arrive from Asia, other parts of Africa and Latin America, he said.

Mr. Ladsous said the process of addressing the root causes of the conflict are a “continuous effort but one that so far looks promising.” He noted however that this is only one stage in a stabilization process in a country that since early 2012, has witnessed a military coup d’état, renewed fighting between Government forces and Tuareg rebels, and the seizure of its northern territory by radical Islamists.

In addition to the events in Mali, Mr. Ladsous stressed the need to take into account the entire Sahel region which stretches from Mauritania to Eritrea, including Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal and Sudan.

This regional perspective is also due to be discussed at a side event on the margins of the General Assembly, he noted.

Mr. Ladsous said the situation in Sudan and South Sudan is a “yo-yo, at one stage things get better but get worse again.” Events are currently in a positive phase following a successful meeting last week between Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and President Salva Kiir of South Sudan.

“We hope that the border mechanism will contribute towards less tension in that border area,” Mr. Ladsous said, noting the importance of the two countries to work together constructively on the contentious topic of the future of the status of the territory of Abyei.

Declining to say too much on Syria, Mr. Ladsous responded to a question about a possible peacekeeping force in the country, saying that the matter is “completely in the hands of the Security Council.”

“A number of ideas have been mentioned but I have no sense that there is a decision forthcoming,” the UN peacekeeping chief said. “We are under orders of the Council and if we are requested to do something, we shall act accordingly.”

In addition, Mr. Ladsous mentioned the UN force in Golan Heights (UNDOF) which continues to be strengthened to full authorized levels. Ireland has announced the deployment of a contingent to join UNDOF, due to arrive this month.

In southern Lebanon, the situation remains “quiet”, Mr. Ladsous said, adding that the UN force there (UNIFIL) has “taken steps to have the greatest awareness as possible and adjusting their posture accordingly.”