GOMA, Congo (AP) — A contingent of about 100 Tanzanian troops arrived in eastern Congo Saturday, a first step in assembling the new United Nations intervention brigade, said a U.N. spokesman.
The Tanzanian troops are the first batch to form the U.N. intervention brigade to be deployed in eastern Congo following a Security Council resolution in March, said peacekeeping mission spokesman Lt. Col. Felix Basse.
On March 28th, the U.N. Security Council voted a resolution that renewed the mandate of the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Congo for one year, and created a special intervention brigade that has an aggressive mandate that allows it to fight armed groups, rather than merely defend civilians.
The intervention brigade commander arrived in Goma on the 23rd April, but troops meant to arrive by the end of April have only just started arriving in eastern Congo. The rest of the troops will arrive in stages, but no clear deadline has been given so far.
Malawi and South Africa have pledged to contribute troops to the U.N. force.
The need for an intervention force became clear in November, when the U.N. peacekeepers merely stood by as Congo's M23 rebels took the provincial capital of Goma. The rebels eventually withdrew from the city two weeks later, but the fall of Goma convinced the international community to create a brigade with a more assertive mandate to try to put an end to the turmoil in which has plagued eastern Congo for years.
But with just over 3,000 special troops to battle more than 25 armed groups in the Kivu region alone, the new U.N. brigade risks being spread too thin, say military experts. Already eastern Congo's M23 rebels are training fighters in guerrilla tactics to fight the U.N. troops.
The Congolese army, with poor discipline and lacking resources, has been unable to contain the rebels maintain order in the east. Congo's authorities have put a lot of hope that the new U.N. brigade will help solve the security crisis in the east.
"With the first Tanzanian troops landing, a new dynamic will emerge in the east. Security problems cannot be solved in one day," said Congo's prime minister, Augustin Matata Ponyo, to the Associated Press from his office in Kinshasa, Congo's capital. "The most important thing is that the government is aware of this problem and is working to solve it."
Associated Press writer Saleh Mwanamilongo contributed to this report from Kinshasa, Congo.