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UN intervention in DR Congo could 'harm' situation

INTERNATIONAL INTERVENTION: UN soldiers on patrol in South Kivu earlier this year (PA)

MILITARY COMMANDERS in charge of the UN’s intervention force are being warned its presence could “exacerbate” humanitarian problems in eastern DR Congo by aid agencies.

The 3,000-strong UN “Intervention Brigade” has been given international clearance to begin operations in the region against rebel forces – UN troops are mandated to use aggressive force to protect civilians.

US leaders are involved with the intervention, and Secretary of State John Kerry is set to chair a UN meeting on the issue later today.

The UN mission represents the largest of its kind in the world – the international body has already initiated troop patrols in the region.

Refugees International, an American-based aid group warned: “Unless certain safeguards are imposed, military action by the Intervention Brigade could further exacerbate DR Congo's humanitarian crisis.”

The UN has said urgent action is required in the country as the humanitarian crisis worsens – according to the organisation, over 2.5 million people have been displaced by the conflict.

Most civilians made homeless live in the eastern provinces of North and South Kivu.

The Tutsi majority rebel group M23 is waging an armed campaign against government forces in the east. Last year, the rebels seized the city of Goma before being driven back.

Aid charity Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres) stated it does not want any military presence, including the UN, near its medical centres because confuses humanitarian relief with military operations.

Also, the group claimed an increased military presence could lead to humanitarian organisations being targeted.

The UN force has been mandated to protect civilian populations, and, according to the UN, the Brigade mission is also “neutralising” armed groups.

The intervention force is commanded by Brigadier General James Mwakibolwa from Tanzania.

He said: “The Intervention Brigade is very positive.

“It should be understood that our first concern should be the protection of civilians as we take on the armed groups.”

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