Since May 2013, MONUSCO (United Nations Mission in Congo) has been reinforced by Tanzanian and South African troops forming an intervention brigade with a more robust mandate to curtail rebel activities in eastern Congo. The initial UN mission lost face as it offered no resistance during the M23 occupation of the provincial capital Goma in November 2012. Early July 2013, the M23 rebel group threatened to recapture Goma unless the government committed to peace negotiations. Two weeks later, heavy clashes broke out between the Congolese army and M23 rebels in North Kivu province, with both sides blaming the other for starting the hostilities. UN peacekeepers were put on high alert and warned that any advance of M23 on Goma would be considered as a direct threat to civilians and could lead to the use of lethal force.

Impact on country risk

For now, the fall of Goma is likely to be avoided as the Congolese army appears more determined and capable, buoyed by the enforced UN mission. Simultaneously, M23 was weakened to some extend by recent in-fighting between rival fractions and the loss of some level of material/financial support after the international accusation of Rwanda backing M23, hit Rwanda’s finances through donor-aid suspensions. Nevertheless, heavy fighting is likely to proceed with both sides raising military pressure to enhance their position in future peace negotiations. Kinshasa might even be hoping for a full military solution with the current surge of trust in the national army, yet this seems unrealistic given the volatile and unpredictable character of militarized groupings in Eastern DRC. Moreover, it remains unclear how the UN intervention brigade will interpret its mandate. By becoming a ‘combat partner’ of the Congolese army, the UN could risk damaging the perception of its neutrality in the region and might exacerbate the long- lasting tensions between DRC and Rwanda. At the same time, military intervention might deteriorate the humanitarian situation of the 2.5 million displaced people, as all UN workers – military or humanitarian - could become targets for violent attacks. ONDD’s cover policy holds a geographical restriction and excludes cover in the Eastern province, North- and South Kivu.

Analyst: Louise Van Cauwenbergh, l.vancauwenbergh@credendogroup.com