The Peace and Security Council of the African Union (AUPSC) contemplated an “International Neutral Force” in the troubled Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and asked for a draft Concept of Operations for its deployment in collaboration with the existing United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in DRC (MUNUSCO), one of the most expensive peacekeeping forces in the world.

On November 20, 2012, the M23 rebel group took control of the east Congolese city of Goma, one of DRC’s most commercially significant cities, despite MONUSCO’s presence. According to a November 20 report in the New York Times, UN peacekeepers did not confront the rebel army, as their mandate is restricted to the protection of civilians.

In its communiqué issued last evening, the AUPSC also called for “the updating of MONUSCO’s mandate.”

M23, or Movement of March 23, marks the resurrection of a prior militia, the National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP), which was integrated into the national armed forces in March 2009. In April this year, former CNDP members mutinied, accusing the national government of President Joseph Kabila of reneging on previous agreements.

Last Saturday, the heads of state of DRC’s neighbours, the International Conference of the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), met in Kampala, Uganda, and outlined a 10 point plan for the immediate withdrawal of M23 from all occupied locations and the establishment of forces to monitor the situation on the ground. On Sunday, the Associated Press reported that the rebel forces were in talks with the Congolese government in Kamapla.

UN investigations have indicated that both Uganda and Rwanda have supported the rebels in a bid to control Congo’s mineral rich eastern region. While Rwanda officials stand accused of coordinating rebel attacks and providing M23 with weapons and logistical support; Uganda has been accused of proving safe haven to M23’s political operations.

Both countries have denied the allegations. While Uganda is currently the chair of ICGLR, Rwanda has recently taken a place at the UN Security Council (UNSC).

Rwanda’s alleged support for M23 could complicate the UNSC’s efforts to intervene in DRC. Last week, the council expressed demanded that external support “including through troop reinforcement, tactical advice and the supply of equipment” cease immediately, but refrained from naming Rwanda in the resolution.

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