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M23 tells Tanzania: Don't send troops

13 April 2013, 16:52

Kinshasa - The rebel M23 movement has asked Tanzania to scrap plans to contribute troops to the future UN intervention brigade which is designed to fight armed groups in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

The M23 rebels, who deny UN expert claims that neighbouring Rwanda and Uganda support them, "have consistently prevailed over much larger and better equipped forces", the movement's political leader Bertrand Bisimwa warned in a letter to Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete dated 11 April.

"The same will happen to the intervention Brigade if your wisdom does not prevail to intervene and stop this dangerous adventure in its tracks," Bisimwa wrote.

"For this reason the M23 invites the parliament and the people of Tanzania to carefully re-consider this situation and prevail upon the Tanzanian Government... not to send the sons and daughters of this noble nation to engage in an absurd war against their Congolese brothers," he said.

The M23 warned Friday that they would retaliate if attacked by the intervention brigade which would be part of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission tasked with protecting civilian populations.

On 28 March, the UN Security Council unanimously approved the creation of a brigade of more than 2 500 troops with a mandate to conduct "targeted offensive operations" against rebels in eastern DR Congo, a mineral-rich area that has been gripped by conflict for more than two decades.

The new UN force in the east is due to consist of three infantry battalions, an artillery company, a reconnaissance company and "special forces".

The troops are being mustered by South Africa, Malawi and Tanzania.

It marked the first time that UN peacekeepers were given a mandate to conduct offensive operations. Many rebel movements and armed tribal militias are active in the east of the country.

M23, named for a peace deal with the government signed on March 23, 2009, emerged out of an ethnic Tutsi mutiny in the army in April 2012, on the grounds that Kinshasa was not upholding the pact. The rebels briefly seized the North Kivu provincial capital Goma in November last year.

In a letter dated 3 April, the M23 had already urged the South African parliament to not contribute troops to the brigade.

The Congolese Foreign Minister Raymond Tshibanda said the brigade would be deployed by the end of April, but the United Nations expects it to be operational in several weeks.



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