Goma - The new military chief of the United Nations peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo vowed on Wednesday to crack down on killing, rape and forced recruitment by armed groups terrorising the country's conflict-torn east.
"The priority is protection of civilians. So we do not accept crimes, attacks against the population or against the United Nations, and we are going to use all means from now on," Brazilian General Carlo Alberto dos Santos Cruz told journalists on his first official visit to the key eastern city of Goma.
"It is not acceptable [to show] tolerance in crimes like killing, rapes, looting, forced recruitment."
Santos Cruz was named last month to head the 15-year-old peacekeeping operation, the UN's largest, which is tasked with protecting civilians from years of violence by rebel groups and ethnic militias that have ravaged the vast central African country's mineral-rich east.
Known as MONUSCO, the mission includes some 17 000 troops plus a new "intervention brigade" created by the UN Security Council in March to fight armed groups, the first offensive unit ever authorised by the UN.
Santos Cruz said the new unit, which is eventually meant to have around 3 000 troops, currently has 40% of that number and will reach full force in late July.
The brigade, made up of troops from Tanzania, Malawi and South Africa, began deploying to Goma on 13 May.
The flashpoint city, the capital of North Kivu province, has been the scene of intense fighting between the Congolese army and the M23 rebels, an armed group launched by Tutsi former soldiers who mutinied in April 2012.
The M23 briefly seized Goma late last year before withdrawing under international pressure, but remain on the outskirts of the city and have continued to clash with government forces.