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Aid Agencies: UN Offensive in Congo Could Worsen Humanitarian Problems

By Joel Himelfarb   |   Thursday, 25 Jul 2013 06:01 PM

Humanitarian aid providers have voiced concern that a possible military offensive by United Nations forces in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo could worsen conditions there and lead to attacks on aid workers.

The military action would be carried out by a 3,000-strong U.N. "Intervention Brigade" commanded by Tanzanian Brig. Gen. James Mwakibolwa.

According to the U.N., more than 2.5 million people have been made homeless by fighting in the Congo, most of them in two eastern provinces: North and South Kivu.

According to the U.N., the Intervention Brigade is charged with carrying out “targeted offensive operations, with or without the Congolese national army, against armed groups that threaten peace in eastern Democratic Congo.”

The aid organization Refugees International called on U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to recognize that “Unless certain conditions are imposed, military action by the Intervention Brigade could further exacerbate DR Congo’s humanitarian crisis.”

The medical charity Medecins Sans Frontiers (MSF) has said it is very concerned about the possibility that the distinction between U.N. humanitarian and military activities could be blurred by the Intervention Brigade’s operations, the BBC reported.

Because of the possibility of confusion involving those roles, the MSF said it no longer wants any military forces deployed near its health facilities.

“The criticisms by aid agencies illustrate a classic dilemma for the UN,” according to the BBC. “It is damned if it does not act firmly enough, as when rebels of the ethnic Tutsi-dominated M23 movement took the eastern DR Congo city of Goma last year. But it is also damned when it takes tougher action that has humanitarian fallout.”

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