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UN mission in Congo gets new commander

By Editor
01 January 2016   |   12:06 am
A South African army general has been appointed as the new commander of the 20,000-strong United Nations peacekeeping force in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the UN’s largest mission.

UN peacekeepers

A South African army general has been appointed as the new commander of the 20,000-strong United Nations peacekeeping force in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the UN’s largest mission.

Lieutenant General Derrick Mgwebi will head the MONUSCO force as it presses on with operations targeting rebel groups in the eastern DR Congo and as the country heads for elections next year.

Tensions have been rising ahead of the vote due in November over fears that President Joseph Kabila, in power since 2001, may seek changes to the constitution to stay in power.

Mgwebi, 59, served as head of the UN mission in Burundi from 2004 to 2006. He is currently chief of joint operations of the South African Defense Forces, and has served as director of special forces and head of South Africa’s army infantry formation. He replaces Brazilian Lieutenant General Carlos Alberto dos Santos Cruz, who wrapped up his two years in the post this month.

MONUSCO has the strongest offensive mandate of all UN peacekeeping missions, with a particular focus on protection of civilians.

It was with this mandate that the mission helped the Congolese army push back Rwandan-backed M23 rebels in 2013, deploying a special intervention brigade mainly made up of elite South African troops.

A UN statement announcing the MONUSCO appointment highlighted that Mgwebi “has more than 35 years of national and international military experience.”