* U.N. Security Council visits Goma in eastern Congo
* Two other armed groups pose as great a threat as M23 -U.N.
* Millions have died during decades of conflict in Congo
By Michelle Nichols
GOMA, Democratic Republic of Congo, Oct 6 After
an aggressive new U.N. brigade in eastern Democratic Republic of
Congo scored a military victory over M23 rebels and forced them
back to peace talks, U.N. peacekeepers are now turning their
focus to two other equally dangerous armed groups.
During a visit by U.N. Security Council ambassadors to the
eastern capital of Goma on Sunday, U.N. officials said that
while M23 had garnered global headlines, just as great a threat
was posed by the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda
(FDLR) and the Islamist group Allied Democratic Forces (ADF).
"If we do not manage by one way or another to neutralize,
disarm, demobilize those groups, we are not very hopeful (for
sustainable peace)," said Ray Torres, head of the U.N.
peacekeeping mission, known as MONUSCO, in North Kivu province.
He said that many of the other 39 armed groups in eastern
Congo had justified their existence as rivals to M23 and FDLR.
Millions of people have died from violence, disease and
hunger since the 1990s as rebel groups have fought for control
of eastern Congo's rich deposits of gold, diamonds, copper,
cobalt and uranium.
The Security Council earlier this year created the so-called
Intervention Brigade within MONUSCO, an assertive new step for
U.N. peacekeeping, which for years has been criticized in the
region for inaction and failing to protect civilians.
Malawian troops started deploying last week to join South
African and Tanzanian soldiers in the 3,000-strong Intervention
Brigade, officials said. MONUSCO has a total of about 20,000
troops spread across the vast Central African state.
Standing on a hilltop - known as Kibati Three Towers - just
north of Goma, Torres told the 15 Security Council envoys that
was where Congolese troops, aided by the Intervention Brigade
for the first time, had beaten back M23 rebels in August.
"The operations that took place here changed substantially
the situation and the set up in North Kivu," said Torres. Not
only had M23 returned to peace talks with the Congolese
government, but defections had increased and the operation had
sparked a number of peace initiatives with other armed groups,
Despite the initial success of the Intervention Brigade,
however, Security Council envoys came up against what they
called "excessive expectations" for the force during talks with
Congolese officials in Kinshasa on Saturday and with civil
society leaders in Goma on Sunday.
"I'm sure they're expecting too much (of the brigade)," said
British Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant. "It's been a good start, it
was an experiment the Security Council decided to take because
of our concerns to protect civilians in a place and at a time
when they hadn't been protected for a very long period."
QUESTIONS OVER SUPPORT
One in six people in North Kivu have been displaced. The
council envoys visited Mugunga 3 camp, which is home to more
than 16,000 people internally displaced. Camp resident
Amnazo-Sharv told them she believed it was up to the U.N.
peacekeepers to clear away all the armed groups in eastern
"Once MONUSCO has finished that task we will be assured
peace has been restored," said a visibly upset Amnazo-Sharv,
speaking through a translator, after she threw herself to her
knees in front of the ambassadors to ask for help.
Azerbaijan Ambassador Agshin Mehdiyev, president of the
council for October, told a news conference in Goma that while
the international community would continue to support Congo, "at
the end of the day you are Congolese, you're responsible for the
protection of your territory and your people."
Eastern Congo has long been one of Africa's bloodiest
battlegrounds. The roots of this conflict lie in the 1994
genocide in neighboring Rwanda, where Hutu soldiers and militia
killed 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus.
Many of those responsible for the genocide fled into eastern
Congo along with two million Hutu refugees. Many "genocidaires"
now fight for the FDLR. Rwanda has accused Congolese troops of
collaborating with the FDLR, a charge Kinshasa has denied.
U.N. experts have repeatedly accused Rwanda of backing the
18-month-long rebellion by M23, a claim the Rwandan government
has fiercely rejected.
"We need to study much more the access, not only of M23 and
FDLR, but the access of all the groups to weapons and
ammunition," MONUSCO force commander General Carlos Alberto dos
Santos Cruz told the Security Council ambassadors. "We need to
know more on the financial support for them, how they get these
weapons, ammunition and more resources, including uniforms."
Thick forests, rugged terrain and the scarcity of roads on
Congo's eastern border with Rwanda and Uganda have complicated
efforts by Congolese troops and U.N. peacekeepers to control the
Santos Cruz said that while the U.N. force needed more
helicopters, the expected arrival next month of an unarmed
surveillance drone would be a great boost to capabilities.
It will be the first time the United Nations has used such
equipment and, if the trial surveillance in eastern Congo is
successful, officials and diplomats hope the drones could also
be used by missions in Ivory Coast and South Sudan.
Torres expressed particular concern about the ADF, which he
said was establishing and strengthening its position.
"It's very strongly ideologically based, it's an extremist
Islamist group that is developing a network of businesses that
indicates to us that they are planning to stay," Torres said.
The Ugandan government says the ADF is allied to elements of
Somalia's al Shabaab movement, an al Qaeda-linked group, but
Torres said not enough is known about them and he has
established a MONUSCO task force to learn more about it.
(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; editing by Christopher Wilson)