PARIS (Reuters) - French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius on Tuesday urged a review of the United Nations’ peacekeeping mandate in the Democratic Republic of Congo, after rebels widely believed to be backed by Rwanda seized the eastern city of Goma.
Fabius said it was “absurd” that a few hundred rebels had been able to parade past a U.N.-mandated peacekeeping force (MONUSCO), which gave up the battle for the frontier city of one million people.
“MONUSCO is 17,000 soldiers, but sadly it was not in a position to prevent what happened. It is necessary that the MONUSCO mandate is reviewed,” Fabius told reporters.
Fighters from the M23 rebel group entered Goma on Tuesday after days of clashes with U.N.-backed Congolese soldiers that have forced tens of thousands of residents to flee the area.
A U.N. source told Reuters that international peacekeepers gave up defending Goma after the Congolese troops left, allowing rebels to enter the city.
Fabius said U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s chief of staff would be travelling to the region in the coming days to see what could be done about the situation.
The U.N. mission has some 17,600 troops but the force is stretched thinly across a nation the size of Western Europe and has struggled to fulfill its mandate of protecting civilians.
Congo has already called for the mandate to be extended, to cover monitoring and protecting of the border with Rwanda, as well as eradicating rebel forces.
Reporting by John Irish; Writing by Vicky Buffery; Editing by Louise Ireland