UN and Congolese military officials said on Friday that the Intervention Brigade, which has a stronger mandate than past UN peacekeeping missions, backed the Congolese army against M23 rebel fighters.
The UN “brigade is on our side. They’re supporting us with artillery,” said Congolese army spokesman Colonel Olivier Hamuli.
Late on Wednesday, fighting between M23 rebels and the Congolese army broke out in Goma, the main city in the eastern Congo, after a relative lull in an 18-month mutiny.
On Thursday, mortar shells rained on homes in several residential areas of Goma, leaving at least four civilians dead and a dozen others injured.
Later on the same day, the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO), which has 17,000 troops in the country, issued a statement saying it would take “necessary steps to protect civilians.”
On February 8, leaders from the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) approved the deployment of a special intervention force to Congo.
On March 28, the UN Security Council passed a resolution, which not only renewed the mandate of MONUSCO for one year, but also endorsed the 4,000-strong Intervention Brigade, which consists of Tanzanian, South African and Malawian soldiers.
The M23 rebels and several other armed groups are active in the eastern Congo and are fighting for control of the country’s vast mineral resources, such as gold, the main tin ore cassiterite, and coltan (columbite-tantalite), which is used to make many electronic devices, including cell phones.
Since early May 2012, nearly three million people have fled their homes in the eastern Congo. About 2.5 million have resettled in Congo, but about 500,000 have crossed into neighboring Rwanda and Uganda.
Congo has faced numerous problems over the past few decades, such as grinding poverty, crumbling infrastructure, and a war in the east of the country that has dragged on since 1998 and left over 5.5 million people dead.