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Brazilian generals change command at MONUSCO

The United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO in French) will soon have a new leader. However, the command will remain in the hands of Brazilians. Brazilian Army (EB) Lieutenant General Marcos de Sá Affonso da Costa was appointed commander of MONUSCO, April 8, 2021, replacing EB Major General Ricardo Augusto Ferreira Costa Neves, whose term ended on April 2.

“The appointment of another Brazilian military officer to MONUSCO’s military command represents a recognition of the country’s historical contribution, to United Nations peacekeeping operations,” Brazil’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs released in a statement.

Lieutenant General Marcos de Sá Affonso da Costa, who will assume command of MONUSCO, on the day of his appointment as Lieutenant General of the Brazilian Army, in March 2020. (Photo: Brazilian Army)

The management of Maj. Gen. Costa Neves was characterized by the maintenance of previous activities such as jungle warfare training, in addition to innovations such as the expansion of the participation of women as MONUSCO agents.

Since 2019, the mission in DR Congo has 13 soldiers trained at the Jungle Warfare Instruction Center, an EB unit and international reference in this type of training. This team is responsible for leading the trainings so that UN troops, local Armed Forces and troops of the Intervention Force Brigade – a special group used in attack maneuvers – can perform in the Congolese jungle.

The patrolling of MONUSCO troops in eastern DRC intensified in late 2020, following the resumption of attacks against civilians by paramilitary groups. (Photo: MONUSCO)

“Our jungle warfare team trained, for example, a battalion of the Armed Forces assigned to the offensive operation against the ADF (Allied Democratic Forces in English). And the success of the operation was widely recognized by the Congolese people, by the UN Mission and also by New York [UN headquarters],” recalled Maj. Gen. Costa Neves, now a former MONUSCO commander.

As for the female presence, the officer said he was convinced that women make the difference. For Maj. Gen. Costa Neves they facilitate integration with the civilian population, especially with other women and children. “This ability is unsurpassed, it does not compare to the way our officers and sergeants do this job. The bond of trust with the women is so much greater.” Currently, about 15 percent of the peacekeeping contingent in the Democratic Republic of Congo is made up of women, and the U.N. mission has the largest number of female troops, along with the mission in South Sudan.

Lt. Gen. Affonso da Costa, who will take command of MONUSCO’s 13,000 Blue Berets, should continue that same line. Until his appointment to the UN post on April 8, the officer served as chief of readiness of the Brazilian Ground Force, where he was in charge of training planning for the EB troops.

UN calls for an end to widespread violence against children

The UN Special Representatives for Children and Armed Conflict, Virginia Gamba, and for Violence against Children, Najat Maalla M’jid condemned the attacks on civilians in Myanmar by the armed forces, which have left hundreds of civilians dead since the military coup on February 1.

Among the dead are at least 44 children, one of whom, a 7-year-old girl, died after being shot while at home. Many more have been seriously injured.

“We call on the Tatmadaw [Myanmar’s military] to stop the widespread violence against children in any demonstrations … children deserve no less than that,” Gamba and Maalla M’jid said in a joint statement.

They also called on the army not to detain children, as clearly provided for in the Convention on the Rights of the Child. According to UN data, there are allegations that more than 900 children and young people have been arbitrarily detained. While many have been released, others remain in detention without access to a lawyer, the statement reports.
Life-long impact

The officials expressed deep concern about the long-term impact of the current crisis in Myanmar on the physical and mental well-being of children and their families.

“The longer the current widespread violence continues, the more acute the ongoing state of distress and toxic stress for children, which can have a lifelong impact on their mental and physical health,” they warned.

The special representatives condemned the military’s use of education and health facilities, as well as widespread attacks on schools and hospitals and their staff, which can deprive civilians of access to vital care.

There have been at least 35 documented incidents of arrests and violence against teachers and health personnel, as well as 120 cases of the military’s use of educational and medical compounds.
Respect for human rights

The UN Security Council, for its part, expressed concern over the rapidly deteriorating situation in the Southeast Asian country and strongly condemned the use of violence against peaceful demonstrators, as well as the killing of civilians.

Vietnamese Ambassador to the UN Dang Dinh Quy, who served as president of the Security Council for the month of April, said that the members of the Security Council reiterated their call on the armed forces to exercise maximum restraint.

They also stressed the need to “fully respect human rights” and “pursue dialogue and reconciliation in accordance with the will and interests of the people of Myanmar”.

They also urged all parties to refrain from violence and called again for the immediate release of all detainees, including State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi and President Win Myint.

Council members took note of the Secretary-General’s call on March 27, 2021 for a strong, unified and resolute response by the international community to the situation in Myanmar, and stressed that they will continue to monitor the situation closely.

Group of Friends will better protect UN peacekeepers: Chinese foreign ministry spokesman

BEIJING, Apr. 30 (Xinhua) — China recently launched the Group of Friends mechanism on the Safety and Security of United Nations (UN) Peacekeepers to strengthen capacity building and further enhance the security of peacekeepers, a spokesman said Friday.

The mechanism is the first of its kind to be co-initiated and co-chaired by China.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told a daily press briefing that UN peacekeeping operations are an important tool for maintaining international peace and security, and peacekeepers are valuable assets to international peace.

Over the past 70 years, more than 3,000 peacekeepers from more than 120 countries have lost their lives, Wang said. It is sad to see that so far this year, 49 peacekeepers have sacrificed their lives for the cause of peacekeeping, he added.

Noting that China is the second largest contributor to the UN peacekeeping budget and a major troop contributor to peacekeeping missions, Wang said China has prioritized the safety of peacekeepers.

China has jointly initiated the Group of Friends with 49 countries and regional organizations, including permanent members of the UN Security Council, major countries and major contributors of troops, police and funding for peacekeeping operations, the spokesman said.

“This is intended to provide a platform to strengthen information exchanges, policy coordination and capacity building, further enhance the security of peacekeepers and ensure substantial progress on the peacekeepers’ security agenda,” he added.

“The group is open to all and other member countries are free to contact us if they hope to join the mechanism,” Wang said. “Let’s make joint and persistent efforts to protect peacemakers.”

As this year marks the 50th anniversary of the restoration of China’s legitimate rights at the UN, Wang said China is ready to build on its momentum to firmly defend multilateralism and deepen cooperation with the UN, and contribute more to international peace and security.