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.