A slight correction––I mentioned in the previous blog post that the UN mission had never prevented the Congolese army from attacking the M23, contrary to popular perception in Goma. I was wrong. While for several days this perception stemmed solely from (distortions of) statements made by diplomats such as Mary Robinson––the reason the FARDC had not advanced during the 14 July firefight was because they had not received orders from Kinshasa, not because of UN intransigence––there was at least one incident of UN interposition. According to diplomats, during the morning of 16 July, UN tanks did block the advance of Congolese T-55 tanks to the frontline for an hour. Also, in May, the UN dissuaded the army from using its attack helicopters during a visit by Ban Ki Moon to Goma.
It is unclear whether this was UN policy, and if so what the reasoning behind it was. As previously mentioned, the UN is stuck between its aggressive mandate and peace talks, leading to a somewhat schizophrenic policy. Tensions have also arisen within the UN mission, with at least one of its contingents internally disagreeing with the new force commander that all UN troops––not just the Intervention Brigade––are supposed to participate in robust, offensive operations against armed groups.
It is, however, also clear that there has been a lot of distortion of what UN policy really is by local media and civil society.