UN peacekeepers (MONUSCO) suffered their deadliest loss ever in Congo on December 7, 2017.  With 14 killed and 50 wounded, it was the worst attack on UN peacekeepers anywhere in the world since 24 Pakistani peacekeepers were killed in Mogadishu, Somali in 1993.  The dead soldiers were from Tanzania.

The attack happened 45 km north-east of Beni on the Semuliki River, within the famed Virunga national park near the Ugandan border.  It was at a river crossing on the Mbau-Kamango road which is an important access road to Uganda.

MONUSCO camp at the Semuliki river

MONUSCO camp at the Semuliki river (from Congo Research Group)

Reports indicate that the severity of the attack was a surprise, as weaponry and persistence of the attackers was far beyond what the UN has seen before.   This is creating speculation of how the Islamic ADF, believed to now be a weakened group, could have pulled this off without additional support from other players.  The camp pictured above was attacked from three sides and was cut off from help for 12 hours, even though a FARDC (Congo army) camp was only 15 km away.  There will be much soul searching at the UN now.  Jason Stearns at the Congo Research Group has an excellent account of the tragedy:  http://congoresearchgroup.org/monusco-suffers-the-worst-attack-in-its-history/

14 Tanzanian peacekeepers honoured by the UN

14 Tanzanian peacekeepers honoured by the UN

Understanding the motive and future capabilities for such an attack will be important.  Was it effectively Islamic terrorism by the ADF?  Was it directed at the UN or are there greater aims of undermining the stability of the national Congo government given the uncertainties related to a delayed presidential election.  President Joseph Kabila’s father Laurent-Desire gained power in 1997 until his assassination in 2001 through unrest that was fomented in eastern Congo after the Rwandan genocide crisis.