On January 4, the United Nations (U.N.) appointed Brazilian Army (EB) Lieutenant General Otávio Rodrigues de Miranda Filho, as commander of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO). He replaces Lieutenant General Marcos de Sá Affonso da Costa, also from Brazil, who ended his term on February 28.
“The fact that the U.N. has appointed, for the fifth time, a Brazilian general to command what is perhaps the largest and most complex peacekeeping mission, in the heart of the African continent, recognizes, on the international level, the professional quality of the Brazilian military,” Lt. Gen. Miranda Filho told Diálogo.
“MONUSCO is in a transition phase, but the challenges are still many. After more than 22 years of presence in the DRC [Democratic Republic of the Congo], the mission is already suffering a natural erosion of its image with the population and the local government itself,” Lt. Gen. Miranda Filho said. “We must still continue to implement the mandate, which is focused on protecting civilians, but also collaborate for the stabilization of the country and help strengthen its institutions.”
Fulfilling these goals is fundamental for the scheduled December elections to take place with transparency and security, he added.
“The success of the electoral process will signal the possibility of continuing with the transition of responsibility of internal security to the local forces, characterizing the end of the mission,” Lt. Gen. Miranda Filho said. In parallel, strengthening security conditions of U.N. personnel who operate in the country is crucial, the officer believes.
The Brazilian Army has historically participated in dozens of peacekeeping missions under the aegis of the U.N. One of the first was the Suez mission, in Egypt, in 1956. For some 10 years, the Brazilian military supervised the cessation of hostilities and the withdrawal of military forces from Egyptian territory with an infantry battalion in the First United Nations Emergency Force. Brazil also participated in the United Nations Observer Mission in Angola, created in 1997, to help the parties in conflict consolidate peace and national reconciliation.
Between 2004 and 2017, Brazil also played a leading role in the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), alongside personnel from countries such as Argentina, Bolivia, Canada, Chile, and Uruguay. Tasks included humanitarian aid to victims of the 2010 earthquake and urban military operations against armed gangs.
A central element of the politics surrounding MINUSTAH was the formation of groups of countries, known as “groups of friends,” which were structured to influence the mission’s mandate and conduct. “The group of friends of Haiti was formed at the time of the negotiation of MINUSTAH’s mandate, comprising the United States, France, Canada, Brazil, Argentina, and Chile,” the Igarapé Institute and Brazil’s Sergio Vieira de Mello Joint Center for Peacekeeping Operations indicated in a joint article.
In recent decades, Brazil took part in groups of friends from several countries, such as East Timor and Guinea-Bissau. According to Lt. Gen. Miranda Filho, missions such as Suez, Angola, and Haiti show Brazil as having a “historical and exemplary performance” in U.N. missions. “This is due to the ongoing training and capability building of our military to cooperate in peace and humanitarian missions,” he said.
“The participation of Brazil, as well as other nations, in this effort to transform destabilized regions into safer places for the populations involved is fundamental to the success of the U.N. as the main international body for the peaceful solution of internal or regional conflicts,” Lt. Gen. Miranda Filho concluded.