The United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO, in French) will soon have a new commander — another Brazilian. On April 8, 2021, Brazilian Army (EB, in Portuguese) Lieutenant General Marcos de Sá Affonso da Costa was appointed to replace EB Major General Ricardo Augusto Ferreira Costa Neves, whose term ended on April 2.
“The appointment of another Brazilian officer to MONUSCO’s military command represents recognition of the country’s historic contribution to United Nations [U.N.] peacekeeping operations,” Brazil’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.
Maintaining previous activities, such as jungle warfare training, as well as innovating, such as by expanding women’s participation as MONUSCO agents, characterized Maj. Gen. Costa Neves’ administration.
Since 2019, the mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo counts with 13 soldiers trained at Brazil’s Jungle Warfare Instruction Center, an EB unit and an international benchmark for this type of training. This team is responsible for leading other units so that U.N. troops, local service members, and the Force Intervention Brigade — a MONUSCO special component used to carry out offensive operations — can operate in the Congolese jungle.
“For example, our jungle warfare team trained an Armed Forces battalion assigned to an offensive operation against the ADF [Allied Democratic Forces]. The operation’s success was widely recognized by the people of the Congo, the U.N. Mission, and by New York [U.N. headquarters],” said former MONUSCO commander, Maj. Gen. Costa Neves.
Regarding the presence of women, he was convinced that women make a difference. According to Maj. Gen. Costa Neves, they facilitate integration with the civilian population, especially with other women and children. “This ability is unsurpassed, it doesn’t compare to the way our [male] officers and sergeants do this work. The bond of trust with women is much stronger.” Currently, about 15 percent of the peacekeeping force contingent in the Democratic Republic of the Congo consists of women, making this the U.N. mission with the largest number of women, along with the mission in South Sudan.
Lt. Gen. Affonso da Costa, who will command MONUSCO’s 13,000 blue helmets, will continue on the same track. Until his April 8 appointment, the officer served as head of readiness of the EB’s Ground Force, where he led planning for troop training.