The Democratic Republic of the Congo is a country defined by historical conflicts. The United Nations (UN) has been intervening in the region since 2010 to restore security and peace, and to protect the population.
The current commander of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO, in French) is Brazilian Army (EB, in Portuguese) Lieutenant General Elias Rodrigues Martins Filho, who took on the role in April 2018. On June 22, 2019, MONUSCO received additional support from Brazil with a team of 13 service members, all trained at the Jungle Warfare Training Center (CIGS, in Portuguese), with vast operational experience in this environment.
“In the Congo, our service members are part of MONUSCO’s General Staff and they will be in charge of training and preparing troops from the [Force] Intervention Brigade [FIB],” said Lieutenant Colonel Alexandre Amorim de Andrade, head of EB’s Ground Operations Command.
FIB is a UN special force created in 2013 within MONUSCO. The unit engages in offensive military operations to neutralize active rebel groups in the northern part of the African nation.
According to Lt. Col. Amorim, armed groups use the local forest in this area — whose characteristics resemble the Amazon forest — for their own benefit, to build camping grounds, and to attack UN troops and the Congolese people.
This is where EB plays a role in MONUSCO. “Jungle warriors face life in the wilderness with ease, because they’ve developed a deep knowledge of this environment. The goal is to turn this knowledge into an advantage for jungle combat,” said EB Lieutenant Colonel Adelmo de Sousa Carvalho Filho, head of the Brazilian team in the Congo.
EB’s Command cabinet selected the Brazilian service members who deployed to MONUSCO after a four-month training to travel to the Congo.
In the first stage of preparation, the team assembled at the CIGS headquarters in Manaus for two weeks, to develop the training program for FIB and MONUSCO personnel. “However, this plan will be revised and adapted based on contact with troops on the ground, in the Congo,” said Lt. Col. Adelmo in an interview while still in Brazil.
Following the meeting at CIGS, the team went to Rio de Janeiro, where they endured a series of physical, medical, and psychological tests, and attended classes at the Brazilian Peacekeeping Operations Joint Training Center (CCOPAB, in Portuguese)
At CCOPAB, officers familiarized themselves with the basic training material, which the UN requires for all personnel deployed in a peacekeeping mission. They also strengthened their knowledge of the situation in the Congo and about MONUSCO’s mandate.
“Despite the experience that each member of the group has, it’s very important to know and understand the environment where we will work,” said EB First Sergeant Valderson Leal Dutra, about the classes at CCOPAB. MONUSCO is his first UN peacekeeping mission, but not his first international experience. In 2018, 1st Sgt. Dutra was an instructor at Colonel Robert Mitchell Jungle and Amphibious Training School of the Guyana Defense Force.
The Brazilian team of instructors is set for a six-month stay or longer in the Congo. They are part of 16,215 active service members in MONUSCO, according to UN data from March 2019.
This contingent has service members from more than 10 countries. These include Pakistan and India with more than 5,000 personnel. In addition, there are 391 police officers and 1,050 local agents, as well as 660 military observers from different countries.