A year ago, the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo seemed headed for another protracted war. The rebel group M23 had taken over Goma, a provincial capital. Aid workers and civilians fled. The United Nations peacekeeping force charged with protecting the city was humiliated. But this week, Goma is celebrating some surprisingly good news: M23 has surrendered. Its foot soldiers are disarming. Its leader, Bosco Ntaganda, will be turned over to the International Criminal Court.
The turnabout stems, in part, from an experiment: the creation of a new unit of UN peacekeepers who were given the authority and equipment to take offensive action. The “intervention brigade,” composed of about 3,000 troops from Tanzania, Malawi, and South Africa, is almost unprecedented in the history of UN peacekeeping. It shows what the world can accomplish when it pairs effective military force with smart diplomacy.