Maputo — The deployment of a rapid UN intervention force in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo should be speeded up in view of this week's fresh unrest, UN chief Ban Ki-moon said Tuesday.
"Considering what has happened I think we must expedite the deployment so they will be fully responsible as soon as possible," said Ban during a visit to Mozambique.
Rebels from the M23 movement and the army clashed for several hours on Monday in the volatile mineral-rich region, in a fierce battle involving mortars and rocket launchers.
The clashes came a week after the first batch of troops from a new UN intervention brigade arrived, which Ban said are not yet "fully operational".
The UN secretary general spoke after talks with Mozambican leader Armando Guebuza, one of the guarantors of the UN-brokered Congo peace deal which was signed earlier this year.
The M23 rebels last month vowed to retaliate if attacked by UN troops after the UN Security Council approved the creation of the 2,500-strong force.
The UN brigade, which will include soldiers from Tanzania, Malawi and South Africa, will be charged with conducting "targeted offensive operations" against rebels in an area that has been gripped by conflict for more than two decades.
The UN chief's Mozambique visit marks the start of a five-nation African tour aimed at fostering lasting peace in the Great Lakes region.
Ban is due in the DR Congo on Wednesday as part of a tour that will take him to Goma as well as the Rwandan capital Kigali and Entebbe in Uganda.
Accompanied by World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, Ban will hold talks with Rwandan President Paul Kagame and the DR Congo's Joseph Kabila.
The Kinshasa government and the United Nations both accuse Rwanda and Uganda of backing M23, an allegation the two neighbouring countries deny.
"We believe it is not only peace and security that matters," Ban said. "It also has a very important dimension of development. The people need to have something to work with."