Interim Emergency Multinational Force

International Information

International Operation Name: Interim Emergency Multinational Force (IEMF)

International Mission Name: Interim Emergency Multinational Force (IEMF)

Mandating Organization: United Nations

Region Name: Africa

Location: Congo

Mission Date: 30 May 2003 - 7 September 2003

Canadian Operation: Operation CARAVAN: 8 June to 11 July 2003

Mandate: The Interim Emergency Multinational Force (IEMF) was authorized by the United Nations Security Council on 30 May 2003, through Resolution 1484 as a Chapter VII operation. Its mandate was to stabilize the security conditions in the city of Bunia, in the Ituri region of northeast Democratic Republic of Congo. This mandate included protecting the airport, UN and humanitarian aid personnel and the internally displaced people of Bunia.

Mission Notes: The conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC - formerly Zaire) began in 1994, when then President Mobutu Sese Seko supported the Rwandan Hutu militias. In opposition to Mobutu, Congolese rebel leader Laurent Kabila, Paul Kagame of the Rwandan Patriotic Army and Yoweri Museveni of Uganda formed an alliance. After defeating the Mobutu-supported Hutus, the alliance turned against Mobutu, deposing the dictator in the spring of 1997. Kabila assumed power, but the alliance was doomed. Both Kagame and Museveni backed new rebel groups in eastern and northern DRC. After these two groups, with Rwandan and Ugandan assistance, marched on Kinshasa in 1998, Kabila invited Angola, Chad, Namibia and Zimbabwe to assist him. International pressure brought the parties to the negotiating table, all signing the Lusaka Cease-fire Agreement in July 1999.

To support the Lusaka Agreement, the UN Security Council authorized military liaison officers on 6 August 1999. This was followed on 30 November by the formation of the UN Observer Mission in the Congo (MONUC). A small UN security force and unarmed UN Military Observers (UNMOs) were deployed to the DRC. As part of the Lusaka Agreement, all foreign forces were required to leave the territory of the DRC, which includes the Ituri region.

With its mandate limited to enforcing the Lusaka Accord, MONUC was simply not large enough to establish a large permanent presence in Ituri or to create any kind of rapid reaction force capable of deploying in the event of an emergency. Moreover, it was not authorized to intervene to prevent acts of violence committed within the DRC by Congolese groups.

In late April 2003, the Ugandan forces providing de facto authority and security in Ituri began departing, with their withdrawal complete by 6 May. This was at the insistence of the Security Council, since allowing Ugandan troops to remain in the DRC could have resulted in Rwanda deploying its own troops into the region. Although MONUC had neither the mandate nor the resources, they sent the lightly-armed Uruguayan Battalion (URUBATT) to the capital of Ituri - the city of Bunia - while the government of the DRC sent 700 national police to maintain order.

Despite the presence of the URUBATT, based at the airport, fighting broke out between the Lendu ethnic militia and the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC). Both attempted to control Bunia, with the result that thousands of people fled or collected around MONUC sites, including the URUBATT. Although atrocities were committed in Ituri, the presence of the URUBATT saved thousands of lives, as the battalion protected the airport and town when attacked. The Congolese police disappeared at the first sign of the threat.

Given a situation that was threatening to spiral out of control, the UN Secretary-General called upon France to lead a UN-authorized force to restore order. On 30 May 2003, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 1484 creating the Interim Emergency Multinational Force (IEMF). The IEMF was authorized until 1 September 2003, requiring a follow-on force to maintain the security that the IEMF was hoped to achieve. The Security Council thus authorized an increase in the size of MONUC, and the deployment of a brigade of 4800 personnel to Ituri when the IEMF (maximum strength of 1400) left.

The first IEMF personnel arrived in Bunia on 6 June. They were supported by French Air Force aircraft to conduct reconnaissance and close air support. France and Sweden also deployed over 220 special forces personnel to give the IEMF capability to attack threats outside the Bunia area.

One of the IEMF’s first actions was to declare the town of Bunia and a 10-km area around it a “weapons invisible” zone, meaning that weapons could not be openly carried. But no effort was made at disarming the militias, with the result that they continued to fight amongst themselves. The IEMF ground troops nevertheless did become involved in skirmishes with the Lendu and UPC militias, which demonstrated their resolve. IEMF patrols also cut the supply lines of the militias, which helped reduce the power of the rival groups. In time displaced persons returned to the safety of the town, economic activity began, humanitarian aid became available again, and some semblance of normality returned by the end of the IEMF mandate. The IEMF handed over responsibility for the Ituri region to MONUC on 1 September. The last IEMF forces departed on 7 September.

Canadian participation in the IEMF was quickly organized. By 23 May, a warning order had been issued about the possible deployment and designated Operation CARAVAN, the mission was formally announced on 30 May. Two CC-130 Hercules deployed on Operation APOLLO would be detached, operating out of Entebbe, Uganda for a one-month period. The Canadian contingent would be 51 persons, most from Op Apollo, but some deploying from Canada.

In one month of operations, from 8 June to 7 July, Task Force Entebbe/Bunia personnel completed 50 flights, flying 545 persons and 490,000 kgs of freight into Bunia. The only problem was a bullet that hit one of the aircraft on 17 June, but which did not penetrate the fuselage. Most of the personnel departed Entebbe on 7 July, with the rear party leaving on 11 July.


Photo: MCpl Brian Walsh Canadian Forces Combat Camera

Bunia, Democratic Republic of Congo

Capt Paul Anderson (right), a pilot, and flight engineer Sgt Tony Kester wait at the controls of their CC-130 Hercules as it is unloaded in Bunia, in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). This was the first Canadian flight to transport French troops into Bunia, as part of Operation Caravan.

Report a problem or mistake on this page
Please select all that apply:

Thank you for your help!

You will not receive a reply. For enquiries, contact us.

Date modified: