DRC needs 40 000 sleeping bags before poll

Deputy Defence Minister Mluleki George said on Thursday he would try to determine what resources South Africa can commit to help secure the landmark election in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

George is part of the Southern African Development Community’s (SADC) Interstate Defence and Security Committee — headed by Namibia’s Defence Minister, Charles Namoloh — which is in the DRC to assess security there ahead of the elections scheduled for June.

”We need to deal with requirements that are possible and practical. We don’t want a situation where we have a list of requirements that could impact on the elections. It must take place in June or the end of June,” George said.

On Wednesday the DRC’s Defence Minister, Adolphe Onusumba, presented a long list of needs for the country’s newly integrated defence force.

This included C130 transport aircraft to carry troops in a country which is larger than Western Europe and has no or little infrastructure. He also asked for speed boats to patrol the large lakes in the east of the country, and recreational facilities in army bases that were last refurbished in the 1960s.

”For the major deployment in the east we also need 40 000 uniforms, 900 tents, 40 000 sleeping bags, generators and health equipment,” Onusumba said.

”We’ll be looking at those issues that we need and is required to make the elections successful, free and fair,” George said.

”Any other thing that fall outside that, we will look at it for the long term, today we would just look at the basic requirements,” he added.

The war-ravaged country was to go to the polls on June 18, but this has been postponed to a yet unannounced date.

More than 17 000 United Nations peacekeepers are deployed in the DRC to help secure the election.

The European Union planned to send 1 250 troops, and the African Union is also planning to deploy extra troops during the election.

South Africa has almost 1 400 troops in the country already as part of the UN peacekeeping force.

South Africa has also sent a few dozen police and defence force officers to help train the DRC’s new police and army.

In a visit to the DRC in March President Thabo Mbeki undertook to support the country’s efforts to establish ”sustainable peace”. – Sapa

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