EU approves DRC force to secure elections

The European Union gave the green light on Monday to deploy a 2 000-strong force to help secure the first multiparty elections in four decades in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) later this month.

EU foreign ministers decided at regular talks in Luxembourg in favour of sending troops to back up a United Nations force in the country when about 25-million Congolese voters go to the polls on July 30.

“The decision authorises the EU operation commander, with immediate effect, to release the activation order in order to execute the deployment of the forces, and start execution of the mission,” they said in a statement.

Up to 800 soldiers will be based at an operations centre in the capital, Kinshasa, and another 150 will be at the nearby airport, according to French officials.

The rest of the mission, mostly from France and Germany, will be based outside the DRC as a rapid reaction force ready to intervene at the request of the UN if violence erupts, mostly to evacuate foreigners.

The UN has 16 000 troops stationed in the DRC. Seven Nepalese UN soldiers were kidnapped on May 28 during a joint operation by the UN forces and the DRC army to dislodge militia fighters from the violence-prone north-east.—Sapa-AFP

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