Thu, Feb 05, 2009 - Page 6 News List

Frustrated UN chief seeking new Congo peacekeepers


Since the UN Security Council gave the go-ahead more than two months ago to add 3,000 more peacekeepers in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo), Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has not gotten much help from 65 nations he approached.

In a letter made public on Tuesday, Ban advised the council that only Bangladesh committed to offer more troops or police: an infantry battalion, a company of engineers and a police unit.

Belgium said it would provide a C-130 military transport aircraft.

Five other nations said they would send intelligence experts, but not the equipment those people will need, Ban said.

The UN chief said that “troop-contributing countries have not been as receptive as we had hoped” despite the UN’s best efforts.

“The need for robust and highly mobile troops was particularly emphasized,” he said. “I am especially concerned about the lack of formal offers of special forces companies.”

Another big worry is that no nation has expressed an interest in or committed to providing another C-130 aircraft, 18 helicopters and 200 military trainers and advisers that are needed, he said.

“These resources are essential for the mission’s mobility and rapid reaction capacity, which are vital if it is to fulfill the mandate set out by the Security Council,” Ban said.

Japanese Ambassador Yukio Takasu, who took over the presidency of the Security Council this month, said its members have been discussing the shortfalls.

“I think the council needs to help with that to expedite the deployment,” he said.

The council in November approved the temporary expansion to assist the 17,000 peacekeeping soldiers and police authorized in the DR Congo who now make up the UN’s largest such force. Since then, however, the conflict in the area has taken a surprising turn.

DR Congo’s Tutsi-led rebellion had controlled a large swath of territory north of Goma, the regional capital. But then neighboring Rwanda turned on rebel chief Laurent Nkunda and detained him as part of a deal in which rebels from a splinter faction led by Bosco Ntaganda said they would operate under the DR Congo’s army command and integrate into its ranks.

Rwanda gained approval to send thousands of troops into DR Congo and conduct a joint military offensive aimed at disarming Rwandan Hutu militias who fled to DR Congo in the wake of Rwanda’s 1994 genocide.

DR Congo has been wracked by violence since Rwanda’s 1994 genocide spilled war across the border. Rwandan Hutu militias who participated in the 1994 massacres of more than 500,000 people in Rwanda have sought refuge in DR Congo.

On the bright side, Ban said, four nations expressed interest in providing a second battalion and a fifth nation indicated it might be able to help with a second police unit.

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