24th Apr 2019

Congo drone crash compounds EU soldiers' image problem

The EU peacekeeping mission in Congo - EUFOR - suffered a second setback over the weekend, after a Belgian drone crashed in Kinshasa injuring five. But the country's historic elections saw polls close on Sunday without major outbreaks of violence so far.

The robot plane hit a house during its maiden flight on Friday (28 July) leaving five people suffering burns, with a statement from the 2,200-strong EU force saying "This drone flying over Kinshasa for a first technical flight is intended to take photographs and is not armed."

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • Downtown Kinshasa: EU soldiers are backing up a larger UN force in trying to keep the vote violence-free (Photo: wikipedia)

The crash came one day after French jets buzzing over the compound of presidential candidate and ex-rebel leader Jean-Pierre Bemba helped spark riots in which six people died.

EUFOR is already facing a public relations challenge, Reuters reports, with some ordinary Congolese people seeing the EU soldiers as supporters of incumbent president Joseph Kabila and his deals with international mining companies in the gold and diamond-rich state.

The heavily-armed, French and German-led EU force has also been criticised for avoiding danger-zones and lacking the resources to do more than put on a show of EU concern.

Some 1,200 of the soldiers are on standby in neighbouring Gabon, with the 1,000 troops actually in Congo trying to cover an election of 32 presidential candidates, 50,000 polling stations and 26 million voters in a country three times the size of France but with few roads or telephones.

"I've never understood what this force is doing. Are the elections taking place in Gabon?" presidential candidate Christophe Mboso said last week, according to newswires. "There are no [EU] troops in [the dangerous eastern towns of] Goma, Bukavu or Kisangani."

The EU soldiers also risk leaving the country when they are most needed - in the aftermath of the final result. EUFOR is mandated to leave in November, but if Sunday's poll sees no clear winner, a second-round presidential run-off would take place in late October.

The EU contributed €150 million to the €360 million cost of putting on the elections and supplied 300 election monitors, including a 12-strong delegation of MEPs led by French liberal and former general Philippe Morillon.

The UN is also heavily-involved in the vote - designed to bring an end to decades of spluttering civil war that has killed millions - deploying 17,000 international peacekeeping troops alongside the EU forces in the biggest UN operation of its kind.

So far, so good

Polls closed on Sunday after a relatively peaceful weekend marred by isolated incidents of violence around the country.

Gunfire between rival factions left one dead and two injured in Kinshasa, a petrol bomb thrown into a polling station in the central town of Mbuyi-Maji hurt three and a polling station was burned down in the southern territory of Kasai, European media write.

The preliminary result and the international election monitors' verdict will come out on 2 August, with official results to follow three weeks later.

But on Sunday, three presidential candidates and former rebels issued a joint statement containing allegations of vote-rigging in a bad omen for-post election stability.

"Perhaps we are heading for a masquerade or a parody of elections," Jean-Pierre Bemba, Azarias Ruberwa and Arthur Z'Ahidi Ngoma - each still backed by their own militias - said.

Trump's Israel plan to 'test' EU resolve

EU countries ought to draw "red lines" for US president Donald Trump on the Arab-Israeli conflict, Herman Van Rompuy, the former head of the EU Council, has said.

EU seeks mini-trade detente with US

EU states have agreed to open trade talks with the US in a bid to rebuild relations with their oldest partner on the world stage.

EU migrants sneaking into US from Mexico

Almost 1,000 Romanian nationals were caught trying to sneak into the United States in 2017, of which around half attempted to cross via Mexico. Nationals from countries like Hungary and the UK were also intercepted.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  2. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  3. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  4. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  9. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  10. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan

Latest News

  1. EU want Facebook pan-EU advert fix for May elections
  2. Ukraine comic-president invited to EU capitals
  3. Trump's Israel plan to 'test' EU resolve
  4. Romania drafts EU code on NGO migrant rescues
  5. Bulgaria, Hungary, and Malta shamed on press unfreedom
  6. EU drafts $20bn US sanctions list in aviation dispute
  7. Brunei defends stoning to death of gay men in EU letter
  8. US Democrats side with Ireland on Brexit

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us