16th Oct 2017

France ready to lead UN Congo force

The French commitment to lead a force of more than 1,000 international troops could become a reality by next week, if the Security Council adopts a resolution authorising France to "take all necessary means" - including the use of force.

"We have been asked to lead a multinational force in Ituri, and France has accepted to lead such a force", French UN ambassador, Jean Marc de La Sabliere told journalists in New York after briefing the UN Security Council on Thursday on his government's plans.

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The EU military committee is set to present by Wednesday next week (4 May) a risk-analyses of the intervention.

France and Sweden have so far declared themselves ready to participate in the operation. Belgium, the former colonial power of Congo, is considering participation and earlier this month the Irish Defence Minister, Michael Smith, has indicated that Irish troops could also be involved.

French force only to stay in Congo until 1 September

The Washington Post reported that the French force would remain in Congo only until 1 September where it would be replaced by 1,200 UN peacekeepers from Bangladesh.

The UN action is aimed at stopping a bloody power struggle between the ethnic Hemma and Lendu militia in the Ituri province of Congo. Fighting broke out recently between the two militias after Ugandan forces pulled out of the region.

Because of the scale and the inter-ethnic nature of the violence that ensued, comparisons are already being made with the Rwandan genocide, which cost some 800,000 people their lives in 1994.

Most citizens in the north-eastern Congolese town of Bunia have already fled, including 20,000 civilians who have crowded into the UN compound at the airport.

France already has 4,000 troops in the Ivory Coast.

European forces for Congo peace mission

At a key meeting today (19 May) in Brussels, EU defence ministers made what could be the first step toward putting EU peacekeeping troops in the volatile north eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

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