Congo: April 28, 2005


The UN and the government have been trying to rapidly improve the Congo's military forces. On April 24 a government spokesman said the country hopes to have "at least" ten brigades trained for peacekeeping duties prior to the June 30 election and to protect voters during the election. But international observers doubt the elections will be held on time. Voter registration is going slowly and security remains an issue, particularly in the eastern Congo. South Africa has taken the lead in training the Congo troops, with support from France and Belgium. Disarming militias is one of the missions the Congo brigades will undertake. Another is trying to stop weapons smugglers. On April 18 the UN passed Security Council Resolution 1596, which extends and expands a weapons shipment and sales ban in the Congo. (The ban --UNSCR 1493-- was imposed in July 2003.) The original ban provided for sanctions against any groups and states who "directly or indirectly" supply or sell weapons in the eastern Congo. UNSCR 1596 says that only Congo "national army" police and troops are exempt from the ban. The new resolution is designed to give UN peacekeepers another legal tool to disarm rogue militias. Throughout April, UN peacekeepers have conducted a number of "cordon and search" operations to disarm the militias. The latest big operation began on April 19 northeast of Bunia. 1,000 Pakistani, Bangladeshi, and Moroccan troops participated in the operation. The UN now says at least 20 fighters belonging to the UPC (Union des patriotes congolais) militia were killed in the operation. The UN reports 1,300 UPC militiamen have turned in their weapons. The UPC may have another armed 2,000 militiamen in the field.


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