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Congo Awaits More UN Peacekeepers; Analysts See Challenges for Mission  - 2004-10-02


The U.N. Security Council decision to increase the number of peacekeepers in the Democratic Republic of Congo is being welcomed by analysts as an opportunity to implement a shaky peace. But they caution the job will not be easy.

In the end, MONUC, as the U.N. mission in Congo is known, got just half of the additional troops Secretary-General Kofi Annan had asked for.

However, analysts say, the nearly 6,000 extra troops will boost efforts to strengthen a shaky peace. But they say the troops will have to operate robustly and with strong political backing to be effective.

The peacekeepers will be brought in to support nearly 11,000 U.N. peacekeepers already in the vast African country, trying to secure a fragile peace deal that ended a five-year war in which three million people died.

Henri Boschoff, a military analyst at the Johannesburg-based Institute for Security Studies, says, the additional troops could have a considerable impact. But, he says, there is a need to aggressively interpret and implement the United Nations mandate.

In the past, the U.N. mission in the Congo has been accused of having been too timid in interpreting its mandate, which includes the use of force to protect its personnel, humanitarian workers and civilians from the threat of violence.

Angry mobs rioted and attacked the U.N. mission's premises across the Congo, after peacekeepers failed to stop rebels temporarily seizing the eastern town of Bukavu in June.

It is believed that most of the additional troops will be sent to the troubled provinces of North and South Kivu, while the rest would make up a rapid reaction force that could be used to quell any violence that erupts.

Meanwhile, a newly completed report says there is evidence a weapons embargo in the east of the country is being violated by a network of businessmen and armed groups, highlighting the scale of the task faced by the United Nations mission.

The report, which was commissioned by Britain's parliamentary group on the Great Lakes region, says a lack of state authority in the east has led to no control over airspace and borders. The report says that has left a vacuum that has largely been filled by a network of private entrepreneurs and military figures. Investigators found evidence weapons had been delivered by several parachute drops in eastern Congo this year. In its conclusions, the report calls for the U.N. mission to be given improved technology, unfettered access when checking airfields and aircraft and more capacity to monitor Congo's extensive borders.

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