Germans approve 780 troops for Congo

1st June 2006, Comments 0 comments

01 June 2006, BERLIN - The German parliament Thursday overwhelmingly approved the deployment of 780 troops to help secure elections in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Chancellor Angela Merkel's government wants to send the soldiers to Congo for the July 30 election day on a limited seven-month mandate. Merkel's grand coalition has a big majority in the Bundestag, parliament's lower house, which voted 440 to 135 to approve the deployment of the troops as part of a European Union force. Soldiers will b

01 June 2006

BERLIN - The German parliament Thursday overwhelmingly approved the deployment of 780 troops to help secure elections in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Chancellor Angela Merkel's government wants to send the soldiers to Congo for the July 30 election day on a limited seven-month mandate.

Merkel's grand coalition has a big majority in the Bundestag, parliament's lower house, which voted 440 to 135 to approve the deployment of the troops as part of a European Union force.

Soldiers will be based only in Congo's capital, Kinshasa, says German Defence Minister Franz Josef Jung. Many of the German troops are expected to be held as reserves in nearby Gabon.

The main mission for German forces is expected to be the evacuation of election observers in case of violence, officials say.

Congo, a country rich in natural resources, is holding its first free elections since the period immediately after winning independence from its former colonial power Belgium in 1960.

Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier says it was vital to help insure stability in Congo following the central African wars of the 1990s which had left millions dead.

Steinmeier warns that if Congo slides back into chaos it would fuel a flood of refugees seeking to enter Europe.

The German troop deployment has been criticized by members of the opposition Free Democrats (FDP), who predict that having two separate foreign military missions in Congo will cause confusion.

A 17,000-member United Nations force is already deployed in Congo. This is to be followed by a EU force of around 2,000 dominated by German and French troops.

The FDP says it would make more sense to beef up the UN force. FDP foreign affairs spokesman Werner Hoyer told parliament his party "doubts the effectiveness of these measures" to deploy German troops.

A spokesman, for the co-ruling Social Democrats, Gert Weisskirchen, said the deployment was needed so that Congo could move to a "peaceful economy from one wracked by violence."

Reinhold Robbe, parliament's special commissioner for the armed forces, said German troops were very unsure of what awaited them in Congo and that he had never experienced "such rejection of a mission" among soldiers.

"I would claim that the German armed forces are not prepared for Africa," said Robbe in comments to ARD TV.

DPA

Subject: German News

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