French troops in Congo

French troops began arriving to a shattered north eastern town of Bunia in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) early Friday in an attempt to end tribal fighting there.

    UCP is ready to cooperate with
    French troops 

    The arrival of an advance party of French special forces to the town would lay the ground for the coming of an international “peacekeeping force”, a UN military spokesman said.

     

    In Paris, Colonel Christian Baptiste said the preliminary phase of the operation was aiming at ensuring “the necessary technical and security conditions are in place”.

     

    Afterwards, the international force, which is due to come “in the coming few days”, would be deployed in the region, Baptiste said.

     

    The United Nations Security Council authorised sending French-led international troops to DRC last week.

     

    The European Union also approved on Thursday the contribution of troops to the DRC. The troops are the first European military force to be deployed outside the continent.

     

    UCP welcomes troops

     

    Meanwhile, the Union of Congolese Patriots (UCP), which is in control of Bunia, welcomed the arrival of French troops.

     

    “We are going to cooperate with the force and we are immediately going to meet the units that have arrived to welcome them and wish them well in their work here”, said UCP leader Thomas Lubanga.

     

    “If the head of the force has arrived, I am ready to meet him myself”, said Lubanga, whose party is drawn from mainly the Hema tribe.

     

    Lubanga had previously expressed his opposition to the deployment of French troops in the strife-torn Ituri region, where Bunia is the main town.

     

    Last week, a massacre in Tchomia, 55 km east of Bunia, claimed the lives of at least 100 civilians.

     

    The Party for the Unity and Safeguarding of the Integrity of Congo (PUSIC), another mainly Hema group, accused fighters from the majority Lendu tribe of carrying out the massacre.

     

    The massacre came after several weeks of clashes between Hema and Lendu fighters in Bunia resulting in the death of hundreds of civilians.

     

    International human rights groups criticised the UN Observation Mission in Congo (MONUC) last month, saying it was unable to adequately protect civilians.

     

    Amnesty international and Human Rights Watch urged the United Nations on May 21 to send a rapid reaction force to prevent mass killings of civilians in Ituri.


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