Egypt to send peacekeepers to Congo

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Egypt plans to send more than 1325 troops to eastern Congo to join a UN peacekeeping force tasked with protecting civilians there, the Egyptian foreign ministry says.
The foreign ministry says the troops would help strengthen UN peacekeeping operations in line with a Security Council decision in November to send 3000 extra peacekeepers to Congo to help protect civilians and to end conflict in the turbulent east.
Reuters says the mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo is the world’s biggest UN peacekeeping operation and will be increased temporarily to just over 20 000 troops and police once the reinforcements are deployed.
Egypt said in a statement that its contribution to the force would comprise a military contingent of 1325 troops including a motorised infantry battalion, paratroopers, special forces and military engineers.
Egypt would also send an interior ministry police unit whose mission would include protecting individuals and employees of the United Nations and its institutions, assisting the Congolese police and conducting joint patrols with them in the east.
Egypt currently has just 23 military observers and 13 police in Congo, according to the UN.
The UN Congo force has complained it is over-stretched and cannot protect all civilians in the east, which teems with armed groups despite national elections in 2006 that returned President Joseph Kabila to office.
About 250 000 people fled their homes in fighting last year, creating a humanitarian disaster and bringing to more than one million the number of civilians displaced since 2006 polls. Wars since 1998 have killed more than five million Congolese.
Part of the UN mission’s role in Congo has been supporting the new national army, a rag-tag amalgam made up of former government, rebel and militia factions from the last war.