The European Union (EU) has approved a plan to send a peacekeeping
force to the Democratic Republic of Congo, where there are continuing
reports of ethnic killings in the troubled north-eastern Ituri region.
The decision was made by EU ambassadors at a meeting of the union’s
Political and Security Committee in Brussels.
The French-led peacekeeping force, which received United Nations
Security Council approval last Friday, will comprise about 1,400 personnel
and is due to start deploying at the end of this week.
Correspondents say people in Bunia – the main town in Ituri and the
scene of several reported massacres – would welcome any force that could
restore order, but the reaction from rival militias is uncertain.
The BBC’s Ishbel Matheson in Ituri says the presence of foreign troops
may deter killing in Bunia, but elsewhere in the surrounding
countryside the massacres are likely to continue.
The EU has undertaken just one military mission before, and its
peacekeeping troops have never been deployed outside of Europe.
France, which is experienced in intervening in African trouble spots,
will supply about 700 of the peacekeeping troops.
Diplomats say that the UK, Belgium, Sweden and Ireland may also
participate along with a number of African nations such as South Africa and
EU ministers will formally ratify the decision to begin the mission,
codenamed Artemis after the Greek goddess of hunting, on Thursday.
Meanwhile, the EU special envoy for the Great Lakes region, Aldo
Ajello, has begun a regional tour, which will focus on the Ituri area, where
more than 400 people have been killed in tribal fighting in the past