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South Africa said Sunday it will provide troops for the
international peacekeeping force set to deploy in turbulent
northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where ethnic
violence has killed hundreds in recent weeks.
"We will provide troops to both the interim force in Bunia and to
MONUC (the UN military mission in the DRC)," said South Africa's
minister for provincial affairs, Sydney Mufamadi, who has been
facilitating peace talks among the parties to DRC's four-year-long
Mufamadi said he could not give exact figures for the troops who
would head to Bunia, the main town in DRC's Ituri region, saying
that was "being discussed by our military people. But we will help
to do what is expected under the UN mandate." An advance guard of
French and British troops landed Friday in Bunia, where clashes
have continued between fighters of the ethnic Lendu majority and
Hema minority, who have controlled the town since mid-May.
The peacekeeping force, under the authority of the European Union
with United Nations backing, is mandated to secure Bunia airport
and protect civilians and UN personnel in the town but has no power
to intervene in fighting elsewhere in the Ituri region.
The UN mission in DRC, called MONUC, is already present in Bunia,
and refugees and foreign journalists have taken refugee in its
compound during the fighting.
Mufamadi announced the South African deployment following a meeting
covering the Bunia fighting between South African President Thabo
Mbeki, who chairs the African Union, and ambassadors of the UN
South Africa has been actively involved in negotiations to set up a
transitional government and interim constitution for the DRC as
part of an ongoing peace process grouping the Kinshasa government
and various rebel groups.
South Africa has sent soldiers to DRC's central-eastern region
under the MONUC banner, but deployment in Bunia has been ruled out
The UN delegation met with Mbeki ahead of its tour of the Great
Lakes region, which begins Monday. The team will visit DRC, Angola,
Burundi, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda.
The leader of the UN Security Council team, Jean-Marc de la
Sabliere, applauded South Africa's role in the DRC and Burundi
"Security Council members are of the opinion that important
progress has been made on both these processes but that this is not
irreversible. Both processes are fragile," he said - Sapa-AFP