Securing Elections in Congo

Now, we are rapidly moving towards the first deployment of the so called ”battle groups” that the European Union decided on a couple of years ago.

Most of them are still in the process of being formed. It’s a rather demanding process to create quick-intervention battle groups of this sort.

But the demand for them is obviously there. Now, the UN Security Council has voted unanimously to ask for the sending of 1 500 EU soldiers to help securing the elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Their task is to be a back-up force for the 17 000 UN soldiers in the MONUC force as Congo undertakes its first fully democratic elections for 40 years. This is necessary in views of the fact that there are still rebel forces active in different parts of the country, and they must be deterred from trying to wreck the election.

On the ground in Kinshasa the elements of the force that will be there will be under French command, but the overall command will be with the German military Hq in Potsdam not very far from where I’m sitting in southwestern Berlin at the moment.

Germany will be, in the language used, the framework nation for this mission.

It’s been a rather long and complicated story to get this force agreed to. There was considerable reluctance in Germany for a long time. Others where also slow in committing the necessary forces.

But now it’s moving ahead.

And it demonstrates again the important role that the EU military capabilities can play in backing up demanding UN operations in different parts of the world. We have learnt by rather bitter experience that there is a need for a hard edge also to softer operations – we are often dealing with evil forces.

The Congo elections – date not yet set – are likely to be held in late June or early July, and the EU mission will last approximately four months.

Hopefully the EU force will remain just a back-up force for deterrence – securing the elections just by being there.

A most important mission for the European Union. Supporting the United Nations. And democracy.

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