India and Pakistan are preparing to quickly deploy some 1,700 soldiers to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) after the Security Council moved to bolster the United Nations peacekeeping operation there with an infusion of troops to conduct a range of new tasks, including protecting civilians from violence and enforcing an arms embargo in the east.
Speaking to the UN News Service from the Congolese capital, Kinshasa, a spokesperson for the UN Organization Mission in the DRC (MONUC) echoed the comments of Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who welcomed the Council action last Friday but warned that the new authorized troop level of 16,700 fell "well below" his recommendation to deploy 23,900 peacekeepers and 507 civilian police.
That proposal was put forward in an August report in which the Secretary-General praised developing countries for their contributions to the mission, but said the Security Council should not rely solely on those nations. "Other troop-contributing countries must also play an active role in assisting the Congolese peace process and I call on them to seriously consider the invaluable assistance they can provide to peace in the Democratic Republic of the Congo," he said.
Since the resolution's unanimous adoption, arrangements have been made for an emergency deployment of two battalions of some 850 soldiers each, one from India and one from Pakistan, UN officials said. India will also provide four attack helicopters.
The remaining troop increases are still under discussion, but India and Pakistan are also expected to provide one brigade - around 2,500 troops - each. Developed countries were solicited for troop contributions, but there has as yet been no response, the officials said.
MONUC spokesperson Patricia Tomé said the Mission looked forward to working with the troops that have been authorized and welcomed the Council's pledge to keep the matter under review.
The new authorized level, however, is not sufficient to establish the "civilian-military joint mission analysis cell" recommended in the Secretary-General's report. In calling for the new structure, he noted that MONUC's effectiveness "has suffered from the lack of established mechanisms for information management capable of providing detailed analysis to my Special Representative and the senior mission management."
In boosting the number of MONUC peacekeepers, the Council also expanded the Mission's tasks to include protecting civilians "under imminent threat of violence," inspecting aircraft cargo and other traffic in North and South Kivu and Ituri in fulfilment of the ban on arms trading, and collecting arms and materiel. The Mission will also observe and report on troop movements and the presence of foreign forces in military hotspots.
The six-page resolution asked the Secretary-General to report by the end of February on MONUC's structure and strength "with a view to their adjustment according to the progress made on the ground and the tasks remaining to be accomplished."
Ms. Tomé said the review would provide an opportunity to examine the success of the operation, which is being conducted across a huge span of territory. Ituri - the scene of recent clashes which claimed scores of lives - is the size of Liberia, while the similarly volatile Kivus are twice the size of Rwanda and Burundi combined.