The European Union has agreed to send a small peacekeeping force to secure upcoming elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Germany's leadership of the mission, however, is still uncertain.
The EU was asked by the UN to provide peacekeeping support
Provided no member states object to the mission, the EU's Austrian presidency will inform the United Nations on Thursday that an EU deployment of up to 1,450 troops will provide support to the UN's 17,000-strong force in the DRC during elections in June.
Germany has been slated to lead the mission, though this remains subject to approval by the German parliament, the Bundestag. The vote is scheduled for early May. Despite opposition from a cross-section of German MPs, the ministry of defense in Berlin appears confident the mission will go ahead as planned.
"The headquarters will be in Potsdam but they are staffed multi-nationally," a spokesman from the ministry told Reuters.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel will meet with party leaders on Monday to inform them about the controversial mission. Several German MPs have expressed doubts about the efficacy of such a small deployment in a country the size of the DRC, and are concerned about the possibility of European troops coming into conflict situations with child soldiers.
German Development Minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul said she was in favor of the mission as long as an end date was clear from the outset and the deployment was limited to the capital, Kinshasa, where child soldiers are generally not active.
Franz Josef Jung: Four months is sufficient
German Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung said on Thursday that he considers a deployment of four months to be sufficient, and that the mission could also likely be completed in less than four months.
A time limit of four months is one of the conditions being set by the opposition Green Party for its approval.
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan welcomed the prospect of the EU military mission during a visit to Kinshasa this week. He also promised that UN peacekeepers would not abandon Congo following the elections.
"We are taking a medium to longer term view rather than pulling out immediately after the elections," Annan said.