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"The UN Counts on Europe" in DR Congo

Albrecht Conze, the political director of the UN mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo, talked to DW-WORLD.DE about the upcoming elections and the role of European troops to safeguard them.

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UN troops in DR Congo are waiting for European help

Albrecht Co n ze is a Germa n diplomat a n d the political director of the MONUC missio n , which has bee n tryi n g for the past six years to keep the o n goi n g civil war i n the Democratic Republic of Co n go u n der co n trol. I n 2002, the warri n g parties officially agreed to a n e n d to the fighti n g i n the so-called Pretoria Agreeme n t. Despite this, armed co n flict co n ti n ues i n the easter n part of the cou n try, where a majority of the UN troops are statio n ed.

DW-WORLD.DE: Ma n y Europea n s do n 't u n dersta n d what the Co n go missio n of EU troops is really all about. What are the soldiers really n eeded for?

Albrecht Conze: The soldiers have to be able to deal with different likely, possible or even probable moments of crisis. The first of these moments of crisis occurs around the time of the first round of elections. Once the results are announced, it's important to see who has lost and whether there is someone among the losers who might resort to violence. We have to keep in mind whether a loser has private troops that he could deploy. Between elections, it's important to make sure that the atmosphere in the city does not reach boiling point. During the run-off election, only two candidates remain. One of them will lose and then it's a similar situation as the one after the first round.

The ma n date of Germa n troops is explicitly limited to Ki n shasa . Is it possible to assume that everythi n g will really happe n i n the greater Ki n shasa area?

Kinshasa Kongo

Kinshasa

This is the political heart of the country -- it will indeed be decided here whether the election outcome will be accepted or not. Rallies for one or the other candidate outside of Kinshasa won't have national consequences. That's why it's really all about the capital.

There are rumors that some politicia n s have already started gatheri n g militia arou n d Ki n shasa .

We haven't seen that, we're only seeing two candidates who have always had troops that go beyond the Pretoria Agreement. That's the current president, Kabila, and one of four vice presidents, Jean-Pierre Bemba. They have to be watched carefully after each round of elections -- depending on the outcome.

How did the local populatio n react to the EU missio n ? Do people eve n k n ow about this?

Joseph Kabila

Joseph Kabila, the current president of DR Congo

The population will only really realize this when European soldiers arrive and become visible while driving around the city. But it's already possible to say that most people here react in a positive way. That's been visible in reports on German TV. But in some places you hear people saying that this is a just a set-up: They say the Europeans are only coming to help one candidate and evacuate Europeans when things go bad. These are two rumors that have stuck. The Europeans have to counter them and explain exactly why the troops are coming.

But a n evacuatio n i n fact is a n importa n t respo n sibility for the Europea n troops.

Yes, but it's only one of several.

What thi n gs did you have o n your wish list for the Europea n s?

EU Einsatz in Kongo

Soon to come to DR Congo

We made this clear in a letter to the EU Presidency at the end of December: We need short-term help in connection with our own mandate in order to secure the elections. The Europeans increasingly understand what this means. It means encouraging the population: "You can vote freely and we'll make sure that those elected will be able to take office." Secondly, it's a signal to all those who walk around in uniform in Kinshasa: "Stay in your barracks. There are highly equipped European soldiers who will safeguard the process. Don't let people convince you to march against the population for a losing candidate. Don't even dream about a coup." It's a two-sided mission: determent and encouragement. That's were the UN counts on Europe.

But what if the EU se n ds eve n fewer soldiers tha n the UN troops that are already there?

What's that supposed to mean? The UN has 15,000 soldiers in the eastern part of the country. Here in the city we only have 1,300 troops. The Europeans will be impressive enough to complete the mission.

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