The German government on Wednesday decided to send troops to the Democratic Republic of Congo to lead an EU mission aimed at helping the UN to ensure elections take place in a peaceful fashion.
The EU and the UN have agreed the bloc should send troops
Up to 800 German soldiers will be sent to the Democratic Republic of Congo to lead a European Union mission aimed at ensuring DR Congo's first election in decades. The mission's mandate is expected to start on June 30, currently foreseen as voting day, and to be limited to four months.
"We have an interest in Congo endorsing peaceful, democratic development," Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung said after announcing the decision Wednesday morning.
The Bundestag will begin debating the controversial deployment on Friday and is expected to vote on it on June 1.
Agreed on deployment: Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier (l.) and Defense Minister Jung
Jung's announcement was followed by sharp criticism from opposition party politician Wolfgang Gerhardt of the free-market liberal Free Democratic Party, who called it one of the worst prepared missions he had ever experienced.
"We can't just engage everywhere like with a small fire department," he told German public broadcaster ARD. For once, a mission should be planned that resulted in a political solution, he added.
The Left Party's parliamentary group has already made clear it would oppose the deployment. The Green party has called for the mission's mandate to be expanded.
Critics say that too little information is available to decide to deploy a mission and that is unclear why Germany should be involved at all.
Germa n y to lead
Germany will assume the overall command of the roughly 1,500-strong mission, which will be made up mostly of German and French troops with smaller contingents from 16 other countries. The soldiers will be sent to support the 17,000 United Nations peacekeepers deployed mainly in the country's east to ensure calm during and after the election.
French soldiers will share the burden with the Germans
The German troops will be charged with securing the airport in Kinshasa, the country's capital, and organizing evacuation operations as necessary, the defense minister said. Most of the Germans will be stationed in neighboring Gabun as a rapid reaction force if people must be evacuated from the Kinshasa region. French troops will be responsible for evacuations from other parts of the country, Jung said.
He added the costs were estimated to be up to 56 million euros ($72 million).
EU ministers will finalize the operation's plans at a June 12-13 meeting.
The presidential election has already been delayed several times and was set for June 18 in February.