Leading EU member states are reluctant to heed a United Nations request to send troops to the Democratic Republic of Congo for the period of the elections: they are too stretched by commitments in other areas.
In January, the United Nations (UN) asked the EU to send a battle group to the Democratic Republic of Congo to support the current UN mission MONUC by offering protection on the ground during the presidential elections (see EURACTIV, 17 January 2006).
Although the EU is planning to announce a final decision on its military commitment in the Democratic Republic of Congo by the end of the month, it is already struggling to meet the UN’s request.
Despite the member states’ willingness to send troops, they are hesitating as to who should take the lead on the operation. France, for instance, is unwilling to take on the role due to its current commitment in the Ivory Coast and its previous leading role in the “Artemis” operation in the Congo in 2003. The UK told Reuters news service that it will not offer forces as it feels over-stretched with its involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan. Germany and Austria have also refused a leadership role.
The Congo, which suffered under a civil war for five years up to 2003, will have its first free presidential elections, planned for April, since it gained its independence in 1961.