Led by Germany, advance units of a European military force have begun arriving in Congo on a risky mission. The roughly 2,000 European troops were invited by the United Nations to help protect the Democratic Republic’s 30 July elections — the first free and fair vote in more than 40 years. Around 450 of the EU troops will stay in Congo, most of the rest in neighbouring states, on standby.
The polls are meant to end war in the central African country the size of Western Europe, with almost no roads or other infrastructure. Preparations are being further hampered by continued fighting in the east, and an opposition boycott.
The mission is being seen as a test case for EU involvement in difficult operations. Aid workers say more than 1,000 people continue to die every day in
Congo, mostly from war-related hunger and disease, adding to the 4 million killed during the conflict which broke out in 1998. Germany and France will be the main troop contributors. Around 16 other countries including Turkey will also be present.