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UN enlarges its mission during election period

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NAIROBI, 7 Sep 2005 (IRIN) - The UN Security Council on Monday authorised the temporary deployment of additional personnel and equipment to the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) for the country's general elections due in 2006.

The Council authorised an increase of 841 personnel, which would include up to five formed police units each with 125 officers and additional police personnel.

The Council also authorised the UN mission, known as MONUC, "acting in close coordination with the UN Development Programme, to provide additional support to the Independent Electoral Commission for the transport of electoral materials."

Underlining "the temporary character" of the deployments, the Council said MONUC should start "downsizing or repatriating these additional personnel from 1 July 2006".

The resolution is a response to a special report issued on 26 May by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on the elections in which he asked that the mission be increased by 2,590 military personnel to a total strength of 19,290.

In his report he said there were a number of potential threats to the security of the electoral process. A major source of concern is the continued existence, in a climate of general insecurity and lawlessness, of armed groups of uncertain allegiance and intentions, particularly in Ituri District; North and South Kivu provinces; central and northern Kantanga Province; and to a lesser extent Maniema Province.

"The activities of spoilers opposed to elections and to the peace process, who might manipulate these groups, could seriously affect the climate in which elections are held, including by delaying or disrupting preparations. These groups could also pose a threat to the deployment of national and international electoral personnel and the access of the population to registration and polling stations," Annan said in the report.

However, he said there had been progress in the transition to democracy that had followed the signing of the Global and All-Inclusive Agreement on 17 December 2002 by all parties to the country's armed conflict.

Despite lengthy delays, the electoral commission was established in June 2004. The commission has started setting up the approximately 9,000 voter registration centres and in June began registering many of the estimated 28 million voters.

However, the commission still faces many obstacles in areas that have few roads and poor security. In his report, Annan recommended giving MONUC a mandate to support the commission with increased air-mobility assets; including three IL-76 aircraft, six C-130 aircraft, 11 medium-utility helicopters and two MI-26 helicopters.

In July, Annan also asked for US $190 million in additional costs that the UN would incur to support the elections.

In 2004, donors approved an estimated budget of some $284 million, of which by May $181 million has been pledged, but only $88 million made available. In July donors committed an additional $100 million to support the elections and other donors made further pledges.

Even without the additional 841 personnel, MONUC is the largest peacekeeping operation in the world with 15,558 troops, 520 military observers; 324 civilian police; and 2,493 civilian staff.

The elections will be the first in the DRC since 1965.


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