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18 army brigades to provide security during polls

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KINSHASA, 9 May 2006 (IRIN) - Eighteen fully integrated army brigades whose mission will be to provide security during Congo's general elections later this year will be fully trained by 5 July, the spokesman of the army chief of staff, Jean-Willy Mutombo, has said.

The Higher Defence Council, chaired by President Joseph Kabila, had given this insurance in a communiqué following a recent council meeting, Mutombo said on Monday in the capital, Kinshasa. The council also comprises two of the nation's vice-presidents; the chiefs of staff of the army and police; as well as the ministers for defence, the interior and foreign affairs.

During its meeting, the council examined the security measures it planned to apply to ensure the smooth running of the polls; the country's first democratic elections in 45 years. The presidential and legislative elections are scheduled for 30 July.

Some of the security measures the government intends to apply include the accelerated deployment of the already integrated army brigades and to speed up the training of the remainder of the troops that will carry out this mission.

"Seven brigades have already been trained and there are seven others due for completion. We are sure that on 5 July we will have trained all 18 brigades," Mutombo said.

He said most of the brigades (a Congolese army brigade numbers some 6,000 soldiers) would be deployed to the troubled east of the country where foreign armed groups still roam.

The European Union has decided to provide 1,300 troops ready to support the estimated 17,000 UN troops in the country.


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