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EU military communications advance team arrives

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KINSHASA, 8 Jun 2006 (IRIN) - A 20-member advance team of the European Union (EU) force charged with safeguarding the first general elections in 45 years in the Congo has arrived in the capital, Kinshasa, a spokesman for the force said on Thursday.

"The team is composed of those who are to prepare the logistics and communication for the force," Lt-Col Alexandre Bordelius, the force's spokesman, said.

He added that the advance unit responsible for communications arrived on Tuesday while the one in charge of logistics arrived in mid-March.

Bordelius said the build-up of the force would be progressive and completed 15 days before 30 July, the date of the presidential and legislative elections in the Congo.

Some 16 EU countries are contributing troops to this force, mandated to support the UN Mission in the DRC, known as MONUC, which already has a 17,500-strong force in the country.

The majority of the EU troops will come from Germany, France, Portugal and Spain. At least 400 of these troops will be based in Kinshasa and the 1,000 remaining will be based in neighbouring countries, ready for quick intervention.

The elections in the Congo come as foreign armed groups and local militias continue their activities in the east of the country while the main opposition party - based in the west - has announced it is boycotting the elections.

The deployment of the EU force is part of European Union efforts to assist in the preparation of the elections. Already, it has contributed 80 percent of the electoral budget, or US $440 million. The EU has also provided funding to train police units ahead of the polls.

Members of the EU also contribute, sometimes in an individual capacity, to safeguard the elections and re-establish law and order in the country.

In this framework, the French ambassador in Congo, George Serre, on Thursday presented to the Congolese government a project to build a judicial police school and a technical and scientific laboratory for the police to assist in collecting evidence as well as the installation of a file for digital imprints. The date of the start of this project is not yet known.

At the same time, Serre handed out diplomas to future trainers of the "Training College for Officers of the Judicial Police".

France has already trained 2,000 anti-riot policemen in areas such as the locality of Kasapa in Katanga Province. France also assisted in the creation of a clinic in Kinshasa for the Congolese, as well as the setting up of an automobile workshop for the rapid intervention force of the police and a tactical situation room for the police headquarters.


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