11 January 2013

Congo-Kinshasa: Plans to Merge Congo Neutral Force, Monusco Underway - AU

Ministers from African Great Lake states are considering having the UN peacekeeping mission in DR Congo's troubled east merge with a future neutral force, an African Union official said Tuesday.

The general direction of discussions is towards a creative formula that would amalgamate the Monusco mission with the international neutral force, said Ramtane Lamamra, the AU's peace and security commissioner.

But he did not specify how the 4,000-man force might collaborate with the 19,000 UN soldiers already deployed in the country, the bulk of them in the east.

Lamamra was speaking after a meeting of ministers from the 11-member International Conference on the Great Lakes Region, who for months have been trying to get the neutral force off the ground to rein in the rebels in the east. In November, the M23 rebels seized the key town of Goma in the mineral-rich North Kivu, raising fears of a widespread conflict.

Talks between the rebels and the government began last month. The M23 rebels on Tuesday declared a unilateral ceasefire ahead of the second round of negotiations with DRC government in Kampala, Uganda.

Lamamra said technical detail of the force are still being hammered out, adding that the plan could be sent to the UN for consideration within a week.

Tanzania has pledged troops, while other members of the Southern African Development Community say they will contribute.

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