First elements of Ituri "task force" arrive in Bunia

The first elements of a planned 3,800-strong UN peacekeeping task force for the troubled Ituri District of northeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have arrived in Bunia, the main city of the region, the UN Mission in the country, known as MONUC, reported on Wednesday.

MONUC spokesman Hamadoun Toure said at a news conference in the capital, Kinshasa, that 180 Bangladeshi soldiers had arrived, while others were en route from Entebbe in neighbouring Uganda. Nepal and Indonesia are among other countries who would be contributing forces.

"The rest of the troops that are expected will arrive progressively until 15 August for a smooth handover on 1 September from the multinational force in order to ensure peace, security and stability in Ituri," he said.

The EU-led multinational military operation in Bunia is being conducted in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 1484 of 30 May 2003, which authorised the deployment of an interim emergency peace enforcement mission until 1 September.

Toure added that while calm was slowly returning to Bunia, and people were gradually returning to their homes, a certain amount of tension still prevailed in the town.

The "task force" for Ituri would be MONUC's second, following the recent deployment of a 1,500-strong South African force in Kindu in the east, whose mission is to disarm and repatriate Interahamwe, Rwandan Hutu militias, and soldiers of Rwanda's former army, ex-FAR, said to be largely responsible for the 1994 genocide.

Toure also reported that a soldier of the South African contingent in Kindu was killed on Tuesday when he was run over by a lorry driven by another South-African soldier. Cpl Matshavha, of the 2nd South African Infantry Battalion, was immediately evacuated to the Basoko Base hospital where he was declared dead an hour later. Toure said a full investigation was underway.