Swedish soldiers join EU Congo force

Sweden is to send 40 to 50 soldiers to the Democratic Republic of Congo. Troops from the elite Special Protection Group (SSG) will be part of an EU mission to provide security during the summer election in the troubled central African country.

Defence minister Leni Björklund told the EU’s foreign policy representative on Friday that the government would put the proposal for the Swedish contribution before parliament soon.

The EU force of around 1,000 soldiers from ten countries will support 17,000 UN peacekeeping troops. Eight UN soldiers have lost their lives in the country.

The election in the DR Congo will be the first since 1961. It was scheduled for June 18th but has been postponed until July due to security fears.

Germany is leading the EU mission which will begin at the end of May or the beginning of June. It is the second time an EU force has been sent to support UN troops in DR Congo.

“Last time was summer 2003 when French and Swedish soldiers prevented what could have developed into genocide in the Ituri province in north east Congo,” said Leni Björklund in a speech to Social Democrats in Trollhättan on Saturday.

The Swedish soldiers’ exact task in DR Congo is still not clear. The Special Protection Group, which reports directly to the Commander-in-Chief of the Swedish armed forces, is trained for battle, personal protection, intelligence gathering and a range of other combat duties.

Sweden’s contribution will cost a maximum of 60 million kronor.

TT/The Local