UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
DRC: Belgian defence minister launches training of first unified brigade
KINSHASA, 26 Jan 2004 (IRIN) - Belgian Defence Minister Andre Flahaut launched on Sunday the training of the first brigade of the new unified Congolese army.
"A country without an army will have no stability," he told the first intake of 720 troops in the city of Kisangani, Oriental Province, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
The recruits were drawn from the main belligerents during the five-year civil war: the old government army, the le Rassemblement Congolais pour la Democratie and the Mouvement pour la Liberation du Congo. Each will provide the 2,500-strong brigade with one battalion - a total of about 1,800 men - with the balance to comprise elements from traditional militias such as the Mayi-Mayi and other minor movements.
Initially the brigade's training will be conducted by 80 Belgian instructors, with another 30 due to arrive soon to strengthen the team.
"For now, only one battalion will be trained. Training will continue with the others, depending on the holding capacity of the base," Sylvain Mbuki, the chief of staff of the DRC land forces, told IRIN.
Belgium has received UN authorisation to conduct the training, but other countries such as France and Britain, have also expressed interest.
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