If the Riksdag approves the proposal, Sweden will be the first country in the West to deploy troops to MONUC. Among other things, the unit will be responsible for the operation and maintenance of an airport, presumably in Kindu in the eastern part of the country. This kind of specialised initiative has been especially requested by the UN, and the Swedish unit is considered highly qualified for the task. According to the UN's wishes, the Swedish unit should arrive by late May/early June.
Sweden's only previous contribution of troops to Africa was in a UN operation in Congo in the 1960s, when a total of 6000 Swedes took part. Since the mission in Macedonia, which ended in February 1999, Sweden has not contributed any larger troops to a UN-led peacekeeping operation. The last time Sweden contributed military troops outside the EU was to a UN-led peacekeeping operation in Lebanon in 1986-1994 and in a mine-clearance platoon during the autumn of 2000, also in Lebanon.
"The peace process in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has made considerable progress during the past year, and the mission is an important contribution to the international community's efforts to promote peace in the country. It also gives a clear signal of Sweden's strong commitment to the prevention and resolution of conflicts in Africa, something that we have also taken active steps to promote within the framework of EU cooperation", say Minister for Foreign Affairs, Anna Lindh, and Minister for Defence, Leni Björklund.
"The international commitment to the peace process must continue. MONUC has a key role to play at this decisive stage."
Sweden's relations with the Democratic Republic of the Congo go back a long way and Swedish missionary organisations have operated in the country for over one hundred years. During the current conflict, Sweden has given extensive humanitarian aid and support to the peace efforts, including support to the national political dialogue which is intended to lead to a transitional government and, eventually, to democratisation.
A number of Swedes are involved in the peace process. Ambassador Lena Sundh is the Assistant Representative of the UN Secretary-General for MONUC, and Ambassador Bo Heinebäck has made valuable contributions as a mediator between the parties to the national political dialogue. At present, Sweden has five military observers and three civilian police officers in the UN mission.
Background information is available on the Ministry for Foreign Affairs' website: www.ud.se