Belfast Telegraph

UK to train Congo peacekeepers

The UK is to train troops for a major peacekeeping operation in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

A team of soldiers from Northern Ireland are about to deploy to Malawi in south east Africa to lead the training operation ahead of deployment by international troops in the strife-torn region.

The Malawi Defence Forces are expected to take control of a large swathe of the Congo where the UN has sanctioned offensive operations to dislodge Rwandan rebel forces operating in the eastern provinces.

Major Alasdair Hempenstall from the Royal Scots Borderers said: "We will be working in difficult terrain and to a tight schedule with a vast amount of operational expertise to pass over.

"The Malawian soldiers are well organised and highly trained and keen to play their role in bringing peace across the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)."

Around 20 soldiers based in Northern Ireland from the Scots Borders and the Second Battalion the Rifles will travel to Malawi soon and will spend two months in Africa, the MoD said. They have recent experience in Afghanistan, Bosnia and Iraq.

The Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) has been active in the mineral-rich part of east Congo since fleeing across the Rwandan border after the 1994 genocide.

The FDLR, some of whose commanders are wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes, failed to meet a January 2 deadline set by the UN to disarm.

Eastern DRC has been mired in bloody guerrilla-style combat since 1994, when Rwanda's genocide spilled over the border. Key members of the FDLR leadership have connections to the genocide in Rwanda.

The ethnic cleansing of Tutsis by the majority Hutus - many using machetes - left at least 800,000 people dead and devastated an already deeply divided state.

The UN peacekeeping mission in Congo is one of the world's largest and costliest, with uniformed staff from Malawi, South Africa and Tanzania.

The Army has been overhauled following the end of engagements in Afghanistan and Iraq.

1 Scots and 2 Rifles are part of 38 (Irish) Brigade, which has been tasked with focusing on support to countries across southern Africa, the MoD said.

Small teams of soldiers are also training in some of the globe's most unstable countries including Iraq and Somalia.

A small specialist team of UK soldiers has trained Kurdish forces fighting Islamic State militants in Iraq, the MoD has said.

However, Libyan army cadets training in the UK had to be sent home early after two recruits admitted sexually assaulting women in Cambridge.

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