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UN to boost troops in DR Congo's Katanga regionPublish Date: Feb 23, 2014
UN to boost troops in DR Congo's Katanga region
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KINSHASA - The United Nations has it will send more peacekeeping troops to the Katanga region of the Democratic Republic of Congo after a surge in attacks by local militias caused a critical humanitarian crisis.

The UN mission in the country (MONUSCO) "has decided to deploy special forces at Pweto to protect Katanga's population", MONUSCO chief Martin Kobler said on Twitter.

No decision has been made on the exact size of the reinforcement, but a date for the deployment should be announced shortly, MONUSCO's military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Prosper Basse told AFP.

Moustapha Soumare, the UN's humanitarian coordinator in DR Congo, called the situation in mineral-rich Katanga "critical".

"We must step up our humanitarian response if we want to save the province from a general crisis," he said in a statement.

Katanga's impoverished area around Manono, Mitwaba and Pweto, in the north of the province, is widely known as the "triangle of death". The rampant violence is mainly attributed to the Mai Mai rebel group which fights for a better distribution between the north and south of the wealth stemming from the province's immense natural resources.

Bakata Katanga rebels, who claim to fight for independence, launched brazen attacks that left dozens of people dead in Lubumbashi in March and November 2013.

Since September 2013 Mai Mai rebels have also burnt down more than 60 villages in attacks on Manono, Mitwaba and Pweto, a statement issued by the UN's OCHA humanitarian affairs office said Tuesday.

In Pweto alone about 60,000 people have been accommodated after fleeing their homes because of the violence, according to the UN.

The figure for all of Katanga is 402,000 displaced people, compared with 51,000 in 2011.

Katanga, which at almost half a million square kilometres (190,000 square miles) is about the size of Spain, is believed to hold around a third of the world's cobalt and 10 percent of its copper reserves.

Its capital Lubumbashi is DR Congo's second largest city and the province has been plagued by secessionist violence since the country's independence from Belgium in 1960.

AFP

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