[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Languages
Last Updated: Tuesday, 23 May 2006, 15:22 GMT 16:22 UK
DR Congo warning over bodyguards
Former militia fighter with a goat
Former fighters are being given goats when they are demobilised
Congolese politicians have been warned that they should not have more than 25 bodyguards, amid pre-election tension.

The warning was made by Defence Minister Adolphe Onusumba, amid reports that some politicians have hundreds of armed personal guards.

The limit was part of the Democratic Republic of Congo's 2002 peace deal to end the five-year conflict.

Fighters from the warring factions are being integrated into the national army ahead of the poll set for 30 July.

'Dream'

Mr Onusumba's statement made no mention of the estimated 10,000 soldiers in President Joseph Kabila's Republican Guard.

Diplomatic sources say these troops are far better paid and equipped than soldiers in the regular army.

Each of the former belligerents has kept behind a substantial force, including weapons, just in case
Kinshasa diplomat
Some 40,000 fighters have been brought into the army but about 20,000 have not yet finished their training.

Mr Onusumba, a former rebel leader brought into the power-sharing government as part of the peace deal, said this process would be speeded up.

The authorities say 18 brigades, each of 3,500 men, will be ready and deployed before the elections.

But a diplomat in Kinshasa told the BBC: "That is a dream, it is not possible."

He also warned that "Each of the former belligerents has kept behind a substantial force, including weapons, just in case."

The AFP news agency reports that a significant quantity of weapons and ammunition was discovered recently in Gbadolite, in territory controlled by the former rebel Congolese Liberation Movement (MLC) of Vice-President Jean-Pierre Bemba.

He is one of those standing in the presidential elections, along with President Kabila and some 30 others.

As well as the former rebel groups, various armed groups remain active in eastern DR Congo.

The army, backed up by UN peacekeepers has been trying to wipe them out ahead of the polls.

On Monday, at least 32 fighters and five soldiers were killed in the north-eastern Ituri province, the army said.

A United Nations peacekeeping force of nearly 17,000 troops - the world's largest - operates in the country and is being augmented by a 1,500-strong European Union rapid reaction force over the election period.


RELATED BBC LINKS:

RELATED INTERNET LINKS:
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


PRODUCTS & SERVICES

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific