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First batch of Namibian peacekeepers ready

An advance unit of Namibian soldiers will be deployed to Liberia at the weekend, according to a senior military official. The Namibian Defence Force (NDF) Chief of Staff, Major General Peter Nambundunga, told IRIN on Thursday that an "advance party of between 100 to 115 soldiers" would leave on Saturday. He described the mood of his men as "upbeat" and said they were prepared for any eventuality. "They have all received their yellow fever and cholera vaccines - they are ready to go." A total of 850 Namibian soldiers was expected to be deployed for peacekeeping operations in the West African country, Nambundunga said. "It could be more or less than 850 at the end of negotiations." A UN team arrived in Namibia this week to negotiate the final number with the NDF, and inspect the vehicles, equipment, arms and ammunition on standby for deployment to assess the quantity needed. This would be finalised within the next two days. UN efforts to restore peace to Liberia after 14 years of almost continuous war began soon after a pact was reached between warring factions in August last year, following former president Charles Taylor's resignation and flight into exile. The task of UN peacekeepers in Liberia became harder as of last month, when they began moving from the capital, Monrovia, into rebel-held areas. The UN relies on its member states for its peacekeeping operations and about half the UN mission's mandated 15,000 peacekeepers have been deployed to the country so far. The UN will bear the costs of deploying the Namibian soldiers. The NDF's last major foreign mission was in the Democratic Republic of Congo, when about 2,000 soldiers were sent, along with Zimbabwean and Angolan troops, to support the government of former president Laurent-Desire Kabila against rebels backed by Uganda and Rwanda. Small numbers of Namibian troops were also deployed inside Angola to prevent infiltration by the Angolan rebel movement, UNITA, which began raids into northern Namibia in 1999 in retaliation for the presence of Angolan troops there.

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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