Three Tanzanian soldiers with SAMIDRC killed by rebel fire

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Two months after a couple of South African soldiers were killed serving with the Southern African Development Community Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (SAMIDRC), three Tanzanian soldiers have died after being hit by rebel mortar fire.

The SADC in a statement on Monday 8 April said three Tanzanian soldiers were killed and another three injured after a hostile mortar round fell near the camp where they were staying.

“SAMIDRC hereby also informs the public of the passing on of a South African soldier who died while receiving treatment due to health challenges in a hospital in Goma.”

The soldiers were deployed under the auspices of the SADC as part of the regional response “to address the unstable and deteriorating security situation prevailing in the Eastern DRC.”

“The SADC family expresses its heartfelt condolences to the beloved families and the Governments of the Republic of South Africa and United Republic of Tanzania on the irreplaceable loss of the deceased soldiers and, at the same time, wishes the three injured soldiers speedy recovery. The SAMIDRC remains focused on carrying out its mandate as per the principle of collective self-defence and collective action outlined in the SADC Mutual Defence Pact (2003),” the statement concluded.

SAMIDRC deployed on 15 December 2023 is to support the government of the DRC in restoring peace and security in the east of the country and comes as the United Nations withdraws from the central African nation.

Soldiers from Malawi, South Africa, and Tanzania are making up the 5 000-strong SAMIDRC force, with South Africa committing up to 2 900 troops, although only 600 are understood to be presently deployed. The South African deployment will cost just over R2 billion and is authorised until December this year.

The mission has faced numerous challenges, including logistics issues, with a lack of airlift delaying the South African deployment. Concerns about South African troops having sufficient combat and logistics support were sparked after a 14 February mortar attack by M23 rebels that killed two South African soldiers and injured three more. Reports this month indicated South African soldiers do not have sufficient field accommodation equipment, ranging from food storage to medical supplies.

Experts have warned that SAMIDRC forces are facing a major problem regarding base protection, as they are open targets for mortars and drones. As M23 rebels can fire and evade, or fire from populated areas, it’s difficult for SAMIDRC forces to retaliate. Ideally, friendly forces need counter-rocket, artillery and mortar (C-RAM) solutions and should patrol the areas around bases to keep enemy fire out of range.

There is concern that SAMIDRC forces will not be able to dominate their environment as they lack troop numbers, vehicles, intelligence, and air support.