15 SAI DRC deployment could last longer


Thohoyandou-based 15 SA Infantry Battalion is currently flying the South African flag in the UN Force Intervention Brigade (FIB) in DR Congo as part of the world’s body’s MONUSCO peacekeeping mission.

The unit has been on station in the beleaguered central African country since December with indications, at present, that it could remain in place for longer than the allotted deployment period. This is, according to the Directorate: Corporate Communications of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF), because of possible revisions to rotation dates.

“The current fluctuating situation (in DR Congo) as well as UN guidelines state resumption of uniformed personnel rotations shall be based on extraordinary transitional measures based on rigorous quarantine regime to mitigate transmission of COVID-19,” a statement said.

The FIB is currently the only UN force component to have an offensive mandate in its task of protecting and keeping Congolese citizens safe from rebel groups, particularly in the eastern part of the country. Malawi and Tanzania are the other troop contributing countries to the FIB, which in certain circles has seen it labelled a SADC (Southern African Development Community) brigade. This is technically correct but there are some who maintain it is a UN force and should thus carry the UN, rather than the SADC, prefix.

15 SAI will be replaced by 21 SA Infantry Battalion when the UN decrees its deployment period over. The unit is based in Doornkop, Soweto and was an active part of the SANDF Operation Notlela, to ensure compliance with the COVID-19 induced national state of disaster regulations.

The SA Air Force (SAAF) combined helicopter unit (CHU) is another component, along with a SA Military Health Service (SAMHS) contingent, doing peacekeeping duty in DR Congo. Flight and ground crew for both the Rooivalk combat support and Oryx medium transport helicopters the unit uses are rotated on a regular short term basis to best maintain operational efficiency and sharpness of particularly flight crews.