Work is underway on a joint strategy for MONUSCO to “gradually and responsibly exit” the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) but this is not putting hurdles in the way of South Africa rotating its component of the Force Intervention Brigade (FIB).
Soldiers from 15 SA Infantry Battalion in Thohoyandou earlier this month departed the SA Army Mobilisation Centre outside Bloemfontein following jungle and other mission specific training for a tour of detached duty as part of the world’s largest current UN peace mission. The Limpopo–headquartered unit replaced the Zeerust, North West-headquartered 2 SA Infantry Battalion which served an extended period in the central African country as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Leila Zerrougui, special representative of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, earlier this month indicated MONUSCO, the French acronym for the UN Organisation Stabilisation Mission in the DRC, was “in the process of demilitarising and closing offices, in view of its withdrawal from the country”. She was speaking during a weekly UN conference in Kinshasa, the DRC capital.
“We had an evaluation and are preparing for the transition, because this year we will also present a report on the transition and further reduce our presence in areas where Congolese authorities are able to assume responsibility for security without our intervention,” she is reporting as saying on the MONUSCO website, which did not give any date or timeline indication for the closure.
MONUSCO is currently in six of the DR Congo’s 26 provinces with over eighteen thousand uniformed personnel in the form of military personnel and officers as well as police and a thousand plus police “formed unit” members.
The UN’s Department of Peacekeeping Operations said, in response to a defenceWeb inquiry, “Security Council Resolution 2502 (2019) requested MONUSCO and DRC authorities to articulate a joint strategy for the mission’s gradual and responsible exit from the country. This will be submitted to Council by 20 October, as requested”.
This publication was also told “consultations between the UN Secretariat and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) regarding reconfiguration of the FIB are ongoing to ensure MONUSCO’s Force swiftly responds to the multiplicity of threats in eastern DRC”.
Both South Africa, as a troop contributing country to the FIB, and the regional bloc, representative of all three troop contributing countries, are against changes to the make-up of the FIB. This comes in the wake of a suggestion one FIB battalion be changed to a composite one. If this happens either Malawi, South Africa or Tanzania will give up FIB component status and the brigade effectively loses its SADC identity.