No South African lives lost in DR Congo public violence

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Violence, vandalism and rioting in the eastern DR Congo city Goma claimed 36 lives with the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) contingent all safe and accounted for, Major Anele Cengani, the public information officer attached to the South African battalion (RSABATT), reports.

The South African deployment to the largest United Nations (UN) peacekeeping mission (MONUSCO) consists of five entities. At the top is the RSABATT, making up a third of the Force Intervention Brigade (FIB), currently the only UN peacekeeping force worldwide granted an offensive mandate, for its brief to protect Congolese civilians. This, Cengani writes, means the FIB is authorised to use “all necessary means to carry out its mandate relating to protection of civilians, humanitarian personnel and human rights defenders under imminent threat of physical violence and to support the DRC government in its stabilisation and peace consolidation efforts”.

Then follows the composite helicopter unit (CHU) based in Goma and flying Oryx medium transport and Rooivalk combat support rotary-winged aircraft. The other SANDF elements in DRC are the recently deployed quick reaction force (QRF) attached to, but not part of the FIB, a tactical intelligence unit from the SA Army Intelligence Formation and a SA Military Health Service (SAMHS) air medical evacuation team.

Protests have been ongoing in eastern DRC since mid-July, reportedly instigated by a faction of the ruling UDPS (Union for Democracy and Social Progress) party’s youth wing. It wants immediate withdrawal of all UN peacekeepers maintaining they are “ineffective”. Demonstrators accuse MONUSCO of failing to protect Congolese citizens from armed groups of insurgents and rebels in the eastern part of the sprawling central African country.

Violence started in Goma with hundreds storming and vandalising MONUSCO headquarters and supply bases in the eastern city. Unrest spread elsewhere in the area including Butembo where protesters engaged UN personnel on base with firearms, killing three MONUSCO staffers.