SA FIB commander looks back


Looking back on his term of duty as Officer Commanding the MONUSCO force intervention brigade (FIB), South African one-star general Monwabisi Dyakopu remembers the change in configuration and addition of quick reaction forces as allowing the sole UN peacekeeping force with an offensive mandate to embark on “kinetic operations”.

He is reported by the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) as saying when he arrived in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) he found MONUSCO leadership ready to assist local authorities with logistics, medical support and capacitating the Special Force but no kinetic involvement of MONUSCO troops.

“This,” Dyakopu is quoted as saying, “was a difficult task for the FIB as it is expected of the brigade by mandate to conduct targeted offensive operations”.

“It was more difficult for the FIB Commander, who had to take the blame for atrocities conducted against the Congolese population by illegal armed groups (IAG), especially the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF).

“More focus was on reconfiguring the FIB structure from a traditional three battle group brigade – Malawi, South Africa and Tanzania (MALBATT/RSABATT/TANZBATT) – reinforced with four quick reaction force (QRF) companies from Kenya (KENQRF), Nepal (NEQRF), South Africa (RSAQRF) and Tanzania (TANZQRF) and an increased headquarters staff to 58 from 21.

“It was not until mission leadership was replaced around April/May 2021 that the vision changed in support of kinetic operations by all brigades and targeted offensive operations by the FIB as mandated.

“The Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General established a direct link with the FIB Commander through Force headquarters planning an immediate response to the killings centred around Beni Territory at that time. This led to Operation Ruwenzori II, a major joint operation with FARDC (Democratic Republic of the Congo Armed Forces). There was pressure from the new mission leadership to conduct operations as there were month-long anti-MONUSCO protests all over Beni Territory, Goma and Kinshasa.

“It was the first time MONUSCO was involved in operations after more than two years. FIB worked closely with FARDC General Staff from higher headquarters to come up with a quick response to IAGs’ [illegally armed groups’] threat to the local population equally under pressure.

“FIB produced good plans and presented them to the Special Representative supported by the Force Commander. She approved without conditions including airstrikes, artillery and other small arms use.

“Phase one of Operation Ruwenzori II was successful with the FIB role to deliver airstrikes and other combat support and service support.”

The arrival of a new FIB Commander (Tanzanian Brigadier General Stevens Mnkande) who wanted to be informed of ongoing operations saw changes. This saw the FIB replan and the operation’s name was changed to Mayangose II.

“This operation was executed in August involving FIB troops employed with FARDC on the frontline supported by both FARDC and MONUSCO combat support and combat service support.

“Much work was done in planning, training, Intelligence building and logistics, in consultation with stakeholders including local security forces, UN civilian and police components and NGOs.

“South African Rooivalk helicopters, 120 mm battery, 60 mm long range mortar platoon, tactical intelligence unit and competent FIB headquarters staff were instrumental in finding, shaping, fixing and neutralising the ADF traditional hideout and main base at Mwalika Valley.

“This was a landmark achievement by the FARDC and MONUSCO which relieved local authorities, MONUSCO leadership and the FIB from pressure. There was visible confidence in MONUSCO from the local population as combatants including senior ADF commanders surrendered in numbers, kidnapped members of the population fled and the capture of a Jordanian citizen in Mwalika Valley all contributed positively.”

Dyakopu ended his tour of duty as FIB Commander at the end of August.