South African soldiers were integral to a recent MONUSO Force Intervention Brigade (FIB) operation in the troubled eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
“10 SA Infantry (SAI) Battalion in eastern DRC continues to fly both South African and United Nations flags high,” Lieutenant Rekkie Letsoalo, RSABATT (Republic of South Africa Battalion) public information officer, wrote.
“This after a series of short, medium and long patrols south-west of Mayi Moya along the RN4 road supporting the Congolese Army (FARDC) from 21 April to 23 April 2023 in the forest of Apetina Jana.
“This forest is allegedly a stronghold of the rebel group Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) and the Madina Taheed al- Mujaheeded rebel group. The forest is 50km from Beni, in North Kivu province.
“This FIB operation consisted of Kenya Quick Reaction Force, South Africa Quick Reaction Force, Malawian Battalion, Republic of South Africa Battalion, Nepal Quick Reaction Force, Tanzania Battalion, Tactical Intelligence Unit and Tanzania Quick Reaction Force. Its objective was to dismantle the ADF rebel camp and reduce atrocities against civilians, especially women and children.
“The operation was a success and made it possible to restore the authority of the state in the area as well as facilitating the local population to return home. Previously conducted civilians between Komanda and Beni were disrupted due to recurrent ADF attacks with the operation bringing order to this part of North Kivu.
“This joint operation in support of FARDC not only reinforced MONUSCO’s commitment to restore peace and stability in the eastern part of DRC and helped change a negative perception toward the United Nations (UN). The negative perception is socially constructed by propaganda machinery of rebel groups resulted in anti-MONUSCO sentiments starting in July last year in Goma when locals looted food and torched vehicles at MONUSCO Force Headquarters. In eastern DRC vehicles were stoned during night patrols.
“The unity of forces in pursuit of peace and stability in the country in the turmoil of conflict for more than a decade carries hope,” according to the public information officer.
The SANDF in DRC has elements deployed with the UN FIB in the east, with the Quick Reaction Force (QRF) in Goma and a Composite Helicopter Unit supporting the MONUSCO peacekeeping mission.
Operation Mistral, the DRC deployment, is extended from 1 April 2023 to 31 March 2024, at a cost of R1.035 billion after President Cyril Ramaphosa authorised deployment of 1 198 SANDF personnel to serve with the UN mission to disarm, neutralise and prevent expansion of armed groups.
Operation Mistral cost R801 million in 2019; R637 million in 2020; R691 million in 2021; and R674 million in 2022.