Members of 7 South African Infantry Battalion serving with the United Nations peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have received United Nations Medals for their year-long service. They are about to head home and be replaced by fresh troops from South Africa.
The United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Monusco) Force Commander, Lieutenant General Elias Martinus Rodrigues Filho, presented the medals to members of 7 South African Infantry (SAI) Battalion and supporting South African National Defence Force (SANDF) members during a medal parade on 7 June at Mavivi in the DRC.
It is standard practice for peacekeepers serving with the United Nations to receive the UN Medal and is ranked in militaries and police forces as a service medal.
The medal ceremony was attended by UN Force Intervention Brigade Commander Brigadier General Patrick Njabulo Dube and Brazilian Ambassador in the DRC Andrè Luiz Azevedo dos Santos, amongst others.
7 SAI has been deployed to the DRC for a year and is about to be relieved by 2 SAI, which has mobilised in Bloemfontein and been declared combat ready for the United Nations mission. The soldiers are now waiting for UN transport to take them into Central Africa. They were visited by the chief of the SANDF, General Solly Shoke, and Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula last month and were due to be deployed by the beginning of June but this was delayed at the UN’s request.
7 SAI deployed to the DRC with 850 members, but 2 SAI will only have 800, as the United Nations requested a cut of 50 in order to save costs. The Tanzanian battalion has similarly been reduced by 50.
In addition to 7 SAI, the SANDF has an aviation unit with Oryx and Rooivalk helicopters in the DRC, and support services such as engineers and medics.
Last month Shoke said the South African soldiers in the Democratic Republic of Congo have performed “exceptionally well.” He said there have been several skirmishes but the soldiers have been able to repulse them. No soldiers were lost in these skirmishes.
South Africa’s top general noted that SA Air Force helicopter pilot Lieutenant Colonel Stefan King has been nominated for the Captain Mbaye Diagne Medal for Exceptional Courage, the UN’s highest peacekeeping award. This was for providing aerial support to UN ground forces under fire on 14 November last year. He dropped flares from the Oryx he was piloting to deter enemy forces.
South Africa is the eleventh largest United Nations troop contributing country in Africa and the 17th largest troop contributor overall, with 1 190 South Africans (including police) deployed across the continent.