Continental body backs SADC mission in DR Congo, including ‘requisite support’

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The African Union (AU) by way of its Peace and Security Council (PSC) has endorsed a Southern African Development Community (SADC) decision to deploy troops to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to restore peace and security in the eastern part of the central African country, overruling protestations from Rwanda.

A communique issued following an early March PSC meeting, among others, asked the AU Commission to “mobilise requisite support” for SAMIDRC (SADC Mission in DRC). This includes the AU Peace Fund Crisis Reserve Facility. The AU Commission is further requested to “expedite” transfer of equipment donated to the SADC, still at the AU continental logistics base in Douala, Cameroon, to support efforts to ensure effective implementation of the SAMIDRC mandate. The mandate goes around restoring peace, security and stability in the eastern DRC.

The first elements of SAMIDRC arrived in the eastern DRC in mid-December with scheduled movement of part of South Africa’s 2 900-strong contingent put on hold due to reported aircraft non-availability.

The SAMIDRC force will comprise of around 5 000 troops from South Africa, Tanzania, and Malawi. There has been no statement from either the regional bloc or any of the mission troop contributing countries on movement of men and materiel, establishment of headquarters, forward operating bases (FOBs), medical and other essential facilities since the December deployment announcement.

The AU PSC further wants the AU Commission to – in collaboration with SADC – “devise practical modalities” of support from the continental body to Africa’s newest peace mission and force deployment.

SAMIDRC replaces the East African Community Regional Force (EACRF), whose mandate expired late last year.

Rwanda tried to block the PSC decision, as it claimed the SAMIDRC force would exacerbate the conflict in the eastern DRC.

Rwandan Foreign Minister Vincent Biruta, in a letter to the Chairperson of the African Union (AU) Commission ahead of the AU Peace and Security Council meeting, said the force “cannot substitute for a political process that has been blocked by the government of DRC”.

The African Union has condemned both M23 rebels, said to be supported by Rwanda, and FDLR forces, said to be backed by the government in Kinshasa. Rwanda is believed to have provided surface-to-air missiles and other sophisticated hardware to M23 rebels.