New defence minister Charles Nqakula and senior generals are in the Democratic Republic of Congo today to witness the handover of the first DRC Rapid Reaction Battalion trained by the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) under as part of Operation Teutonic.
Teutonic is a trilateral arrangement with Belgium, the former colonial power, to retrain the armed forces of the DRC following decades of civil war and disorder. The SANDF in 2007 had 16 instructors dedicated to the task.
SANDF spokesman Lt Col Nico Allie says the ceremony at Mura Base at Likasi in the DRC`s southern Katanga province “is the first milestone in establishing a DRC Rapid Reaction Brigade. This endeavour is part of the integration of the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo.”
SA has separately maintained a force of well over a thousand soldiers, airmen and medics in the east of the DRC as part of Operation Cordite, its support of the UN mission in the DRC, known by its French acronym, Monuc.
That force was struck by tragedy this week, when a Mamba armoured personnel carrier fell through a bridge and two soldiers aboard drowned. Five more managed to swim to safety.
SA has been a major contributor to United Nations and African Union peacekeeping missions since 2000, and has troops and military observers deployed in the DRC, Burundi, Darfur (in Sudan) and Nepal.