South Africa commits 2 900 SANDF personnel to SAMIDRC

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South Africa’s commitment to the Southern African Development Community (SADC) peacekeeping mission in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) was yesterday (Monday, 12 February) confirmed by SA National Defence Force (SANDF) Commander-in-Chief, President Cyril Ramaphosa.

The mission acronym is SAMIDRC.

A four-paragraph statement issued by The Presidency has it Ramaphosa “ordered the employment of 2 900 members of the SA National Defence Force to assist in the fight against illegal armed groups in the Eastern DRC”.

The “employment” commenced on 15 December and is set to run for a year, finishing on the same date this year.

Apart from cost – budgeted expenditure is said to be just over R2 billion – no other details regarding composition of the deployment are given in the statement.

The Presidency statement notes the continental deployment of South African military elements is in accordance with the Constitution, adding “the obligation to contribute troops to the SADC mission in DRC is born by all SADC member states”.

A December statement by the southern African regional bloc had it the SAMIDRC force commander, South African Major General Monwabisi Dyakopu, accompanied by an unknown number of staff officers, attended a reconnaissance and planning conference in Goma between 17 and 24 November. “The same grouping,” the statement continued, “deployed on 15 December”.

Last week, footage emerged from North Kivu of an SANDF convoy with SAMIDRC comprising at least five Mamba armoured personnel carriers, two Land Cruisers and one Mfezi armoured ambulance.

SAMIDRC was approved more than nine months ago at a SADC special summit in Windhoek, Namibia, to deal with “issues of insecurity and restore peace”.

“The deployment of SADC troops,” according to a statement post the summit, “had been agreed upon in accordance with the principle of collective security advocated in the mutual defence pact of this common organisation, which stipulated in its Article 6 paragraph 1 that: ‘Any armed attack perpetrated against one of the States Parties shall be considered as a threat to regional peace and security. In response to such an attack, immediate collective action shall be taken’”.

“It is in this context that a SADC regional force from Republic of Malawi, Republic of South Africa and United Republic of Tanzania and elements of the DRC Armed Forces are deployed in support of the Congolese Army, Forces Armees de la Republic Democratique du Congo (FARDC) in fighting to eradicate the negative forces/illegal armed groups that continue to disrupt peace and security in the DRC”.

Reports had it the first advance group from Malawi and South Africa arrived in the central African country on 18 December with a second South African group arriving two days later.

Aviation export Dean Wingrin warned that the SANDF deployment will have “tragic consequences” as there are no Rooivalk attack helicopters to provide top cover and few Oryx transport helicopters available. “You cannot rely on air support of other countries, particularly when urgent/under fire,” he said.

Earlier this month, ground forces of the M23 rebels fired at an Oryx helicopter from the SA Air Force. The helicopter was hit at least 43 times by suspected AK-47 and PK machine gun fire, which ripped through the helicopter and its main rotors.  One shot injured the hand of Oryx commander, Major Jannie Augustyn, and another peppered his leg with shrapnel.  A medical orderly in the back, who was taking care of a patient whom the crew had just evacuated, was hit by a bullet that came through the floor and hit him under his body armour.

When more aircraft were available, it was standard procedure for Oryx helicopters to have the protection of one of the Rooivalk attack helicopters deployed by the air force.