South Africa is going to take restructuring and possible downsizing of the Democratic Republic of Congo-based Force Intervention Brigade (FIB) up with the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations.
South Africa, along with Malawi and Tanzania, contribute both materiel and troops to the FIB, currently the only UN force worldwide with an offensive mandate.
Speaking to the DIRCO news agency in Windhoek where the South African Development Community (SADC) summit is currently underway, South African Defence and Military Veterans Minister, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, said the FIB was the sole item on the agenda when the bloc’s organ on politics, defence and security met in the Namibian capital earlier this week.
In July the UN Security Council indicated the FIB would be reconfigured and was expected to be operational in a new guise. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres stated then the reconfigured FIB will be “more flexible, agile and able to conduct both offensive and protection of civilians operations across North Kivu”. No further details were given but there are indications South Africa’s Rooivalk combat support helicopter could be withdrawn from theatre.
This does not appear to sit happily with Mapisa-Nqakula who told the South African Department of International Relations and Co-operation news team it would be taken up on the side of the UN General Assembly summit later this year.
“There are issues with some UN directives we will be taking further,” she said, elaborating only to add it appeared some were unilateral and “created problems for SADC”.
Mapisa-Nqakula stressed she, as Defence Minister, was the implementing agent of government foreign policy in the DRC particularly as regards the deployment of soldiers and military equipment.
“It is my job to ensure no bodybags come back to South Africa,” she told the DIRCO in-house news agency.
“We must ensure decisions taken as regards the FIB do not disrupt or disadvantage the force and make sure it doesn’t suffer causalities.”
FIB strength currently stands at 2 826 under the command South African Brigadier General Patrick Dube. He has 1 126 Tanzanians and 850 troops each from Malawi and South Africa to utilise in an offensive role, the first time the world body has agreed to one of its peacekeeping missions proactively taking action to prevent death and injuries to civilians by rebel groups including ADF.
Dube returned to central Africa in April after a 2013/14 tour of duty as second-in-command of the FIB.