South Kivu MONUSCO base handed to DR Congo authorities

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Kamanyola this week became the first MONUSCO base to be handed to Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) authorities as the “disengagement” of the United Nations (UN) mission starts in earnest.

The initial phase of exit will see withdrawal of MONUSCO military and police forces from South Kivu with an April deadline. In terms of an agreement between DRC President Felix Tshisekedi’s government and the world body, the now almost 14-year-old mission will exit the country by December this year when its mandate expires.

South Africa via Operation Mistral is a top 10 troop contributing country (TCC) to the mission. SA National Defence Force (SANDF) personnel and assets in the DRC are an infantry battalion with the MONUSCO Force Intervention Brigade (FIB); a quick reaction force (QRF) and tactical intelligence unit (TIU) attached to the FIB; an SA Air Force (SAAF) Composite Helicopter Unit and SA Military Health Service (SAMHS) including an area medical evacuation team (AMET) as well as doctors, nurses and support personnel at a hospital in Goma.

The Kamanyola base will now be managed by the Congolese National Police (Police Nationale Congolaise).

“This transfer of responsibilities and equipment is one of the first acts of MONUSCO’s disengagement from the province of South Kivu. The joint memorandum signed on 21 November 2023 by the DRC government and MONUSCO identifies South Kivu as the first province from which MONUSCO is to withdraw as part of its orderly, responsible and phased withdrawal from the country,” a statement issued by the MONUSCO spokesperson and media relations office reads in part.

It goes on to quote MONUSCO Head Bintou Keita, also Special Representative of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, as saying: “We hope that the handover of Kamanyola, combined with MONUSCO’s ongoing construction of the Congolese National Police sub-station, will serve as a model and inspiration for the rest of MONUSCO’s disengagement process”.

Kamanyola was staffed mainly by Pakistani military personnel in its 19 operational years with Keita thanking them for their dedication and excellent service. Pakistan is the second largest MONUSCO TCC behind India.

Speaking at the Kamanyola handover, Keita noted the MONUSCO withdrawal from South Kivu was “not synonymous with the UN leaving the DRC”. She termed it “a reconfiguration” of the UN presence.

“After MONUSCO’s departure, UN agencies, funds and programmes will continue to provide support in accordance with their respective mandates. Responsibility for protection of civilians and security will lie exclusively with the Congolese government,” the statement has her saying.

As MONUSCO draws down, South Africa, Tanzania and Malawi are establishing the 5 000-strong Southern African Development Community (SADC) Mission in the DRC (SAMIDRC), with South Africa authorising the deployment of up to 2 900 troops until mid-December.

SAMIDRC is off to a rocky start, with two South African soldiers killed and three injured in an M23 mortar attack this month, while reports from the DRC indicate on 29 February, M23 forces attack Tanzanian vehicles, injuring a Tanzanian soldier and a civilian.