SA soldiers not involved in latest DRC fighting – SANDF

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The latest outbreak of fighting the DRC has seen UN peacekeepers, including South African troops, placed on high alert and ready to use force to protect civilians in Goma from an M23 rebel group advance.

“Any attempt by M23 to advance toward Goma will be considered a direct threat to civilians. UN blue helmets stand ready to take any necessary measures, including the use of lethal force, to protect civilians,” the acting representative of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Moustapha Soumare, said.

According to Johannesburg-based daily The Times, MONUSCO spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Felix prosper Basse, said South African elements assigned to the UN approved intervention brigade in DRC were “in the middle of fierce fighting around Goma”.

SA National Defence Force head of communications Siphiwe Dlamini told the paper fighting was taking place in areas where South African soldiers were deployed adding they were not involved.

The apparent M23 advance to Goma started with an attack on DRC national forces based at Mutaho, eight kilometres to the north-west, at the weekend. MONUSCO said heavy artillery and a battle tank were used in the attack.

Tensions in the eastern DRC have been on the boil since March, when the UN approved its first ever peacekeeping deployment with an offensive mandate.
“The intervention brigade will carry out targeted offensive operations, with or without FARDC (the DRC defence force), against armed groups that threaten peace in the DRC,” the UN said in a statement issued yesterday in New York.

The South African contingent of the brigade comprises 1 300 6 SA Infantry Battalion soldiers supported by elements from Special Forces, paratroopers, engineers, signallers and medics. They flew out of South Africa in the last week of June. At that time Dlamini indicated it was part of a normal troop rotation for the South African part of the MONUSCO deployment based in Goma. This was later refuted by Defence Secretary, Dr Sam Gulube.



Joining the South Africans in the 3 000 plus strong intervention brigade, under the command of Tanzanian Brigadier James Mwakibolwa, are soldiers from Malawi and Tanzania.