That the Southern African Development Community (SADC) is proud and possessive of what “its” Force Intervention Brigade (FIB) has and is achieving in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is common cause and the regional bloc makes no bones about its continued existence.
Following last month’s meeting of the SADC Ministerial Committee of the Organ (MCO) on Politics, Defence and Security in Luanda, “Inside SADC” noted “ongoing engagements” between SADC and the UN as regards strengthening the operational capability of the FIB. This contrasts to a certain extent with a UN Secretary General report indicating the force is going to be reconfigured in line with the world body’s stated cuts to peacekeeping and peace support missions worldwide.
The SADC publication has it that “since 2013 the SADC deployed FIB has been instrumental in neutralisation of negative forces in the context of UN Security Council Resolution 2098 and subsequent ones up to the most recent 2409, whose mandate expires in March 2019”.
Strengthening the FIB is very much on the agenda of the regional block’s MCO and the publication reports “the ministers (present at the Luanda meeting) decided to continue joint work with the UN, including a follow-up meeting at the highest level on the margins of the next UN General Assembly in September”.
Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ report to the Security Council early in July indicated “two infantry battalions will be reduced to allow the generation of additional enablers that would improve manoeuvrability and enhance effectiveness. Additional enablers to be generated or reconfigured include a Special Forces company, a strengthened intelligence cell and a composite utility/attack helicopter unit. The reconfigured Intervention Brigade is expected to be fully operational by 30 September”.
Military watchers see the reduction in size of the infantry battalions as being offset by the addition of Special Forces, an intelligence component and the “composite utility/attack helicopter unit”.
This, some say, is an indication Rooivalk will remain in the DR Congo in line with thinking that South African ground forces will not be left without competent air support.