SANDF Chief says SA will put “more effort” into DR Congo

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General Rudzani Maphwanya, SA National Defence Force (SANDF) Chief, used this year’s thanksgiving service to alert those he commands there will be a further military commitment to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Those attending the December service at the Thaba Tshwane sports grounds heard their leader say South Africa was “unwavering” when it came to brokering peace, as evidenced by efforts to halt the Ukraine/Russia conflict and putting the “case” for Palestine to the International Criminal Court (ICC). He added if this method of conflict resolution was not successful – “South Africa will go in with soldiers”.

This commitment is there in elements of the SANDF deployed in the DRC as part of the United Nations (UN) mission in the central African country, and in Mozambique where the SANDF is part of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Mission in Mozambique (SAMIM).

In an obvious reference to an SADC commitment to deploy in the eastern DRC to bring stability to the violence-torn country, Maphwanya said, without embellishment, “there will be more effort”.

There has, as yet, been no official word on what is apparently going to be the SADC Mission in DRC (SAMIDRC) apart from approving its deployment during a May summit in the Namibian capital, Windhoek.

Writing in Daily Maverick, respected foreign affairs correspondent Peter Fabricius has it SAMIDRC’s main aim is “clearly to defeat and neutralize the M23 armed group backed by Rwanda”.

The establishment and deployment of the mission comes hard on the heels of the East African Community (EAC) withdrawing its reaction force after a year on the ground in the eastern DRC.

Fabricius quotes SA Institute of International Studies (SAIIS) fellow, Stephanie Wolters, as saying “one consolidation” for the Southern African regional force is the availability of on-the-ground intelligence from MONUSC’s Force Intervention Brigade (FIB). It is staffed by Malawi, South Africa and Tanzania – all SADC member states. At present there is no clarity on the possibility of SADC soldiers being re-hatted from UN blue to an SADC unit.

Earlier in December, MONUSCO Chief Bintou Keita told the UN Security Council (UNSC) the SADC force would deploy “in the coming weeks”. This was confirmed, but without an exact date “for security reasons” to Fabricius, by an unnamed senior SADC official.

Financing the force is a major challenge with the Namibia May summit approving a draft budget of $554 552 472 for deployment of a “brigade plus” force, Fabricius reported. It will apparently have “critical maritime, air and artillery support capabilities, logistic support (road transport capabilities, repair and recovery capabilities, casualties/medical evacuation (casevac/medevac), intelligence acquisition means and a quick reaction force (QRF)”.

It has been reported an advance team of South African troops arrived in Goma in the DRC this week as part of the SADC deployment.