The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) troops currently serving with the United Nations mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (Monusco) will become part of the new UN intervention brigade that will combat M23 rebels.
Dr Sam Gulube, Secretary for Defence, said last week that the South African troops in the DRC are currently part of the Monusco deployment, but will be moved into the intervention brigade. He said that moving them from peacekeeping to peace enforcement will “change the dynamics of the DRC conflict.”
“We are going to use the same number of troops in the intervention brigade,” as the SANDF has with Monusco, Gulube said. He told journalists that South Africa had since July 2012 been finalising a memorandum of understanding with the United Nations that will allow South African troops to be transferred to the intervention brigade, which for the first time in UN history has an offensive mandate, against armed groups threatening peace in the DRC. The intervention brigade will focus its main energy on combating the M23 rebel group in the eastern DRC.
Gulube said that SANDF officers had been sent to Brazil to train in jungle warfare ahead of the deployment to the DRC, as the SANDF would most definitely encounter jungle warfare conditions.
Gulube said that the next four to six weeks will involve transferring South African troops to the brigade and assessing the requirements of those troops. “That’s where I am now. I’ve been told to use what I have,” he said, when referring to the resources and equipment the contingent would need.
He noted that R6 to R8 billion rand is available in the Special Defence Account (SDA) for capitalisation expenses (excluding salaries etc.). “Enhancement of our landward forces is critical for the success we wish to achieve, especially regarding peacekeeping missions.”
Last week it was reported that 1 300 soldiers from 6 SA Infantry battalion and supported by elements from Special Forces, paratroopers and engineers had flown to Goma in the eastern DRC. Department of Defence head of communications Siphiwe Dlamini said the movement “was a normal rotation of the UN’s Monusco mission in the DRC,” but neglected to mention that these same troops would be transferred to the intervention brigade.
The more than 3 000 strong brigade will be commanded by Tanzanian Brigadier James Mwakibolwa, and will comprise Malawian, South African and Tanzanian troops. It is anticipated it will be fully operational by September to start execution of its offensive operations mandate. Deployment of the brigade, the first for the world body in more than 65 years of peacekeeping operations to be given an offensive mandate, was authorised by the UN in March.