Two South African peacekeepers wounded in DRC


Two South African peacekeepers, part of the United Nations peacekeeping force in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO) were wounded yesterday after being caught in a gun battle between the army and rebels.

The two soldiers were wounded in the eastern province of North Kivu, following fighting between the army and the Mai Mai Sheka militia, according to a spokesman for MONUSCO.
“The local population fled the fighting and others sought shelter at our base and that’s how the South African contingent deployed to protect the population,” Lieutenant Colonel Prosper Basse, a MONUSCO spokesman, told AFP.

He added that both soldiers were evacuated to a hospital in Goma, North Kivu’s regional capital. They are in a stable condition. One DRC army soldier died in the clashes while around 20 were wounded, Basse said.

In late October, six United Nations peacekeepers and a local interpreter were wounded in an ambush in eastern DRC. They were part of the Indian contingent serving MONUSCO. An Indian peacekeeper was killed in the same province in July when he was caught in a cross-fire in clashes between the DRC’s armed forces and a M23 rebels.

M23 rebels have been fighting Congolese government troops in North Kivu province for the last six months.

MONUSCO has around 17 000 uniformed personnel, who are trying to bring stability and civilian elections to the vast country, which remains affected by civil wars and rebel movements, notably in the restive east.

The latest incident involving South African peacekeepers comes after South African National Defence Force Private Vincent Mthuthuzeli van der Walt, of 10 South African Infantry Battalion, was killed on October 17 whilst travelling in a Unamid convoy in Sudan’s Darfur region. Two other South African soldiers, Corporal Kabelo Ronald Sebe and Private Thabiso Sydwell Makhetha, were injured.

Brigadier General Xolani Mabanga, Director Defence Corporate Communication at the Department of Defence, said that casualties are to be expected in operations “where life and death are involved,” and said that the SANDF men and women who serve their country are willing to lay down their lives when needed. “We regard them as our heroes.”

Around 2 000 SANDF personnel are currently taking part in peacekeeping operations, as South Africa increases its role in regional conflict resolution and peacekeeping efforts. SANDF troops are deployed in Sudan, the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The SANDF has been involved in more than 15 peace support operations, involving the deployment of around 2 500 military personnel. Deployment areas for these operations have included the DRC, Burundi, Sudan, Côte d’Ivore, Liberia, Nepal, CAR, the Comoros, and Mozambique.