UN has to approve deployment before Rooivalks head to DRC


It is not the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) but the United Nations (UN) that will decide whether the Rooivalk combat support helicopter will be deployed in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) theatre where the first ever Force Intervention Brigade (FIB) is supporting DRC government forces in the fight to dislodge M23 rebels from strategic positions.

Lieutenant General Derrick Mgwebi, SA National Defence Force (SANDF) Chief: Joint Operations, today made it clear South Africa was a troop contributing country to the United Nations’ FIB and in no way could it decide on what military assets would be utilised.
“The UN as the co-ordinator of the FIB has been made fully aware of the capabilities of the home-grown combat support helicopter, the Rooivalk, and any decision on its deployment into the eastern DRC theatre has to be made by the world body. We have told them what the rate for the Rooivalk is and a decision on whether or not it will go to the DRC rests solely with the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations,” he said at a briefing at the SA Army College in Thaba Tshwane this morning.
“Until a letter of assistance confirming the UN wants Rooivalk in the DRC is received, no aircraft from 16 Squadron will leave South Africa.”

In terms of air assets, South Africa currently has three Oryx medium transport helicopters based at Goma with a UN request for another two to be deployed there.

Mgwebi also indicated there was, at this stage, no need for Gripen jet fighters to become part of the FIB arsenal.

Air support is currently being provided by a pair of Mi-24P attack helicopters from the Ukrainian Armed Forces 18th Detached Helicopter Unit as well as the DRC government’s (FARDC’s) Mi-24 and Mi-24 Hind rotorcraft.

He said the SANDF was ensuring its part of the FIB was “properly supported” but would not go as far as sending extra personnel.
“We were requested to supply 850 troops for the FIB which we have done and as the SANDF has been in the DRC since 1999, support elements in terms of air assets, engineers and SA Military Health Services are all already in place.
“Our soldiers are also adequately equipped and have been properly trained for the job they have to do as part of the FIB.”

Intensive training was done at 6 SA Infantry Battalion in Grahamstown ahead of troop movement to the DRC under the watchful eye of Colonel William Dixon and other Special Forces operators who were part of the Battle for Bangui.

Mgwebi said there was constant contact with the South African component of the FIB. This includes arrangements for mail that will soon be extended for social media to help keep morale high.

SANDF Head of Communications Siphiwe Dlamini indicated there would in future be weekly briefings on the SANDF’s involvement in the UN FIB in the DRC.
“We will also update the nation by providing media statements. If and when certain issues around the deployment arise these will also be the subject of either media statements or briefings.”