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South Africa opposition party questions SADC deployment to DR Congo

South Africa opposition party questions SADC deployment to DR Congo

South Africa’s main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, has described as “reckless” the country’s deployment of troops to DR Congo as part of a regional mission by the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

The regional force known by its acronym SAMIDRC was deployed on December 15 to support the Congolese government restore peace and security in its eastern region and deal with armed groups there, according to SADC.

In a statement on January 10, the Democratic Alliance said the South African military “is in no position to pursue an effective anti-insurgency campaign.”

Reckless decision

The Congolese government wants SAMIDRC to fight the M23 rebels who have been fighting the army since November 2021 in North Kivu Province.

The deployment of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) as part of the SADC’s military intervention force to eastern DR Congo “is a reckless decision that will potentially place the lives of our uniformed forces at severe risk,” said the Democratic Alliance’s Kobus Marais, who is the Shadow Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development.

“The reality is that the SANDF does not have the capacity to effectively pursue an anti-insurgency campaign against the M23 rebels and neither does it have the prime mission equipment to support the ground forces,” he said.

Marais said his party called on President Cyril Ramaphosa “to immediately rescind this decision and recall our troops.”

The SADC mission in DR Congo is led by South Africa and also has troops from Malawi and Tanzania.

The Congolese government under President Felix Tshisekedi has ruled out any possibility of dialogue with the M23, which it calls a terrorist movement.

Military experts have warned that without proper air cover as well as transport and air elements, he said, and “the SANDF/SADC intervention brigade will find it difficult to operate in hostile terrain.”

“Perhaps the greatest risk that the SANDF faces is that their adversary, the M23 rebels, has operated in the eastern DRC for many years and are familiar with the terrain.

“Unless the intervention force led by the SANDF is well constituted in terms of size and rapid mobility, they would be at the mercy of the M23 rebels who have become adept at using guerrilla tactics,” he said.

He said that was the reason the United Nations mission in DR Congo was withdrawing its troops after more than 20 years in the country’s volatile region.

“Based on this grim situation, Marais said “it is clear that Ramaphosa took a political decision to put SANDF members in the line of fire without first considering the technical capabilities currently available in our military value chain.”

He said the priorities of South Africa’s ruling party, the African National Congress (ANC) were “clearly misplaced.”

In May 2023, at the request of Tshisekedi, SADC leaders approved a military mission to DR Congo to deal with the M23, after he accused a mission from the East African Community (EAC) of being passive in their approach to the rebels.

The EAC mission withdrew its troops in December2023, one year after deployment. Critics of Tshisekedi have since accused him of undermining regional initiatives that sought to resolve the conflict peacefully, through political dialogue.

The regional force SAMIDRC was deployed on December 15 to support the Congolese government restore peace and security in its eastern region and deal with armed groups there, according to SADC.
South Africa opposition party questions SADC deployment to DR Congo