South Africa is to deploy at least 2 900 members of the South African National Defence Force to assist in the fight against illegal armed groups in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
President Cyril Ramaphosa ordered the deployment in line with fulfilling South Africa’s international obligation towards the Southern African Development Community (SADC) mission to support the DRC.
The deployment comes as the DRC battles Tutsi-led M23 rebels whose attacks and advances in recent days, is threatening the North Kivu provincial capital, Goma.
According to media reports, decades of conflicts in eastern Congo between myriad rival armed groups over land and resources have killed hundreds of thousands of people and displaced more than seven million.
The SADC Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (SAMIDRC) was deployed on 15 December 2023 to support the government of the DRC to restore peace and security in the eastern DRC, which has witnessed an increase in conflicts and instability caused by the resurgence of armed groups.
“The employment will cover the period from 15 December 2023 to 15 December 2024 and it was authorised in accordance with the provisions of section 201(2) (c) of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa.
“The budgeted expenditure to be incurred for the employment amounts to just over R2 billion. This expenditure will not impact provisions for the defence force’s regular maintenance and emergency repairs,” the Presidency said in a statement on Monday.
The obligation to contribute troops to the SADC mission in the DRC is borne by all SADC Member States. SADC is a 16-member group of countries, including the Congo.
The deployment of the SAMIDRC was approved by the Extraordinary SADC Summit of Heads of State and Government held in Windhoek, Republic of Namibia, on 08 May 2023 as a regional response to address the unstable and deteriorating security situation prevailing in the eastern DRC.
As part of the SAMIDRC, a SADC regional force from the Republics of Malawi, South Africa and the United Republic of Tanzania and elements of the DRC Armed Forces are working with the Congolese Army, the Forces Armees de la Republic Democratique du Congo (FARDC), in fighting armed groups operating in the eastern DRC.
In a statement in January, SADC said the presence of the SAMIDRC demonstrates the commitment of SADC member states to supporting the DRC in its efforts to achieve lasting peace and stability and, ultimately, create an enabling environment for sustainable development and prosperity.