South Africa has confirmed the country will provide troops to a UN intervention force that is set to be sent to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to fight armed groups opposed to the government of DRC President Joseph Kabila.
A South African military spokesman was quoted Sunday as saying the troops deployment to the DRC had nothing to do with what has recently taken place in the Central African Republic where 13 South African soldiers were early this month killed during a coup d’état that ousted President Francois Bozize from power. South African had sent 400 troops to bolster Gen Bozize’s forces as Seleka rebel forces threatened his government.
One of the major groups fighting in the DRC, the March 23 Movement has said it would defend itself if attacked by any group. In a recent interview with The London Evening Post, the M23 political leader M Bertrand Bisimwa repeatedly said the UN was reversing its normal tradition of searching for peace and replacing it with war overtures.
Bisimwa said his Movement will continue to seek peace to his country’s solutions and believed that the UN should be the last organisation to bring war to a country whose citizens are tired of war and looking forward to peace. He said the M23 would do everything in its power to protect the people now residing peacefully in areas under its control.
Malawi and Angola are other African countries expected to contribute towards the UN force. A UN Security Council diplomat last week told Reuters that the purpose of forming the intervention forces was to neutralize the M23 Movement. Based in Bunagana in eastern DRC, the M23 is one of scores of fighting groups in the country, all fighting for different reasons in a country the size of Western Europe. There has been fighting in the DRC as far back as the mid-1990s.
The deployment of South African troops comes as the country is coming to grips with its worst military setback since the end of apartheid in 1994. “The DRC deployment has nothing to do with the CAR. Neither did the CAR incident influence the decision to send the troops into the DRC. They are two different issues,” Brigadier General Xolani Mabanga told Reuters. He added that the size and timing of the deployment would depend on the terms set by the United Nations, he added.
The Security Council unanimously adopted in late March a resolution establishing the so-called intervention brigade as part of the existing 20,000-strong U.N. force in Congo, known as MONUSCO. It is the first time the United Nations has created such a unit within a traditional peacekeeping force.
Observers in the Africa Great Lakes Region are of the view that the UN stabilizing force may end up creating more war in a country that is at best, trying to find other means of settling the country’s enormous problems, many of them emanating from the mineral riches that are attracting the attention of different interested parties all over the world. They say other countries, especially those neighbouring the DRC, may choose to join sides with the rebels thereby transforming the DRC into yet another war zone as witnessed in the 1990s when more than four different African countries joined different sides in the fight to overthrow former DRC strongman Mobutu Sese Seko.
By Richard A Luce / The London Evening Post