SADC Troops to Join the Effort to Secure the DRC
The Southern African Development Community (SADC) agreed in early May to send troops to eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to help restore peace. There they will work alongside troops already deployed from the East African Community Regional Force (EACRF)
It was unclear how many SADC troops will be deployed to the restive region and how long they will be there. Troops from three SADC countries — Malawi, South Africa and Tanzania — have operated in eastern DRC for a decade under the United Nations peacekeeping force MONUSCO.
The SADC approved the deployment during a summit in Namibia. DRC political leaders hope the SADC troops will take quick action to contain rebel groups.
“The question is, how will the co-existence between the SADC brigade and the forces of the EAC be?” Paul Diakese, DRC President Felix Tshisekedi’s information officer, said in a report by The East African newspaper. “One thing is certain, the mandate of the SADC brigade will be offensive compared to the friends of the EAC who only have a buffer force role.”
More than 120 armed groups are active in the region, most notably the M23, which staged a major offensive in 2022, seizing large chunks of territory in the North Kivu province and forcing hundreds of thousands of people from their homes.
Willem Els, a security expert at the Institute of Security Studies, called for greater clarity on the SADC force’s deployment.
“They want to send troops but they did not give any details,” Els told Voice of America (VOA). “We do not know if they are going to complement the troops that are currently deployed in the DRC under MONUSCO or whether they will be separate. We know that Kenya as well as Uganda have already deployed some troops there.”
Els said SADC troops in the DRC will need adequate air support in order to be effective.
“If these troops are going to be deployed without the necessary air support and also to provide them with air dominance, they are going to face a similar outcome like we currently have in Cabo Delgado,” Els told VOA. Regional forces in Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado province have struggled to stop an insurgency in the natural resources-rich area.
Tshisekedi has said that EACRF forces may be expelled by June if their mandate is not fulfilled. EACRF troops from Burundi, Kenya, South Sudan and Uganda are currently operating in eastern DRC. Tanzania’s commitment to deploying troops as part of the EACRF is unclear.
Tshisekedi has been critical of the EACRF since it was deployed to eastern DRC in November 2022, saying that it has not enforced the withdrawal of the M23. Multiple cease-fires with the group have been broken. In mid-May, the Congolese Army and M23 accused one another of violating the most recent agreement.
The EACRF has had some success. Since arriving in Goma, capital of the North Kivu province, the force has secured critical infrastructure, including the international airport and its surrounding areas, which are full of impromptu refugee camps.
The EACRF’s presence also has forced the M23 from Karuba, Mushaki, Neenero, Kirolirwe, Kibirizi, Mweso and adjacent areas, the EACRF said in a statement.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in early May urged African leaders to intensify efforts to stabilize eastern DRC.
“It is time for the violence to stop,” Guterres said in an Agence France-Presse report. “I reiterate my call to all armed groups — lay down your arms, immediately.”
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