DRC War: South Africa to Deploy over 2900 troops to Battle M23 Rebels as Fighting Intensifies

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As fighting intensifies in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) between government forces and M23 rebel forces, South Africa is set to deploy 2,900 troops as part of a Southern African Development Community (SADAC) initiative to help the Congolese army fight armed groups.

According to a statement released by the South African presidency on Monday, February 12, 2024, the one-year-long mission will run from December 15, 2023, to December 15, 2024, costing just over 2 billion rand ($106 million).

Unlike the East African Community Reserve Forces (AECRF), who were only on a peacekeeping mission and recently withdrew from the DRC, South Africa under the SADC force has an offensive mandate to support Congo’s army in fighting armed groups. Other countries that will contribute troops under the SADAC coalition include Malawi and Tanzania.

South Africa’s deployment comes as fighting in eastern DR Congo intensifies as M23 rebels advance towards Goma, the capital city of North Kivu province.

On Monday, the rebels said the government forces (FARDC) carried out attacks on Kibumba and Sake towns, located about 20 and 25 kilometers north and northwest of Goma, respectively. There has been fierce fighting over Sake, a town that controls strategic routes that supply Goma. According to analysts, if M23 rebels capture Sake town, Goma will fall easily.

Rwanda accused of supporting M23 rebels

According to documents seen by AFP on Monday, , UN affirms that the Rwandan army is supporting M23 rebels in eastern DR Congo using sophisticated weapons such as surface-to-air missiles (SAM).

The confidential report reveals that a suspected Rwandan Defence Force (RDF) mobile Surface-to-Air Missile (SAM) was fired at a UN observation drone last Wednesday without hitting it, adding that External Military Intelligence from France supports the assessment that the suspected WZ551 6×6 IFV mobile SAM system is Rwandan.

The document notes that M23 and the Rwandan army have used numerous weapons against aircraft and also have in their armory anti-aircraft guns and MANPAD mobile air defense systems, adding that such weapons pose a high risk to all DRC government and UN aircraft in the region.

However, the United Nations and the DRC army are yet to comment on the report.

Protests in Kinshansha

Meanwhile, police were involved in running battles with crowds on Monday, February 12, 2024, in the DRC’s capital, Kinshasa, as protests broke out against Western governments, accusing them of failing to use their influence over neighboring Rwanda to curb the rebellion.

The protesters said that the Westerners are behind the looting of their country, and Rwanda doesn’t work alone, so they all must leave.

Angry protesters burnt the flags of the US and Belgium outside several Western embassies, which prompted anti-riot police to push back the demonstrators as they tried to advance towards embassies.

UN concerned over the escalations

In a statement issued by the U.N. Security Council on Monday, M23 rebels were condemned for launching an offensive towards Goma.

The UN Security Council said that it was concerned by escalating violence in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo and reiterated its condemnation of all armed groups operating in the country, according to a statement read by Guyana Ambassador Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett.

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