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Tuesday, 13 February 2024 09:33

Ramaphosa deploys 2,900 SANDF soldiers to eastern DR Congo.

By Lehlohonolo Lehana.

President Cyril Ramaphosa has ordered the deployment of 2,900 South African National Defence Force (SANDF) members to aid in the fight against illegal armed groups in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The troops will be deployed until Dec.15, 2024 with a budget of around 2 billion rand, according to a statement on Monday evening.

The deployment of troops is in fulfilment of ''South Africa's international obligation towards the Southern African Development Community (SADC) mission to support the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC),'' the statement added.

The obligation to contribute troops to the SADC mission in the DRC is borne by all SADC Member States, it stressed.

The budgeted expenditure to be incurred for the employment amounts to just over R2 billion. This expenditure will not impact provisions for the defense force's regular maintenance and emergency repairs.

The deployment ordered by Ramaphosa comes amid clashes between M23 rebels and the Congolese army in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo's North Kivu province.

Last month, the Congolese military announced the start of a joint offensive with troops from the SADC in the east of the country, with a mandate mainly targeting the M23 rebels.

The SADC force, which also includes troops from Malawi and Tanzania, was deployed as the government in Kinshasa pushes for the exit of UN peacekeepers who have been stationed in eastern DR Congo since 1999.

The 16-member state SADC approved the mission to eastern DR Congo in May last year.

In December, the UN Security Council voted to accede to Kinshasa's demand for a gradual pull-out by the MONUSCO mission.

Despite a volatile domestic situation, the government had for months been calling for an accelerated withdrawal of the peacekeepers.

Kinshasa considers the UN force to be ineffective in protecting civilians from the armed groups and militias that have plagued the eastern DRC for three decades.

Kinshasa has also ended the mandate of an East African regional force which it accused of failing to tackle violence by rebels.

The Southern African troops are expected to take over from the withdrawing forces to continue the long-running battle against multiple rebel groups.

However the SANDF's deployment to the DRC has not been without controversy, with eight soldiers having been recalled from the DRC due to serious allegations of misconduct in October last year.