Windhoek – DRC rebel group, M23, has in the past few days mounted psychological warfare tactics against a 3 069-strong SADC Brigade that is reportedly readying to deploy in the volatile eastern regions of the country.
The SADC Brigade is being deployed under the auspices of the UN and is made up of troops from Tanzania, South Africa and Malawi.
It is expected to provide backing to the DRC army, known by its French acronym FARDC, which has vowed to put down the rebels and restore government authority in the eastern regions of North and South Kivu.
And as the SADC Brigade readies to put military boots on the ground, the M23 says it is undaunted.
The rebel group has singled out Tanzania ‑ which is leading the SADC mission ‑ and South Africa, warning them against “embarking on dangerous adventures”.
Bertrand Bisimwa, M23’s political leader, wrote an open letter to Tanzania’s President Jakaya Kikwete boldly saying that the rebel group has “consistently prevailed over much larger and better equipped forces”.
“The (M23) movement bears no responsibility in the event of a massacre which appears to be on the horizon at the instigation of those, who sitting in their air conditioned skyscrapers in New York and other Western cities, have nothing but contempt for the lives of African soldiers.
“The mistake should not be made of assuming that the M23 forces will stand by idle as illegitimate business interests, political corruption and social justice result in the imposition of might over the logic of reason in the eastern DRC and beyond.
“Our valiant and determined combatants have consistently prevailed over much larger and better equipped forces. The same will happen to the intervention brigade if your wisdom does not prevail to intervene and stop this dangerous adventure in its tracks.
“For this reason the M23 invites the Parliament and the people of Tanzania to carefully re-consider this situation and prevail upon the Tanzanian government … not to send the sons and daughters of this noble nation to engage in an absurd war against their Congolese brothers,” Bisimwa wrote.
The letter was sent via M23’s Twitter account.
“The circumstances surrounding this absurd decision to send forces to wage war in eastern DRC, reminds us with regret about the absence of the later Professor Julius Nyerere whose visionary leadership, wisdom and philosophy of ‘Ujamaa’ stood in total contrast with the amateurish trigger-happiness of some of the present day leaders on our continent,” Bisimwa added.
In similar fashion, the rebel group has mocked South African troops as “old” and “corrupt” and they will face “continuous deadly combat” if deployed in eastern DRC.
In a letter to South Africa’s Parliament, Bisimwa said, “The M23 will have no responsibility in this mutual massacre … the countries who contribute troops have given a mandate to the oppressed forces (M23) to kill the soldiers of the UN brigade in defence of themselves.”
In that letter he also wished bed-ridden South Africa’s Former President, Nelson Mandela, a speedy recovery.
Media reports indicate the M23 rebel group last week received additional troops from Rwanda and Uganda, who are reported to have crossed the country via the Bunagana border, and are believed to already be in Goma.
M23 and the DRC government are holding peace negotiations in Uganda’s capital, Kampala.
Rwanda and Uganda refute allegations, validated by a UN panel of experts, that they are providing material, financial, logistical, technical and moral support to M23.
M23 mounted a shock offensive last November, routing DRC army and effectively taking Goma, a strategic town on DRC’s border with its eastern neighbours.
Rwanda and Uganda persuaded the rebels to withdraw to pave way for the peace talks, but reports say M23 retains control of ground close to the Goma airport while a larger contingent of its army is reportedly amassed in Rutshuru, their key stronghold.
The DRC government recently said the rebels should disarm voluntarily or be forced to do so by the SADC Brigade.
South Africa and Tanzania have yet to open up on the equipment that will be deployed to eastern DRC.
DefenceWeb, an online military news portal, says South Africa will likely deploy third generation Gripen fighter jets and Rooivak combat support helicopters.
The Gripen fighter jets were sighted at Ndola Airport in Zambia and DefenceWeb reports that they were carrying long-range tanks and IRIS-T air-to-air missiles.
Meanwhile, Freddie Mukasa Mbidde, Uganda’s representative to the East African Legislative Assembly, has launched an attack on Tanzania, accusing it of taking decisions that are against resolutions of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region and the East African Community.
“We want to urge Tanzania to withdraw from the SADC war resolution. Our position is that military confrontation can only escalate war. Our position is based on three facts: One, that Uganda and Rwanda may be drawn into an unnecessary war. Two, that Uganda and Rwanda, and sometimes Tanzania, always suffer the humanitarian burden. Thirdly, war can only lead to further proliferation of arms in the region,” Mbidde said.