SADC side-lined in DRC
UN displeased with past criticisms of its failures
Windhoek – A diplomatic row has erupted between the UN and SADC over deployment of an international intervention mission to the volatile eastern DRC.
This will widen the rift between the UN peace-keeping mission in the DRC, known by its French acronym as MONUSCO, and SADC.
The Southern Times is reliably informed that SADC will no longer – as a bloc – officially deploy troops to quell rebel insurgencies in eastern DRC.
SADC member states, Malawi, Tanzania and South Africa – who are contributing battalions each to an intervention force under MONUSCO – are now doing so directly under the UN and without explicit backing from the regional bloc.
SADC conceptualised the idea of an intervention brigade to put down the rebels at its Maputo Summit last year but has been effectively side-lined by the UN and will be more of a spectator in the latest DRC deployment, a well-placed diplomatic source told The Southern Times.
This came about after the UN asked individual SADC member states to contribute troops “which they did, and some for individual, selfish and opportunistic reasons”, the source said.
SADC wanted an intervention mission made up of at least six countries with the full backing of all bloc members.
SADC and the UN have clashed before with the regional bloc accusing MONUSCO of failing in its mandate to provide peace and security in the DRC.
The regional bloc in 2009 lobbied strongly for MONUSCO to either change its mandate or pull out of DRC completely, citing its failure to help promote peace.
“The UN applied its traditional ways of talking directly to individual member states. SADC was supposed to go in as a bloc but the opportunism and individualism within some individual member states has prevented this.
“In Maputo the resolution was we go in as a bloc. We had six countries which had agreed to deploy into the DRC and now the UN has picked three,” the source said.
“The whole issue has skirted out of SADC control … but we know that if this mission fails, this matter will come back to SADC.
“The DRC is a member of SADC and we are not blaming them for this latest development. It is the DRC which approached SADC and we will continue to assist them as we have always done,” the source said.
The source added that the UN and some unnamed countries had clearly “expressed discomfort with SADC plans to go into the DRC”.
The UN has also not taken kindly to SADC’s brazen criticism of its failures and ineffectiveness in the DRC.
“SADC has expressed its lack of confidence in MONUSCO and now it appears the UN does not want to be told you haven’t done a good job and we are coming in to do it ourselves.
“The UN then decided to go straight to individual states of SADC and we accept that those approached have decided to deploy under the auspices of the UN,” the source added.
Malawi, Tanzania and South Africa are sending a combined 3 068 troops to put down the rebel called March 23 Movement (M23) in eastern DRC.
Tanzania is contributing a brigade comprising a headquarters, battalion, a Special Forces company, artillery and an air support company.
“Tanzanian forces should be fully on the ground by the end of April. Some forces started deploying around April 19th,” SADC planning chief, Brigadier-General Maaparankoe Mahao told The Southern Times.
General Mahao refused to comment on the side-lining of SADC initiatives in the DRC peace initiatives, a matter which he said “is political and will be resolved at that level”.
South Africa is contributing a battalion that was already in the DRC, Brig-Gen Mahao said.
The battalion from Malawi is being pulled out of Cote d’Ivoire and should be on the ground by the end of June, he said.
“Unmanned aircraft vehicles (drones) will also be deployed along the border between the DRC and its eastern neighbours for observation and intelligence gathering exercises. These are not going to be armed but I can’t tell which specific country is supplying the drones,” Brig-Gen Mahao said.
He said the intervention brigade had the mandate to “take out the threat of armed groups” in the DRC.
“This is a war fighting operation to take out all those elements of armed groups. It’s a resolution which is well understood by all stakeholders that the rebels are a negative force that must be taken out.
“The intention is to make peace and if they are prepared to lay down arms-that is what everybody wants,” he said, while pointing out that the mission to the DRC was in the country for the long haul.
“The peace initiative in the DRC will take years and years. This situation is not something that you go in and expect to be out the next year.
“The diagnosis of SADC is such that it will take a long time to put the DRC back on the right track in terms of security, politics and the economy ‑ all these issues have to be attended to bring peace in Congo,” Brig-Gen Mahao said.