African Union’s Security Council endorses regional troop deployment to Congo

Council urges ‘immediate ceasefire, creation of humanitarian corridors’ as well as ‘urgent disarmament of negative forces’ in eastern Congo

James Tasamba  | 05.03.2024 - Update : 05.03.2024
African Union’s Security Council endorses regional troop deployment to Congo

KIGALI, Rwanda

The Peace and Security Council of the African Union (AU) on Tuesday endorsed the deployment of troops from southern African nations with an offensive mandate in the restive Democratic Republic of Congo.

The move was reached during the Council’s virtual meeting held to discuss the situation in eastern Congo and the deployment of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) mission in Congo known as SAMIDRC.

The Council reaffirmed the AU’s commitment to the Congo's “sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity and expressed deep concern” because of the resurgence of M23 rebels in the east where the rebels are battling the government army.

It condemned the M23 rebels, Uganda’s Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), Rwanda’s rebels of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) and other armed groups wreaking havoc in eastern Congo.

While stressing the need for humanitarian aid from the AU and the international community, the Council demanded an “immediate ceasefire, creation of humanitarian corridors, urgent disarmament of negative forces in eastern DR Congo and endorsed SAMIDRC deployment.”

The 16-member SADC approved the mission to eastern Congo last May.

The force includes troops from South Africa, Malawi and Tanzania.

The SADC deployment comes at a time when the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in Congo (MONUSCO) started its phased withdrawal from eastern Congo.

But neighboring Rwanda, in a letter to the Chairperson of the African Union Commission Moussa Faki Mahamat, objected to the AU’s support to troops from SADC because it said the force will "exacerbate the conflict."

Rwanda’s Foreign Minister Vincent Biruta accused the regional force of fighting alongside the Congo army and other coalition armed groups which include Rwandan FDLR rebels.

“SAMIDRC as an offensive force in coalition with these elements cannot substitute for a political process that has been blocked by the government of DRC. Therefore the African Union is urged not to “authorize” or fund SAMIDRC,” he wrote in a letter made public Monday.

After being dormant for roughly a decade, the M23 rebel group, one of multiple armed groups, resumed fighting in 2021 in eastern Congo’s North Kivu province.

Fighting intensified last month between M23 rebels and the Congolese army in Sake town (20 kilometers (12 miles) from the provincial capital of Goma, displacing thousands of residents.

The Congo and Western countries accuse Rwanda of backing the M23 rebels, a claim Kigali consistently denies.

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