South Africa’s Deployment of 2900 Troops Strengthens SADC Forces in the DRC

South Africa has taken a significant step in bolstering the Southern African Development Community (SADC) mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) by committing a substantial force to aid in the ongoing conflict in the eastern part of the country. President Cyril Ramaphosa has authorized the deployment of 2,900 members of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) to assist in combating illegal armed groups in the region. This deployment, spanning from December 15, 2023, to December 15, 2024, is a clear reflection of South Africa’s dedication to its international obligations and its commitment to peace and stability in the DRC.

This move is part of a broader SADC initiative, underscoring the collective responsibility shared by member states to support peacekeeping efforts in the DRC. The decision to deploy troops comes at a crucial time, as the SADC forces, including South African troops, are engaged in intense battles against the M23 rebels, who are reportedly backed by the Rwandan army. The complexities of this conflict highlight the challenging environment into which South African forces are being deployed.

The financial implications of this deployment are significant, with the budgeted expenditure exceeding R2 billion. This allocation ensures that the SANDF’s operational capabilities are maintained, with assurances that this financial outlay will not detract from the defense force’s regular maintenance and emergency repair needs.

The commitment of South African troops has been further underscored by a recent incident involving a South African Air Force (SAAF) Oryx medium transport helicopter. The helicopter, engaged in a casualty evacuation mission in the DRC, came under heavy small arms fire, sustaining damage and resulting in injuries to two crew members. This incident occurred near Goma and involved the aircraft being hit over 40 times, indicative of the high-risk environment that SADC forces are operating in. Despite the attack, the crew managed to safely navigate the damaged helicopter to a UN field hospital, demonstrating the resilience and professionalism of the SAAF personnel involved.

The deployment of three Rooivalk attack helicopters with the United Nations Force Intervention Brigade in 2013 further highlights South Africa’s long-standing contribution to peacekeeping efforts in the DRC. These helicopters have played a pivotal role in supporting the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) and have been instrumental in the successes achieved against the M23 rebels in past engagements.