SADC High-Level Military Command Meeting in Goma Amid Tensions in Eastern Congo

On February 29, 2024, Goma, a strategic city in North Kivu, Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), hosted a significant gathering of military leaders from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) troop-contributing countries, including Burundi. This assembly, aimed at reinforcing the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Armed Forces (FARDC) in their ongoing operations against the M23 rebels, marked a critical moment in the regional efforts to stabilize the volatile eastern region of the DRC. The M23, supported by the Rwandan army, has been a persistent threat, complicating the security landscape in the area.

The high-level command meeting saw the arrival of distinguished military officials, among them General Jacob John Mkunda of the United Republic of Tanzania and Major General Kashisha from Malawi. They were welcomed at Goma’s international airport by General Christian Tshiwewe of the FARDC and General Maphwanya Sizani from South Africa, highlighting the collaborative spirit of the SADC forces. The delegation also included General Prime Niyongabo, head of the National Defence Forces of Burundi, underscoring the regional commitment to peace and security.

This conclave was orchestrated to address the pressing challenges posed by the M23 rebels and their backers, emphasizing the collective resolve of the SADC and its partners to support the FARDC. The meeting underscored the urgency of a coordinated military strategy to counteract the aggressions and restore stability in the region.

In a concerning development on the same day, four individuals, including a Tanzanian military member of the SADC force, were injured in Sake, a town in the vicinity of Goma, due to shelling by the M23. Local sources reported that two armored vehicles belonging to the SADC’s Tanzanian contingent were targeted by bombs around 11 a.m. local time during a reconnaissance mission. The attack, originating from an M23 position in Kiuli, close to local antennas, highlighted the volatile security situation and the immediate threats faced by the SADC forces and local populations.

These incidents vividly illustrate the complex and dangerous environment in which the SADC forces operate, confronting not only the M23 rebels but also dealing with the contentious involvement of the Rwandan military. The meeting in Goma represents a critical step towards formulating a robust response to the challenges in Eastern DRC.