SADC Military Chiefs Visit Sake Amid Bombings

On Friday, March 1, 2024, the military chiefs of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) made an important visit to Sake, located in the Masisi territory, to assess the ongoing situation amidst heightened tensions. This delegation, comprising generals from Tanzania, South Africa, Malawi, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and Burundi (the latter supporting the DRC in a bilateral agreement), had initially planned a high-level meeting in Goma. This event marks the first coordination meeting among these military officials since the deployment of SADC troops in North Kivu to assist the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC) in counteracting the M23 rebellion, which is reportedly backed by the Rwandan Defense Forces (RDF).

During the visit, local sources reported that the FARDC positions at Mubambiro were targeted by bombs from M23 rebels, with the support of the Rwandan military. The attack resulted in at least three fatalities and two injuries. Despite these violent attempts by the M23-RDF coalition to disrupt their mission, the SADC chiefs, including General Christian Tshiwewe from the DRC, South Africa’s General Jacob Maphwanya, Tanzania’s General Jacob Mkunda, Malawi’s General Kachisha, and Burundi’s General Prime Niyongabo, proceeded to Sake. Their objective was to evaluate the security conditions and develop crucial strategies in collaboration with the FARDC’s command.

To demonstrate solidarity and reassurance to the people of North Kivu, the SADC military leaders visited the frontlines on the same day, March 1. Their presence was met with aggression from the M23-RDF coalition, which launched several bombs to prevent their access to Sake. Major General Sylvain Ekenge, the spokesperson for the DRC’s armed forces, reported that the M23 terrorists attempted to obstruct the visit by dropping a total of five bombs, aware of the SADC defense chiefs’ arrival.

Following their assessment in Sake, the commanders convened at the operation coordination center to jointly evaluate the situation and devise potential solutions. Since Wednesday, February 28, 2024, M23 and RDF commanders, including Corneille Naanga, have been stationed in Rutshuru, holding regular meetings. The purpose of their presence in the administrative center of Rutshuru territory remains undisclosed.

This visit by the SADC military chiefs underscores the regional commitment to peace and security in the face of ongoing conflicts. It also highlights the challenges faced by international and regional forces in stabilizing areas plagued by armed rebellion and external support.