AFRICANGLOBE – Death and tensions in the Democratic Republic of Congo have triggered an intervention by a United Nations force, as the international body plans to deploy South African led forces to the country’s war torn provinces.
More than 32 people have been killed in fighting between DRC forces and Mai Mai militiamen.
The UN Security Council has authorised a new “intervention brigade” for Congo, with a mandate to take offensive military action against rebel groups to help bring peace to the eastern parts of the country.
The South African army will take charge of the operation, despite reporting that it is overstretched and underfunded.
Another concern for South Africa is the morale sapping experience in the Central Africa Republic in March, where rebels there killed 14 of their soldiers during a coup that led to the ousting of President Francois Bozize.
In DRC, South African forces will be up against Mai Mai militiamen who launched an assault early Wednesday on the town of Beni, north of the troubled town of Goma.
DRC army spokesman, Colonel Olivier Hamuli said the assailants targeted a military centre there.
The Congolese army said 32 people were killed in fighting between Congolese soldiers and militiamen who attacked a town north of Goma on Wednesday.
The clashes are linked with DRC’s vast mineral resources and the country has been beset by fighting since the end of the 1994 genocide in neighboring Rwanda.
However, South Africa’s is concerned about the cost of funding the mission in DRC.
“Funding challenges make it difficult to do everything that we are required to do.
“But we acknowledge there is dire need for the South African government to direct resources to social and economic programmes in a country with high unemployment and a widening gulf between rich and poor,” South African army chief Lt. Gen. V.R. Masondo told reporters.
He added that the South African army’s budget is about $1.1 billion, and this amount is not enough to address its needs, which include the replacement of old equipment and dilapidated facilities, and tasks such as foreign missions, border patrols, securing hospitals during worker strikes, the documentation of immigrants and support for the police.
A contingent of about 100 Tanzanian troops arrived in eastern Congo on May 11, and many more are expected.
Malawi has also pledged troops.
Despite funding issues, South Africa has marshalled army officers to lead the UN mission in DRC.
“We have taken heed of the CAR incident and will incorporate the lessons learned from this in preparing for future operations,” Masondo said.
South Africa will be supported by troops from Tanzania and Malawi.
However, regional experts are concerned about what troop size is adequate to restore peace in the DRC eastern provinces.
By: Konye Obaji Ori