DRC signs an agreement for the deployment of SADC troops

DR Congo President Félix Tshisekedi.

DR Congo President Félix Tshisekedi.

Photo credit: Stringer | AFP

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has signed an agreement on the status of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) force that is to be deployed in the east of the country.

President Félix Tshisekedi presided over the official ceremony in Kinshasa on Friday.

Deployment of the force was decided at the summit held in Windhoek, Namibia, on May 7, 2023.

According to the Deputy Prime Minister for Foreign Affairs, Christophe Lutundula, "the Congolese government is committed to providing this force with the diplomatic facilities required for this type of intervention".

A week ago, President Tshisekedi informed the government that "discussions on the deployment of SADC troops had reached their finalisation phase".

On Friday, Lutundula said the agreement signed on November 17 "also effects SADC's commitment to deploy its force in the east of the DRC and defines the purpose of the mission of this regional force".

He said SADC regional force would be deployed "to support the Congolese army in fighting and eradicating the M23 and other armed groups that continue to disrupt peace and security in the DRC".

Commit troops

At the most recent Council of Ministers meeting, held in Kinshasa on November 10, President Tshisekedi said "The Southern African Community had resolved to commit troops alongside the FARDC (Congolese army) to help the DRC annihilate the enemies of our country".

The Congolese Head of State said the deployment of SADC troops had been agreed upon in accordance with the principle of collective security advocated in the Mutual Defence Pact of this common organisation, which stipulates in Article 6 paragraph 1 that: "Any armed attack perpetrated against one of the States Parties shall be considered as a threat to regional peace and security. In response to such an attack, immediate collective action shall be taken".

The Congolese government is now awaiting the arrival of SADC troops, while at the same time, preparing to withdraw from the East African Community Regional Force (EACRF) whose contingents were deployed in North Kivu and Ituri at the end of 2022 to combat armed groups principally the M23.

According to the latest decisions by Congo, the regional force and the United Nations Mission, which has been present in Congo since 1999, are due to begin their withdrawal next month.

A final decision is expected to be taken at the level of the entire East African region at the 23rd ordinary summit to be held in Arusha, Tanzania, on November 24.

On Friday, President Tshisekedi held a video conference with his Ugandan and Kenyan counterparts, Yoweri Museveni and William Ruto.

"This was one of the President's regular consultations with his colleagues in the region concerned with the management of the security crisis in the east of the DRC," said Lutundula.

Kenyan parliament

 Kenya Defence Cabinet Secretary Aden Duale confirmed that the country signed a Defence Cooperation Agreement in April 2021 that led to the establishment of the Kenya Military Assistance Training Team (KMATT) to enhance the military capacity of the Armed Forces of DRC (FARDC) and the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF).

Kenyan parliament last year approved the deployment of nearly 1,000 troops for the peacekeeping mission and was expected to spend over Sh4.45 billion to keep its troops in DRC for the next six months.

They have since stayed more than the initial agreed period.

In April this year, the EACRF commander Major General Jeff Nyagah, resigned, citing security concerns and a plot to sabotage the mission.

In a resignation letter, Nyagah said there was an attempt to threaten his security at his former residence in January.

A new force commander was then appointed by Dr Ruto.