South Africa says it is contributing 1,345 troops to a United Nations military mission with a mandate to fight rebel groups in eastern Congo, in an effort to bring peace to the country.
According to Sabc.co.za: “President Jacob Zuma has informed parliament that 1,345 soldiers have been deployed to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the presidency said on Friday.
“‘Our soldiers are doing exceptionally well in the continent. We congratulate them and assure them of the support of their compatriots as they continue to contribute to the building of a better Africa, as a force for peace,’ Zuma said in a statement. ‘We are very proud of them and their contribution to African renewal and development.'”
According to the Sabc.co.za report, the deployment was from June 13, 2013, until March 31, 2014 at an expected cost of R402,800,000.
The soldiers would be part of a “force intervention brigade,” under the United Nations Monusco peacekeeping force. Zuma arrived in Luanda, Angola, on Thursday for consultations with Angolan President José Eduardo dos Santos and DRC President Joseph Kabila Kabange, the report states.
The three heads of state are expected to discuss a range of issues relating to peace and stability in the region, particularly the current peace efforts in the DRC, Zuma’s spokesman Mac Maharaj said in a statement.
Previous SANDF Deployments
According to a Mg.co.za, previous deployments of South African National Defense Force soldiers have been dogged by controversy after 13 South African soldiers Zuma deployed to Central African Republic were killed by rebels who took power there.
The soldiers were killed while attempting to block the Seleka rebel group from reaching CAR’s capital, Bangui. Another 27 South African soldiers were wounded.
Zuma defended the 2012 CAR deployment saying South Africa and the Central African Republic signed a military cooperation agreement in 2007, which was renewed for a further five years in December 2012, Mg.co.za reports.
That agreement was to provide the Central African Republic’s army with an array of military training, from infantry, artillery and Special Forces training to logistics and driving courses, as well as “refurbishment” of military infrastructure in Bouar and Bangui, Zuma said in a statement at the time.
South Africa’s military has also supported disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programs, and it assisted in CAR’s 2011 elections, he said.
The deployment “was also part of our efforts to contribute towards peace and stability in the region,” Zuma added.