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South African president mourns two soldiers killed in DR Congo

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South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on Thursday expressed his profound sadness at the deaths of two soldiers and injuries to 20 others in DR Congo, Xinhua reports. The casualties of the South African National Defense Force (SANDF) members were inflicted by a mortar attack on one of their bases in the town of Sake, in eastern DR Congo, Tuesday.

 

In a statement issued Thursday, Ramaphosa offered his “deep condolences” to the families of the fallen troops as well as their commanders and colleagues.

“The president’s thoughts are also with the SANDF members who are recovering from their injuries,” the statement said. Ramaphosa assured the bereaved families and the injured troops that the SANDF would take the utmost care to provide the necessary logistical and psychosocial support to all those affected.

“As we mourn the deaths and casualties inflicted on our soldiers, we value and are humbled by the sacrifices they have made for the cause of peace and stability in our region, and they shall not be forgotten,” he said.

According to the statement, the South African soldiers are part of the Southern African Development Community Mission in the DR Congo, which was deployed in December 2023 to support Congolese government efforts to restore peace and security in the eastern part of the country. The statement comes barely one month after the SANDF mourned one soldier killed on May 31 during combat in Sake.

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South African soldiers are part of a Southern African Development Community (SADC) regional force fighting alongside the Congolese army coalition. The coalition also includes Burundian forces, and militias such as the FDLR, a terrorist group linked to the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda, as well as youth groups known as Wazalendo.

So far, at least seven SANDF soldiers have been killed in the eastern DR Congo conflict since the SADC deployment in December 2023. South Africa deployed 2,900 soldiers as part of the SADC force sent to DR Congo’s conflict-hit region, mainly to fight the M23 rebels.

South African opposition parties criticised President Cyril Ramaphosa for approving the deployment of troops to the conflict-ridden eastern DR Congo, saying the SANDF had no capacity to fight the M23 rebels. The latter accuse the coalition of carrying out genocide against Congolese Tutsi community. The SADC deployment raised fears that the eastern DR Congo conflict, which has also affected relations between Rwanda, DR Congo and Burundi, could widen into a regional crisis.

Thabo Mbeki: Sun City Agreement can ensure peace and stability

Eastern DR Congo is home to more than 200 armed groups – including the M23 rebels who are fighting to stop the killing and exclusion of the Congolese Tutsi from eastern DR Congo – and has been volatile for over three decades. Multiple interventions have failed to end the decades of violence, especially for the reason that no determined effort has been put into understanding and addressing the root cause of the insecurity in the region.

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While in Kigali, in early April, Ramaphosa said that a political solution is needed to end the crisis in eastern DR Congo. A few days later, former South African President Thabo Mbeki said the Congolese government should – in line with the Sun City Agreement signed between Kigali and Kinshasa in April 2003 – disarm the genocidal forces who fled into the country after committing the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda. Mbeki said the disarmament of these genocidal forces under the Sun City Agreement can ensure peace and stability is achieved in eastern DR Congo.

The agreement was signed in April 2003 in South Africa’s casino resort, Sun City, under the watchful eye of then United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan. It was seen as the solution to the problems besetting eastern DR Congo. But, Mbeki said, the agreement was, unfortunately, never implemented.

The FDLR, a terrorist militia group founded and led by remnants of the perpetrators of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda, operates in eastern DR Congo where it continues to commit acts of genocide against Congolese Tutsi and is trying to distabilise Rwanda in a bid to topple the government in Kigali.

Mbeki, who was in Kigali to attended the 30th commemoration of the Genocide against the Tutsi, told Southern African journalists that the problems in the eastern DR Congo can be resolved if the Congolese government implemented the Sun City agreement and disarms the genocidal forces operating from its territory.

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