South Africa will work with the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to silence the guns in its eastern part, which has faced multiple security challenges for decades, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has promised.
This commitment was made Thursday during a press conference alongside his Congolese counterpart, Felix Tshisekedi, on the occasion of his 48-hour official visit to the DRC capital, Kinshasa, during which security, the future deployment of a regional force by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) in eastern DRC, and economic integration topped the agenda.
SILENCE THE GUNS
The eastern DRC is home to an estimated 5.7 million internally displaced persons in urgent need of medical and other aid. Nearly a million Congolese nationals are seeking refuge in other African states. Violence continues to come in waves in eastern DRC, with rising civilian casualties.
“We share the same concerns with the Congolese people regarding the aggression in its eastern part. We will work to silence the guns. We will continue to support the DRC in the security sector and in other sectors, including that of development,” said Ramaphosa, noting the strengthening of the partnership between the two countries to enforce the resolutions on the security issue.
The resolution of the conflicts in the eastern part of the DRC is under regional mediation via the Nairobi and Luanda processes.
The first foresees the disarmament of all armed groups and a political dialogue to examine the sources of the conflicts, while the second emphasizes mediation targeting the diplomatic crisis between the DRC and Rwanda, provoked and fueled by rebels of the March 23 Movement (M23).
“We are always ready to support the DRC as we have done in the past. We will continue to do so in the most challenging times” experienced by this country, said the South African president.
FUTURE PRESENCE OF SADC REGIONAL FORCE
As part of the Nairobi Process, members of the East African Community (EAC) formed a regional force to pacify this part of the country. In May 2023, the SADC, of which the DRC and South Africa are both members, also approved the deployment of a regional force to intervene in the DRC.
Tshisekedi praised the efforts of SADC, noting that SADC’s regional force would remain on standby pending the assessment of the DRC authorities on the EAC Regional Force, currently deployed in the province of North Kivu.
“We did not ask SADC for help. It was SADC who expressed their desire to come to the DRC as it is their duty when a member is under attack. But there is the EAC regional (force) on the ground. It is necessary to observe first and the SADC is therefore on standby and always at the disposal of the DRC to intervene at any time,” Tshisekedi said.
A PENDING DIALOGUE
Relations between the DRC and Rwanda, which had shown signs of thawing under the current administrations, are now the subject of a diplomatic standoff due to the resurgence of the M23 at the end of 2021.
The DRC authorities accuse Rwanda of supporting the M23. Kigali, while denying any support, in turn, accused the Congolese army of supporting remnants of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, which was responsible for the 1994 genocide.
Ramaphosa said at the press conference that the conflict in eastern DRC should be resolved through negotiations. “President Tshisekedi has never been against this,” he said.