Maputo — The Southern African Development Community (SADC) is awaiting a mandate from the United Nations Security Council in order to deploy its forces in the troubled eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
The security situation in the DRC was the only item under discussion at an extraordinary SADC summit held in Maputo on Friday.
Speaking to reporters after the meeting, the SADC Executive Secretary, Tomas Salomao, said “the deployment plan has been drawn up, and the member states are making troops available. Now we are waiting for a UN mandate for the SADC military intervention which should not be confused with an invasion”.
In addition to the mandate, there are other sensitive questions under discussions such as the security of the soldiers who will be stationed in the eastern DRC.
“You can’t just take soldiers and put them in a place that’s unstable”, said Salomao. “We have to work on logistical and security questions”. These included the procedures to be followed in the event of the death of any members of the regional force.
Without referring to any time frame for putting SADC military intervention into effect, Salomao reiterated that the situation prevailing in the DRC is delicate, and requires careful treatment in order to avoid future problems.
A previous SADC summit, held in early December, in Dar es Salaam, decided to provide 4,000 troops for a Neutral International Force (NIF) that will operate in the eastern DRC. Pledges of troops have so far been made by Malawi, Namibia, South Africa and Tanzania and it is estimated that the NIF will cost the SADC region around 100 million US dollars. The Friday summit also encouraged the pursuit of joint efforts between SADC, the UN and the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) in the search for a lasting solution to the Congolese crisis.
As for the accusation that Rwanda is fomenting instability in the eastern DRC through its support for rebel movements such as the M23 movement, Salomao said this was a matter that would be clarified as soon as the region force enters into operations. The summit was called at short notice by the current SADC chairperson, Mozambican President Armando Guebuza to harmonise the SADC position before sending a report on the DRC to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon.
In addition to Guebuza, two other heads of state attended the summit – Congolese President Joseph Kabila and Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania, who is the current chair of the SADC Troika on politics, defence and security cooperation. Other SADC members were represented by ministers or ambassadors