African Union to give logistics, financial aid to SADC troops in Congo

The African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council on Saturday endorsed the deployment of foreign troops to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), overruling protestations from Rwanda, which saw support for them as a threat.

The Southern African Development Community Mission (SAMIDRC) was deployed on December 15 last year. Following the endorsement, the African Union Commission is required to provide necessary logistical and financial support to the mission.

SAMIDRC, whose deployment was approved by the 16-member Southern African Development Community (SADC), replaced the East African Community Regional Force (EACRF), whose mandate expired late last year.

The AU approval now means that the forces can draw logistical support from the relevant organs of the continental bloc.

It said the council “endorses (SAMIDRC) …and requests the AU Commission to mobilise requisite support for SAMIDRC, including from the AU Peace Fund Crisis Reserve Facility.

It also “requests the AU Commission to expedite the transfer of the equipment donated to SADC, which is still at the AU Continental Logistics Base in Douala, Cameroon, to support in efforts of ensuring effective implementation of SAMIDRC mandate.”

While the decision was taken on Monday last week, the communique was only made available on Saturday. And it means Rwanda’s protestations had been overruled by the 15-member council.

Rwanda had opposed support for the SADC mission in eastern DRC, claiming the force would exacerbate the conflict. This, even as Rwanda’s tensions with neighbouring Burundi, escalated.

Rwandan Foreign Minister Vincent Biruta, in a letter to the Chairperson of the African Union (AU) Commission on Monday, ahead of the AU Peace and Security Council meeting, said the force “cannot substitute for a political process that has been blocked by the government of DRC”.

Kigali accused the regional force of fighting alongside the DRC army and other coalition armed groups, which include Rwandan rebels of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR).

The AU has condemned both M23 rebels, said to be supported by Rwanda and FDLR said to be backed by the government in Kinshasa.

On Monday, the Peace and Security Council condemned both groups and demanded a ceasefire as directed by regional mechanisms seeking long-term peace.
 “[The] Council reaffirms AU’s commitment to DRC’s sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity; Expresses deep concern over M23 resurgence in eastern DRC; Strongly condemns M23, ADF, FDLR,” it wrote on X, formerly  Twitter.

Burundi-Rwanda beef

Rwanda had also written to the UN Security Council last month, voicing the same opposition. Kigali argues the troops are fueling an ethnic cleansing of Congolese Tutsis who have an ethnic link to those in Rwanda, by siding with perpetrators of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.

The issue of FDLR is also central to the escalating tiff between Rwanda and Burundi.

Burundi-Rwanda relations deteriorated further last week. Two days after Rwanda’s letter to the African Union, Burundi wrote to reject the accusations it was fueling FDLR, which Kigali sees as a continual direct threat to its very existence.

Burundi’s Foreign Ministry said it learnt with dismay, “the false words of the Republic of Rwanda contained in the correspondence addressed to the President of the African Union Commission, dated March 3, 2024”

“To say that Burundi hosts FDLR on its territory is a Machiavellian strategy that poorly hides the rather opposite reality because Rwanda is home to the brains of the 2015 putschists at the helm of the terrorist group Red Tabara,” the statement on March 5 said, referring to a failed coup against then-President Pierre Nkurunziza while he was on a trip to Tanzania.

The attempted coup caused a crisis in Burundi, including a massive refugee movement into Rwanda. At some point, the two sides began gradually rebuilding relations and exchanging refugees. The recent accusations have reversed that trajectory after Burundi first accused Rwanda of arming Red Tabara that attacked villages inside Burundi.

Kigali refuted the charge but accused Burundi of arming FDLR and fighting alongside the group. Rwanda’s failure to hand over the masterminds of the 2015 failed coup continues to be the bone of contention in Burundi.

“In addition, the Government of Burundi deplores the recruitment of refugees at Camp Mahama in Rwanda to be enlisted in the terrorist group Red Tabara, in connivance with the Rwandan Government, in flagrant violation of international law and the United Nations Charter.”

Reb Tabara has so far conducted three attacks in the last four months killing dozens of people in the northwestern part of Burundi.

Source: The East African

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