South Africa taking part in special summit on DRC conflict, amid rising tensions, finger-pointing at Rwanda

United nations peacekeepers driving in a convoy as they patrol in a deserted Kibati village near Goma in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. File Picture: Thomas Mukoya / Reuters

United nations peacekeepers driving in a convoy as they patrol in a deserted Kibati village near Goma in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. File Picture: Thomas Mukoya / Reuters

Published Feb 16, 2024


International Relations and Cooperation Minister, Dr Naledi Pandor, is leading South Africa’s delegation at the 44th Ordinary Session of the Executive Council of the African Union (AU) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

The AU Executive Council is composed of foreign ministers, other cabinet ministers or authorities as designated by the governments of member states.

The ministers’ meeting has been preparing the agenda of work for the upcoming Assembly of Heads of State and Government session scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, where African leaders will deliberate on the milestones and progress made on trade, regional integration, and multilateral cooperation.

Central to the Heads of State’s meeting will be the ongoing armed conflict in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) which continues to displace thousands of Congolese citizens and destabilising the vast nation of more than 100 million people.

President of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Felix Tshisekedi addressing delegates at the annual Invest in Africa Mining Indaba last year in Cape Town. File Picture: Phando Jikelo / Independent Newspapers

Officially, DRC President Felix Tshisekedi, the United Nations (UN) and Western countries have pointed fingers at neighbouring Rwanda for supporting the heavily armed rebels M23 causing havoc in DRC. On the other hand, Rwanda, led by President Paul Kagame, has repeatedly denied the accusations.

The UN and international rights groups have accused the M23 of committing multiple violations of international humanitarian law and human rights abuses, including rapes and summary executions of civilians.

In an interview with broadcaster Newzroom Afrika from Addis Ababa, Pandor said on Friday night there was a “special mini summit” dedicated to delve into the issue of instability in the DRC.

Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Dr Naledi Pandor. File Picture: Katlholo Maifadi / DIRCO

“My understanding is that our President (Cyril Ramaphosa) will join that summit, I will be there. He will join it following his arrival in Ethiopia. It (the meeting) has been convened by President (Joao) Lorenzo of Angola who has been a mediator in this matter, having engaged both Rwanda and the DRC,” said Pandor.

She said the excursion of Rwanda’s armed forces into the territory of DRC has been a point of tension for a long time.

“There are allegations that Rwanda may very well be involved with some of the groups that are in armed conflict with the DRC armed forces. President Lorenzo will be providing a report, and from what I have seen on the programme, both the presidents of the DRC and Rwanda will be in attendance,” she said.

“On the issue of the alleged entry on Rwandan forces into DRC and a possible negative role – there is a UN report that suggests that some of these allegations may be true. But it couldn’t pinpoint the involvement of the government, but certainly elements from Rwanda are being involved in the conflict that is under way in the eastern DRC.

“We, of course, object to all conflict between African countries. We expect that in each region, that we should have good neighbourliness,” said Pandor.

Rwandan President Paul Kagame. File Picture: Reuters

Earlier this week, IOL reported that President Ramaphosa announced the deployment of 2,900 members of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) to the eastern (DRC) as part of the Southern African Democratic Community (SADC) mission.

The UN peacekeeping mission will withdraw from the DRC by the end of the year.

The UN Organisation Mission in the DRC (Monusco) has been in the eastern part of that country battling the M23 and other rebel groups for many years.

The withdrawal of Monusco follows a vote in the UN Security Council last year to agree to the early withdrawal of the peacekeeping mission.

This was after the government of the DRC asked for the withdrawal of Monusco.

The peacekeeping mission has been in that country for more than 20 years.

Ramaphosa said South Africa will send 2,900 SANDF soldiers to join the SADC mission in the DRC.

This will come at a cost of R2 billion.