SADC-Led Offensive Operations Launched Against M23 Rebels in DRC

The military of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) officially declared the commencement of joint military operations with elements from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) in the eastern part of the country. The announcement was made by Lieutenant General Fall Sikabwe, coordinator of military operations in North Kivu, during the inaugural joint meeting between the DRC military and SADC.

The SADC military force, comprising personnel from South Africa, Tanzania, and Malawi, is set to undertake offensive operations primarily aimed at targeting rebels associated with the March 23 Movement (M23). The M23 rebels currently hold control over various areas in the Masisi and Rutshuru territories within the province of North Kivu.

Lieutenant General Fall Sikabwe emphasized the offensive mandate given by the SADC heads of state, stating, “The SADC comes with an offensive mission. With the mandate of the heads of state members of the SADC, we will initiate large-scale operations against the enemies of the Republic.” The goal is to bring an end to the persistent hostilities that have plagued the region for months.

This SADC military force is replacing the East African Community (EAC) regional force, which the DRC deemed ineffective, leading to the decision not to renew its mandate. Currently, South Africa and Malawi have deployed a portion of their troops to Goma, with Tanzania planning to transfer its elements already present in the DRC under the UN peacekeeping mission. The mandate for the UN peacekeeping mission is set to expire by the end of 2024.

Recent violent clashes erupted between the M23 rebels and the Congolese military in the Masisi territory, marked by the sound of heavy and light weapon detonations. This has prompted a significant number of residents to evacuate to the town of Sake, the last stronghold in the region. Goma, a key tourist town known for economic activities, had experienced a 10-day occupation by the M23 in December 2012.

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