South African Soldier Killed, 13 Injured in DRC Skirmish

June 2, 2024
OIP | Report Focus News

In a confrontation with the M23 rebel group in Sake, eastern DRC, one South African soldier lost his life while 13 others sustained injuries, reports the South African National Defence Force (SANDF). The clash resulted in damage to two military vehicles. The injured soldiers are currently undergoing treatment in hospitals in Goma. The fighting erupted in Sake, situated in the eastern province of North Kivu, against the March 23 Movement (M23), as confirmed by the SANDF. The wounded soldiers are now hospitalized and undergoing recovery.

Since the beginning of 2024, a regional force composed mainly of military personnel from South Africa, Tanzania, and Malawi has been deployed in North Kivu to combat the M23 rebels, who have seized control of territories in the province. Thursday witnessed violent clashes between the M23 rebels and the DRC military, along with its allies, including the regional force, near Sake. This town serves as a crucial barrier between the rebels and Goma, the provincial capital of North Kivu, and a strategic hub for tourism and commerce.

Throughout the day, heavy artillery fire reverberated across the combat zone.

In addition to the skirmish in Sake, M23 rebels have engaged in combat with the DRC military in Kanyabayonga, Lubero territory, resulting in mass displacement of civilians fleeing the conflict. Kanyabayonga, currently sheltering nearly 35,000 internally displaced persons, serves as a strategic gateway controlling access to the northern part of North Kivu province and extending to the resource-rich and conflict-ridden Ituri province.

The deployed troops are part of a regional force aiding the DR Congo’s military in confronting various armed groups, primarily the M23, which has established positions on key routes leading to Goma, the principal city in eastern DR Congo.

The M23’s incursion has led to the displacement of tens of thousands of individuals, exacerbating the already dire humanitarian situation in the region, where nearly seven million people have fled due to ongoing conflicts.

South Africa initiated troop deployments to eastern DR Congo in December 2023 under the auspices of the 16-member regional bloc, the Southern African Development Community (SADC). These troops replaced the East African Force (EAF), led by Kenya, which departed in December, approximately a year after being welcomed by President Félix Tshisekedi.

President Tshisekedi, who secured reelection for a second term in December, campaigned on promises to address the persistent insecurity plaguing the eastern part of the country for three decades.

SADC’s intervention aligns with President Tshisekedi’s agenda, emphasizing a proactive approach to combating rebel groups.

Tshisekedi dismissed the EAF, citing its ineffectiveness and reluctance to engage the M23 offensively. He has also ordered the departure of the UN force, present in the country for about 25 years, by the end of 2024, accusing it of similar shortcomings.