Three Tanzanian Soldiers Killed by Mortar Fire in the DRC

What You Need to Know:

A statement released by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) today has announced the passing of three Tanzanian soldiers serving under the SADC’s mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (SAMIDRC). 

Currently, the SAMIDRC force utilizes 5000 personnel from South Africa, Tanzania and Malawi. With South Africa, who heads the mission with 2900 personnel in the country. 

“This unfortunate incident happened after a hostile mortar round had fallen near the camp they were staying. The soldiers were/are deployed under the auspices of SADC as part of a regional response to address the unstable and deteriorating security situation prevailing in the Eastern DRC,” the statement said.

In mid February, two South African Soldiers, Captain Simon Mkhulu Bobe and Lance Corporal Irven Thabang Semono were killed near Goma when a mortar landed in their contingents base. 

The names of the three Tanzanian soldiers are yet to be released. 

The Details:

The SAMIDRC force arrived in the DRC in mid December 2023 ‘to support the Government of the DRC to restore peace and security in the eastern DRC, which has witnessed an increase in conflicts and instability caused by the resurgence of armed groups.’ 

The deployment has been heavily criticized, with many South African politicians calling for a withdrawal of troops after the death of its two soldiers in February. The situation in the country has been labeled one of the world’s ‘most complex humanitarian disasters’ by the United Nations, as M23 (March 23) rebel activity has displaced almost 6.1 million civilians in the east as the group advances. 

In early february, the group surrounded the key city of Sake in North Kivu, just 16 miles from Goma, North Kivu’s capital. 

The effect on the civilian population has been catastrophic, with a mass lack of food, water and healthcare available to fleeing civilians. 

As previously reported, SAMIDRC’s main directive is to reduce the threat posed by various rebel groups operating in the region, specifically M23, something which the East African Community Regional Force and the United Nations failed to do in 20 years. Insurgencies in Africa have historically proven immensely difficult to defend against. Vulnerable communities enable insurgents to entangle themselves with the local population leading to violence enacted from within as well as violence perpetrated by security forces unable to distinguish civilian from insurgent.

Furthermore, expansive jungle terrain provides optimal cover for insurgents on the move. During the drawdown of the MONUSCO mission, reports noted that extensive air support would be vital to the success of any counterinsurgency operation that follows. According to Thomas Mandrup, an African security expert from Stellenbosch University, the SADF has only one operational C-130 transport aircraft, and just eight helicopters (five Oryx, three Rooivalk) to cover all domestic and international missions. 

Aside from the lack of hardware, many experts have raised the question of resources and manpower concerning South Africa’s large task in the DRC. During the Defence Budget vote in May 2022, Minister Thandi Modise stated, “The decline in the performance of the South African economy has placed significant pressure on the Government and households. It is becoming difficult to adequately meet all competing needs – this is fertile ground for instability. The historical downward trend in the Defence Allocation has not abated. It is likely to continue to the detriment of the SADF and the demise of the defence industry.” 

Additionally, in early March two South African soldiers lost their lives in a murder-suicide. An official statement claimed “the incident occurred when one of them shot and killed the other with their service weapon before turning the weapon on themselves with fatal consequences.” 

So, What Now?:

SAMIDRC has faced various setbacks in recent months, with M23 continuing to make advances in the country’s east. However, with the SADC’s mission in Mozambique (SAMIM) coming to a close, the SADC has announced its intention to concentrate more troops in the DRC. 

Although on its own the deployment of extra troops is unlikely to stem the advance of M23, it would allow for a more even distribution of security responsibilities among the SAMIDRC personnel. 

Bianca Bridger
Bianca Bridger
Bianca Bridger is a Political Science Graduate from the University of Otago, New Zealand. Currently working as an Editor for The ModernInsurgent and writing for Atlas News, her interests include conflict politics, history, yoga and meditation.

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