SA troops still welcome in DRC

2009-07-13 22:08

Pretoria - For the locals of Nema village outside Goma in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the sight of heavily armed South African soldiers has long ceased to be a novelty.

Dating back to 1999 the South African military has continued to deploy troops to conflict-torn regions in the DRC's troubled regions.

Since fierce fighting became a norm in the country and concentrated recently in the eastern regions, many Congolese people have come to terms with the reality that they would have to share their lands with army companies and weapon wielding soldiers.

As clouds of dust are whipped up constantly by military vehicles making their way through to the hot zones, pedestrians simply cover their heads with brightly coloured cloth and wait under the path is visible again.

Private Sinakho Bunga, 24, from Cape Town, has been based at Alpha Company outside Goma for less than a month but already she has built up a rapport with the locals.

"It's very interesting, I'm adapting easily. They [the Congolese] are very friendly. When we do foot patrols they always give us bananas."

Rifleman Welile Magenu, based at Bravo Company, says interacting with the villagers has helped him improve his language skills.

"I enjoy it very much meeting other people with different languages."

In the city of Goma, which is still trying to rebuild itself after the volcano Nyiragongo erupted in 2002 and lava tore through the town, people are constantly on the move.

Small shops, looking very much like the typical South African spaza shop, line the tarred but pothole-ridden main road.

Transport is mainly in the form of motorcycles and minibus taxis while makeshift wooden bicycles double as people and supply carriers.

In Goma, a man pushing about 500kg of cement is as common a sight as a little boy carrying litres of water attached to material around his head while carrying a sibling on his chest.

The troops from the bases are constantly in contact with the people in their areas and many a soccer match or group church service have been organised over the years.

While the military's primary objective has been to protect the people from rebels, a more entrenched relationship has further strengthened efforts.

Battalion commander Chris Els explains that by knowing the locals it is better to identify the rebels, the force of which is unknown.

"Today he's a civilian, tonight he's a soldier. You cannot recognise who your enemy is."

Admiral Philip Schoultz of Joint Operations - which prepares the various forces for deployment to mission areas - told media in Pretoria following their visit to the mission areas that the peacekeeping approach needed to be holistic.

"Nowadays peacekeeping is not about the soldiers only. Not only must you provide protection but you must provide the conditions that peace will continue."

This included providing humanitarian aid and infrastructure development.

Interaction with the locals has also caused much frustration as the South African military contingent, as mandated by the United Nations, can only do so much.

"The local chiefs... they also trust the Monuc [the French acronym given to the UN organisation mission]. But sometimes our hands are chopped," Schoultz,said referring to the high expectations of the local people.


Read more on:    democratic republic of congo

Read News24’s Comments Policy publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


'Zuma's legacy will be judged by Nkandla'

The legacy of President Jacob Zuma is contingent on how he deals with the issue of upgrades to his Nkandla homestead, says Cape Town Archbishop Thabo Makgoba.


Latest elections multimedia

Why Jack Parow wants you to vote on 7 May
The ad the SABC doesn't want to air
Elections 2014 in one cartoon
This year's election posters
  • Thursday Sir Lowry's Pass - 05:35 AM
    Road name: Old Sir Lowrys Pass Road
    TRAFFIC LIGHTS not working at Bezweni Road
  • Thursday Cape Town - 05:35 AM
    Road name: Buitengracht Street
    TRAFFIC LIGHTS not working at Waterkant Street
More traffic reports...

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Escape winter, head to Mauritius

Escape winter by spending 7 nights in Mauritius' tropical bliss from R13 215 per person sharing. Includes return flights, airport transfers and accommodation. Book now! - shop online today

Get many eggs in one basket!

Gaming bundles: 2 Super Hits games for R99, 3 Disney games for R99 and more + exclusive accessory bundles only available on While stocks last. Shop now!

25% off bestselling books!

The Real Meal Revolution by Tim Noakes, Jeffrey Archer’s Be Careful What You Wish for, Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor E. Frank and many more titles. Shop now!

Up to 25% off electronics

Buy top electronics and save up to 25%. Such as’s 1# selling product the gobii eReader, Patriot X Porter flash drive, Asus Nexus 7” 3G tablet, Samsung Galaxy SIII, Lenovo G580 Notebook and many more. Shop now!

DStv HD PVR Decoder now R949

The DStv HD PVR Decoder has further revolutionised the television experience with lifelike viewing, sharper images, more vibrant colours and precision picture quality. Now R949, save R550. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 30% off appliances & homeware

Save up to 30% on appliances and homeware this Easter! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now.

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

BlackBerry Curve 3G 9300

Keep it together Text. Email. Social. With all the different ways to...

From R1399.00

I'm shopping for:


You may be good at organising events but they do take their toll on your energy levels. You may need some time out today just more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.