M23 don’t want to fight SA

2013-04-10 00:00

THE M23 rebels in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) whom the South African soldiers may fight in June, don’t want war against the land of “Madiba Mandela”.

The rebels requested this week that Pretoria review its participation in the multinational intervention force in the eastern DRC.

In an open letter to Parliament and the people of South Africa, the president of the movement, Bertrand Bisimwa, adopted a more conciliatory line than his belligerent utterances last week.

At the weekend, the movement declared it would be ready for the South Africans when they deployed in the DRC and that they would be slaughtered outright.

Military sources say the rebels are already in talks with the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) to avoid bloodletting.

The sources told sister paper Beeld that the rebels are as reluctant to declare war against the intervention force as South Africa is to become involved in an offensive against them.

Between 600 and 1 000 Seleka rebels were estimated to have been killed in the battle for Bangui last month, the SANDF said in a statement yesterday.

The sources said the SANDF was in ongoing talks with the United Nations about the composition of the intervention force.

It seems certain that Tanzania, as the leading contingent, will appoint the commander of the force.

This indicates that South Africa will move about 950 of some 1 400 soldiers deployed in the Monusco peacekeeping army (UN Organisation Stabilisation Mission in the DRC) to the intervention force.

They will apparently be foot soldiers, not specialists, because the SANDF simply hasn’t the manpower to send additional troops.

The intervention force will operate under an aggressive “seek and destroy” mandate, while Monusco will follow up by stabilising the territory. The South African contingent will apparently be supported by Rooi­valk attack helicopters, Oryx helicopters and armoured vehicles before they begin their operations in the eastern DRC.

Bisimwa, in his open letter, offers his sympathy to the families of the 13 soldiers who were killed in the battle of Bangui and expresses the hope that Mandela will get better soon. He describes any future conflict between M23 and South Africa as an “absurd war” and asks that peace negotiations under way in Uganda be given a chance.

International Relations and Co-operation Deputy Minister Ebrahim Ebrahim said in Pretoria yesterday he had not yet seen the letter.

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