Former SA President Thabo Mbeki calls for disengagement of troops in eastern DRC

By Wycliffe Nyamasege
On 9 April 2024 at 12:13

Former South African President Thabo Mbeki says that only a political solution, not guns, will resolve the ethnic tension and political instability in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

In an interview with South Africa’s SABC News, Mbeki called for the disengagement of troops in the volatile region to pave the way for a political solution to the war, which pits the M23 rebel group against the Congolese government.

Mbeki argued that the disengagement of troops in eastern DRC, including those from the Southern African Development Community (SADC), would avoid potential clashes.

“I am quite convinced as were President of Rwanda and DRC when they signed an agreement that you can’t resolve the problem in eastern Congo by force of arms. You can send the troops there, and people will die, but you cannot solve the problem,” Mbeki stated while condoling with the families of four members of the SADC contingence forces, including three Tanzanian soldiers, who recently died while on a mission in eastern DRC.

“So I am very sorry to hear these things that people have died from South Africa and other countries. Let us disengage the forces. They are already there, but let us disengage them so that there is no possibility of clashing. Because clashing will result in people dying for no reason. Let us separate them so that they are far from each other and then work to find a political solution.”

SADC troops, drawn from South Africa, Malawi and Tanzania, took over eastern DRC, following the withdrawal of The East African Community Regional Force (EACRF) from the region in December last year.

They are fighting alongside the Congolese government-led coalition, which includes the FDLR composed of Interahamwe, remnants of the perpetrators of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda.

Rwanda, accused by the DRC of supporting M23, had protested against the deployment and technical support for 2,900 SADC troops to the region, stating that their involvement could spark a regional war.

Mbeki, in his interview following his attendance at the 30th Commemoration of the Genocide against the Tutsi on Sunday, stated that South African President Cyril Ramaphosa is committed to helping Rwanda and DRC find a lasting solution to the tension in eastern DRC, amid counter accusations over support for the two armed groups, M23 and FDLR.

“I am very glad that President Ramaphosa is committed to the pursuit of the political solution,” Mbeki stated adding, “We are wasting people’s lives for no reason.”

Earlier, President Ramaphosa, in his interview with the same TV station, said the crisis in eastern DRC featured prominently in his discussion with President Kagame in Kigali, over the weekend.

He said the two leaders agreed that a political solution would be much beneficial in ending the tension between Rwanda and DRC.

"We both agreed that peace was an essential component fostering the development of this part of the continent and that in doing so we should bring the conflicts that are happening in the eastern part of the DRC to an end,” he said.

"There are a number of forces that operate in this area (North Kivu) and we agreed that a peaceful political solution is the best option to any military action."

Kagame, on his part, continues to accuse the Congolese government of dehumanizing Congolese Tutsis, forcing them to seek refuge in Rwanda and Uganda.

Kagame, during his engagement with the media yesterday, insisted that the M23 rebel group is fighting for the rights of the Congolese Tutsis who are being “uprooted from their ancestral land and persecuted.”

“I am saying that even those who are accusing us, I should actually accuse them of not supporting M23 because it as if they agree with the injustice being done to this community,” he said in response to a question whether he supports the rebel group.

Former SA President Thabo Mbeki has called for disengagement of troops in eastern DRC.