The Tanzanian army is sending 850 soldiers to the DR Congo to consolidate current peace efforts, the government has said. According to a press statement by the Tanzania People’s Defence Forces (TPDF), the soldiers are being deployed specifically on a peace-keeping mission, not to fight a war.
The TPDF Directorate of Information and Public Relations yesterday said the Tanzania soldiers will be deployed to DR Congo in response to a call by the UN Security Council (through Resolution No. 2098) which called for peace-keeping missions.
The soldiers will join other peace keepers in DR Congo, including the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUC), who are already on duty.
The statement explains explicitly that the Tanzanian soldiers were not going there to do battle with the rebel forces in eastern Congo.
“The government has agreed to send soldiers to DR Congo for peace keeping purposes … not to fight the rebels … the soldiers will operate according to the rules of engagement set up by the UN Security Council,” the statement said.
The TPDF issued the statement to clarify reports from a section of local media to the effect that Tanzania was sending soldiers to fight the DR Congo rebels currently battling Kinshasa administration.
However, TPDF stated that due to conditions on the ground Tanzanian soldiers and peace keeping troops from other nations had been detailed to deal with any threats that would be posed by the rebel forces.
The statement said the need to deal with any threat posed by rebel forces was meant to protect themselves, civilians and peace in general. Tanzania has peace keepers in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Sudan and the Ivory Coast.
The UN Security Council on March 28 unanimously adopted Resolution 2098 which created and approved the deploying of an intervention Brigade ostensibly to rescue innocent Congolese civilians from continued massacre by armed groups.
The UN resolution was approved by 15 member states without any rejection.
Sources say military chiefs from Malawi, Tanzania and South Africa had already inspected the ground in Goma where their forces would immediately be deployed.
On Thursday, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Bernard Membe told The Guardian on Sunday that the government would seek Parliament approval before it finally sends its army on a peace keeping mission to the DRC.
Meanwhile, reports from New York say that the Security Council on Thursday this week agreed to deploy about 3,100 soldiers in Goma, currently the centre of the rebel M23 groups.
This will be the second time Tanzanian troops take part peace keeping duty in another country. In 2008, one battalion of Tanzanian soldiers went to Anjouan, Comoro Islands to quell an army rebellion.
In an exclusive interview with the Guardian on Sunday’s editor, Richard Mgamba, in December last year, the head of M23 rebels, General Sultan Makenga said, “I want peace, my people want peace. No one is born to fight a war till his last day on earth, but people are forced by circumstances that surround them to start a fight. I shouldn’t be seen as a man who doesn’t want peace. I have a heart, a family, and people I care about. But as I said earlier, if the Kampala peace talks fail, the only option we have is to fight till the last man.
In December M23 rebels completed their retreat from Congo’s eastern provincial capital less than two weeks after taking control of the strategic city of Goma, pending the outcome of Kampala peace negotiations.
The M23 rebels took the capital of North Kivu on Nov. 20, after battling the Congolese army for nearly a day. The group had defied two earlier ultimatums to leave Goma, raising the possibility they did not intend to leave and giving credence to a UN report accusing Rwanda of using the rebels as a proxy to annex territory in the mineral-rich eastern Congo.
The eight-month-old M23 rebellion is led by fighters from a now-defunct rebel group, who agreed to lay down their arms on March 23, 2009, in return for being allowed to join the ranks of the Congolese army. M23 takes its name from the date of that accord, and the rebellion began in April, when hundreds of soldiers defected from the military, saying that the terms of the accord had not been respected.