South Africa and the DRC strengthen bilateral ties to enhance security

During a summit in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and his Congolese counterpart Felix Tshisekedi pledged to enhance their trade and security alliance.

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For decades, the two nations have maintained good relations, with some 38 bilateral agreements between them ranging from energy to agriculture, agreements that have not been fully implemented due to insecurity in the eastern region of the DRC.

The timing of the heads of state’s gathering coincides with a surge in rebel-led assaults targeting civilians in the eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo. The conflict, attributed to the M23 rebel group, has resulted in the displacement of tens of thousands of individuals.

Although leaders from the East African Community successfully facilitated a ceasefire between the rebels and government forces last year, a profound sense of distrust continues to persist between the two parties.

During the summit, Congolese President Tshisekedi used the opportunity to publicly criticize neighbouring Rwanda for utilizing the M23 rebels as a means to disrupt stability within his nation, saying, “Rwanda is capitalizing on the instability in the DRC, which is being perpetuated by Rwanda itself. This is why they are resistant to engaging in dialogue, and why our country refuses to negotiate with a rebel group that merely serves as a front for supposedly legitimate grievances.”

Rwanda’s president Kagame has consistently denied these allegations and, in turn, accused the DRC of supporting the FDLR, an ethnic Hutu militia group. In a gesture of support, South Africa has committed to providing military training to Congolese soldiers, enhancing their ability to safeguard their nation.

South Africa’s President Ramaphosa said “South Africa has been heavily invested, and heavily present, in the DRC in the eastern side and we are also going to strengthen that relationship with a bilateral agreement on security and defence”.

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