Pretoria: South Africa says it will continue to follow closely the developments in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Briefing reporters on Wednesday on the latest developments on the continent, International Relations and Cooperation Deputy Minister, Ebrahim Ebrahim, said the situation in the DRC was a subject of discussion at an extraordinary Southern African Development Community (SADC) summit held in Maputo last Friday.
Ebrahim said the summit urged the African Union Commission, SADC and the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) to urgently engage the United Nations on the deployment of the Neutral International Force (NIF) in eastern DRC, and reiterated its decision to expedite the deployment.
The regional body is awaiting a mandate from the United Nations Security Council in order to deploy forces in the troubled eastern region, which is facing a worsening security and humanitarian crisis as the M23 rebel group tries to overthrow the government.
SADC member states like South Africa, Tanzania, Malawi, Lesotho, Mauritius and Zimbabwe have pledged to contribute to the NIF.
The SADC brigade will nominally fall under the UN mandate, but there have been reports that it will have its own command structure.
Ebrahim also reported that last week’s extraordinary summit also welcomed UN Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon’s initiative towards bringing peace and stability in the eastern part of the DRC, and commended his proposed peace, security and cooperation framework for the region.
According to Ban’s plan, the troops would not only be there for peacekeeping, but could also intervene in the fighting.
International players have been frustrated by the inability of the UN troops already in the DRC to intervene in the conflict. With regard to the arrest of 19 people in a remote area in Limpopo, who are suspected of plotting to overthrow the DRC government, the deputy minister reiterated that South Africa was opposed to any move to overthrow a government through military means. The suspects are believed to have been in the country for military training.
Moving on to Mali, Ebrahim announced that the first consignment of humanitarian from South Africa arrived in Bamako on Tuesday. The consignment consists of 1 000 tons of maize, 1 000 tons of sugar and 42 tons of powdered milk.
The remaining aid is due to leave South African ports in the next few weeks. “South Africa remains concerned about the security of the invaluable historic manuscripts that document Africa’s contribution to scientific evolution and the reported damage caused to the Ahmed Baba Institute of Higher Learning and Islamic Research in Timbuktu a few weeks ago,” he said.
Updating on the upcoming Brics leaders’ summit, which is scheduled for 26-27 March 2013 at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre in Durban, Ebrahim said plans were in full swing, with a number of high-level events taking place as part of the run-up to the summit.
He said Tuesday’s meeting between International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane and her Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov also detailed preparations for the upcoming summit and the State Visit by Russian President Vladimir Putin, which is scheduled for 28 March.
“On 19 February 2013, Minister Nkoana Mashabane will receive her counterpart, Mr Yang Jiechi, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China in Cape Town.
“It is expected that the upcoming Brics summit will be high on the agenda of the bilateral consultations,” said Ebrahim.
Another event is the meeting of the Brics deputies, which will take place in Moscow this Friday. The officials are expected to discuss the draft report of the Brics Joint Working Group on the idea of a New Development Bank.